Humming the same tune
With 40,000+ scorecards it's a wonder we Baptists can ever hum the same tune. This is especially true when worship style remains the number one item on Thom Rainer's list of fiercely defended church traditons (see the Thom Rainer blog @ ThomRainer.com, Monday, February 16, 2015). There'd be plenty of debate even among congregations of like style. It's because style or method have nver been the central theme of our denominational bonds. As people of the Bible, we've tended to unite over doctrinal themes, confessions of faith, dependence on the authority of Scripture, and mission.
Like the analogy or not, however, humming the same tune is a strong biblical metaphor of agree- ment. Interestingly, one of the biblcal words translated "agree" is the Greek term "sumphoneo", the compound of "sun", meaning "with", and "phoneo", meaning "sound or voice". Jesus said, "Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven" (Matthew 18:19). The same word is used at Matthew 20:2,13; Acts 5:9 and 15:5; 2 Corinthians 6:15; and Luke 5:36 and 9:25, translated to agree, be in concord, to be congruous in nature, or in reference to music. It literally means "to sound with", and makes more sense when we consider it to be the source of our word "symphony". There's an implication that the sound will be in one accord, you know, the same tune. Take it a step farther and the word means that people in agreement make beautiful music together.
Back to go. How is that possible with 40,000+ fiercely independent, geographically dispursed congregatons, each bound in unique separate traditons, oddly arranged socio-economic circumstances, educational backgrounds, and ministry preferences? How can county seat first Baptist church and cowboy church and motorcycle church and college campus church and rural church and urban church and keyboard church and pipe organ church and pew church and chair church ever hum the same tune? "Unity in diversity", one of the slogans we've adopted over the years, is a great sounding tag line or brand. BUt, what actually takes that idea from the coffee cup to the world?
Yes, the answer is God. Yes, the answer is the authority of Scripture. Yes, the answer is the Baptist Faith and Message. Yes, the answer is the biblical worldview. Yes, yes, yes, and more yes. Even more than that, however, is one word. What is more, when this one word slips to the side- bars of our identity, things go south. That word is MISSION. And that mission is the Great Commission Jesus spoke to his disciples before he ascended to the right hand of the Father.
Loss of mission is the central feature of just about everything that ails us. When we fuss and quibble, we're on different pages and cannot hum the same tune. When pastors and church staff are hassled, fired, abused, or mistreated, the mission is sidetracked and the "sound with" is disturbing. And, right on through the list of our corporate ills. Humming the same tune, being on the same page, making beautiful music together must be about fulfilling the commission he gave us. It is what has connected us since 1845.
This mission must be the central talking point and action step of every entity in our cooperative enterprise. It must be the focus of every local congregation, every associaton, state convention, and affiliated entity. This misson is the heart linkage of people who sing "Victory in Jesus" and "10,000 Reasons", groups who read the HCSB, NIV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, or the Cotton Patch Version, who meet in barns, elaborate sanctuaries, or on motorcyles. It is the one page we can all gather around. It must be on the stage and under the spotlight all the time.
Last November I had the deep privilege of traveling with Governor Mike Huckabee and a group of pastors and church leaders from four states to Poland, England, and California. It was a thrilling study of Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan. The church leaders were from a variety of denominations and groups---Southern Baptists, community churches, Catholic, Lutheran, and other evangelical Protestant groups. At meals and in travel times we had the opporunity to discuss church life and faith. We talked about baptism, frequency of the Lord's Supper, worship styles, discipleship strategies, pro-life issues, biblical marriage, church polity, leadership, political involvement, and many other topics that may have been divisive, or at least extremely diverse. When the talk turned to mission, however, the spirit quickened, agreement happened, and suddenly we were humming the same tune. It was an amazing demonstration of biblical agreement, the "sumphoneo" of believers on the same page. What an experience!
Over the years I've been invited to obseve other churches and coach a few pastors through one mine field or another. Many times I would comment to the pastor or church leaders that there were no problems in that church that some aisle activity wouldn't solve. It was amazing how that brief mention of mission would ignite the people and focus them on heaven's assidnment. In these crazy days, when secularism is on the move, when the church is on the back seat of cultural discourse, the focus on mission will put us, in all of our oddness, on the same page.
And, humming the same tune is some fine music indeed.