I am not a protestant anymore.
I’m grateful for the journey the church has taken since the 95 theses of Martin Luther… but it’s been long enough. The Protestant Reformation was an important argument within Christendom. It was dangerous and it was beautiful. But we are due for a different kind of reformation. One that brings the church together, not one that keeps tearing it apart.
So I am done with protesting. I’m a happy charismatic. But I’m also one with every Catholic, Pentecostal, Lutheran (and any other denomination) that is part of the body of Jesus.
We, the followers of Christ.
[bctt tweet=”Let’s stop protesting the bad. Let’s start promoting the good. “]
Maybe it’s easier for me to understand because I am the first-born of my parents’ second marriages. My mom and dad had children with other spouses before marrying each other and conceiving me. But it wasn’t until I was 19 years old when I first realised that three of my sisters were “half-sisters.”
My parents did such a good job at raising us together that it never crossed my mind to call my sisters anything but, my sisters. We were all loved by our parents and had each others back. We were different children, sometimes in different homes, raised in different circumstances, but always one family.
That is the culture of heaven. And I’m sure that’s the desire in God’s heart for his family on earth.
Last week I went to a book reading at a Methodist church. The authors were liberals who had voted for Obama and love Jesus like crazy. The next morning I had breakfast with a messianic jew who worked on the Bush campaign and loves Jesus like crazy.
Today I read the news of how one of the most famous communists in the world is thinking about coming back to church. He said, “If the Pope continues to speak like this, sooner or later I will start praying again and I will return to the Catholic Church — and I’m not saying this jokingly.”
After an audience with the Pope, the leader of Cuba, Raúl Castro said he was so impressed that he his politics, his leadership and his prayer life will change!
I will say something based on the testimony of people who have met Pope Francis in person. Multiple Christian leaders who I love and respect (specially my spiritual parents John and Carol Arnott) who have spent time with him and can tell that he loves Jesus like crazy.
And with that love, he is changing the world.
I know. There are many things I do differently from Pope Francis (and the rest of the Catholic family).
I do church, they do mass. I confess on Facebook, they confess in booth. I baptise old, they baptise new. I do jeans, they do robes. But in all the dramatic differences of look and style and tradition, we both preach Christ, and Him crucified. And that’s glue enough for God.
Unfortunately, as soon as I started visiting a Protestant church in my teenage years, I was introduced to the “Pope-is-the-anti-Christ” theology of old. And unfortunately, I still know influential Christian leaders who believe that Catholicism is the evil system in the book of Revelation. Yet, I have met too many Catholics who represent Jesus well. Priests and nuns who serve in prisons and hospitals and foreign schools, and preach the message of the Father’s love with compassion and grace.
I myself have had the privilege of preaching at mass in the mountains of Honduras. I also had a life changing encounter with the Holy Spirit while a priest prayed over me in Puerto Rico. The first time I heard the gospel was during my religion class in Catholic school. I was moved to tears and conviction in the catacombs of Rome. And the best book I have ever read on the life of Jesus of Nazareth was written by Pope Benedict XVI.
I know the Catholic church is far from perfect. Their handling of the multiple sexual abuse incidents has been slow and corrupted. But every denomination, in one way or another has been fraudulent and shameful. That’s why we need to focus on Christ. Because we all need salvation. We all need the Messiah to wake us up!
I’m a pastor in a fun and free Charismatic church. And I love our expression of the Christian faith. We like to worship with our hands held high and believe in the power of God for miracles today. I also love what God is doing in Bethel Redding, in IHOP Kansas City and in Catch the Fire Toronto. I have no doubts that our unique streams have their place in the great story of redemption.
But we are not enough.
We need our mainline traditional sisters. We need our brothers in the mega churches. We need the underground church in China. We need the gospel sounds from the south. And we need one-billion Catholics to join hands together with us in solidarity, in prayer, and in faith.
It’s true that I met Jesus in the most evangelical event possible (a Billy Graham crusade) but my life has been throughly enriched by not staying there.
There’s something about Pope Francis that reminds me of Jesus. Maybe it’s when he visits prisoners and washes their feet. Or when he allows kids to play around the altar while he’s preaching. Maybe it’s his humility and care for the poor. Or the fact that he kicks out the priests who spend too much money on the expensive remodelling of parishes.
However, he’s just one of us. A brother in the faith. A Christian, serving Christ.
And he is now winning the heart of Raúl Castro. The man who established an atheist regime with his brother Fidel. A man who is now talking about empowering Christians, promoting the church, and opening up more dialogue with people of faith.
50 years ago, opposition to the Castros from the church led to the expulsion of hundreds of priests, the shutting down of seminaries, Catholic schools and the expropriation of church property. Till this day (both Catholic and Protestant) do not have regular access to the state-run media in Cuba.
Many generations have suffered under the Cuban regime and under the American embargo. But Jesus is not that interested in politics, He’s more interested in people, in communities, in children, in relationships. And Pope Francis created an atmosphere of dialogue that brought these two nations together, to make the best choice for those in need.
This is the true church of Jesus Christ. A church that stands for unity, renewal and service. A church that hopes for the best and exists to see the Kingdom of God on earth (in the US, in Cuba, in the Vatican) as it is in heaven.
As pastor Brian Zahnd wrote, “We have come to the end of an era. We find ourselves in a time of transition. Things are uncertain. Old assumptions are being reevaluated. We feel uncomfortable. We may be tempted to cling to the familiar and stay on the train that has brought us to this point. But that is not the way forward. We have to find the new platform and catch the next train that will carry the gospel into this new century in an engaging and compelling way. The platform is forgiveness. The train is a cruciform reformation. If we can leave the paradigm of protest and position ourselves on a platform of radical forgiveness, the twenty-first century will be full of hope, promise and unparalleled opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ.”
We have been known for far too long for the things we stand against. We have been protesting a bit too much. It’s time for the prayer of Jesus to be answered once and for all:
That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The greatest testament of the power of Christ will be most evident when his family is united as one, preaching his name, serving the world, fighting no more.
I will leave you with my favorites quotes by Pope Francis. Some of these sound like Rick Warren, Bill Graham or Heidi Baker… and that’s the sign of good things to come:
- “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
- “It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”
- “Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.”
- “Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs, or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
[bctt tweet=”The Lord never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness.”]
*Share with your friends from other denominations and lets accept the invitation for unity and joy. #DropTheStones