Be United in Christ
3:16PM Nov 6, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
We are delighted today to have with us John Brown, who is collaborator with Be United in Christ, and also pastor Denia Community Church in Denton, Texas. And I met john for the first time very briefly at Evangelical Theological society, if I'm not mistaken two years ago now, and we exchanged contact details and I learned very briefly of pastor Browns work in Be United in Christ and was fascinated and have organized this panel so that we can learn more about that specific work. And also, as evangelicals interested in church unity, how it is that that movement can be fraught, fostered, more broadly in the institutions and churches that we represent. So, john, without further ado, we're all yours. Thank you.
Well, thank you for the opportunity to introduce Be United in Christ outreach ministry. And to do so this morning, I'd like to briefly present you with the ministry's mission, history, distinctives, resources, and vision. So the Be United in Christ outreach ministry is a Bible based ministry whose mission is to teach and promote Christian unity in accordance with God's word. And the ministry was founded by a converted businessman, who is he began to study the Word of God was impacted by five passages in particular. And the first was by Jesus teaching and the sermon on the mount that many would say to him, Lord, Lord, that would claim him, but that he would only claim the ones that did the will of his father, who sent him. And so he began reading the Bible to find out what what is God's will, and then read in Matthew 22, the God's will is summarized in loving Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves that these two commandments summarize the laws of the Old Covenant. But then two days later, in the upper room, Jesus as He announced, the New Covenant also gave a new commandment, that his disciples would love one another, as He loved them. And this would be the distinctive mark the validating trait of His true followers, which is why at the end of the broom discourse, or right before he went into the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed that all His disciples, not just the current, but the future, would be one. And so our unity validates the credibility of our gospel. So in the Great Commission, as the disciples were set out to make more disciples, their unity would be the validating authenticating symbol of the fact that they were true followers of Jesus, that God truly had sent His Son to save. And that in making disciples, they would be teaching these new disciples to obey everything that Jesus commanded them. And that could be summarized in loving God wholeheartedly, loving our neighbors selflessly, and loving each other as brothers and sisters in Christ as Christ loved us. And so, initially, his vision was to contract with one author to write one book on this subject. But as he began to explore it, it expanded and developed until he quickly recruited more than 50 people in five states from diverse backgrounds, who shared a belief in the five distinctives of the ministry. And the first is anonymity. From the founder to the authors to the contributors, no one's name would be on this project. And this was for three reasons. First, is because pride is the great divider. The Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs called it the ringleader of all the riots and contentions and conflicts in the church. And so in order to promote humility, everyone agreed to anonymity. The founders card simply reads servant, my card simply reads servant, because we're all just simply servants modeling our Lord who came not to be served, but to serve. Secondly, once you begin to associate with individuals or institutions, you risk alienating those who are in different sides of the bathtub, and may not like that individual or institution. And the desire was to reach all believers across the spectrum. And so not to identify or affiliated explicitly with any institution or author. And then thirdly, that God would receive all the glory for any good that might be done. And so Bach at the bottom of his sheets of music, when he finished with just simply put St. J soli Deo Gloria, and the desire was for God to receive all the glory that might be done through the ministry. A second distinctive was that this was going to be individual focused. So much work has been done by denominations by organizations by institutions. But the obligation and the opportunity to be united is an obligation for every believer that God wants all of his children to love all of their brothers and sisters, that every sheep belongs to a single flock that we're all members of a singular body. And therefore every believer needs to know and understand that their father cares how they treat their brothers and sisters in Christ. And that there is an expectation and an obligation and opportunity to live in love that reflects the Triune God who made and saved us. And so the focus is for every believer to spread unity not merely between denominations, but within individual churches, that every relationship between believers should be characterized by love, by harmony by unity, because these are the things that honor and glorify our God who lives in perpetual love and harmony, and unity. It was interesting a couple of months ago in one of your conferences, I read heard Wesley granberg Michaelson say, my sense is that we need a grassroots resurgence of ecumenical encounter. And this needs to first happen between individuals. And then Dr. Zurlo, amened that it said new methods of ecumenical engagement have to be grassroots, why not have an Ecumenism, that is more individualistic. And that's absolutely the heart of this ministry is that every child of God needs to be a loving child of God because our God is love. The broadness of our audience made the resources broadly accessible. And so these were intentionally designed to be read at basic reading levels. They run everything from a daily devotional for those who aren't accustomed to reading to a full biblical theology based on the Trinity. So Charles Spurgeon said, Jesus told Peter, not feed my giraffes, but Feed my sheep. But the reality is sheep and giraffes need food appropriate to them. And God intends his children to move from milk to meat. And so our resources intentionally run the gamut from very simple, short presentations, to full length, robust, academically respectful, but not academically sounding resources. Because we want every child of God to be able to access this. This is why two thirds of the resources are free. And many of them are being translated into Spanish. They're being offered in electronic, audible and print format, so that they're available around the world, even for those who can't get shipping from America. And so I came across a beautiful ministry in Asia, whose vision is to make people realize that those with physical and mental handicaps who are saved are part of the body of Christ and aren't simply to be pitied. But they have gifts, they're to be engaged in the body of Christ, we need to view them not just simply with dignity, but as people with something to contribute. And as we dialogue electronically, he was able to download some of the resources even though he couldn't receive them in his location, if they were limited to print. And so we've tried to make these broadly accessible. And even though they are all explicitly evangelical, none of them are doctrinaire. None of them are something that would exclude one branch of the family, because it was so narrow in its theology. A fourth characteristic is that our ministry is bibline. So Charles Spurgeon said of john Bunyan, the author of pilgrims progress, prick him anywhere, and his blood is bibline. And so you can almost open any page of any of our resources and find scripture that's explicitly stated, explained, exhorted, that this is an explicitly biblical ministry. And then finally, that it's theocentric. And so we are appealing for unity, not because it would make our lives more pleasant, or make our political stance more powerful, but because our God demands it, and the only hope we have of unity is our God has accomplished it in his son through the cross Jesus Christ.
And that's why he's given the spirit to empower it and to compel it. And so we are seeking unity because our God who is triune has created us and redeemed us and called us to live in unity with one another, and sent His Son to accomplish this by uniting Jews and Gentiles as one new man and reconciling them to the Father and giving us the Spirit. And so from first to last, this is about God and not about man. So these distinctives are expressed in our resources that are the ministry. And so if this sounds a little bit like an infomercial, it's because the resources are the ministry is we want to equip other ministries with these resources, so that they can promote unity in whatever God has called them to do. So one of these are simply Bible passage collections that are categorized in themes. So for example, unity matters, explains how unity matters to God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and it is a predominant theme that matters in Scripture. So it should matter to us as well. And so this is just simply categorized briefly summarize presentations of God's word, so that people can realize this is a central theme of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Scripture needs to be explained and preached and taught. And so we have developed 12 exegetical guides, to one, take central unity passages and to present them clearly, accurately and compellingly. but to also be a model for pastors and teachers and training of how to exposit God's word accurately, and then how to present it clearly and compellingly. And so each of the exegetical guides briefly introduces the book and the passage. And then as we study the passage, we lay it out in comparison with different translations and the original Greek or Hebrew, we do a structural layout based on the clauses and the grammar, and then summarize that in a narrative flow, a passage overview, a central focus, and then a brief recommendation of resources at beginning intermediate and advanced levels. And then we take those ingredients and show them how to prepare a sermon from an outline of the passage, a mini commentary explaining the necessary passage details, giving some suggested applications, some sample illustrations, then a sermon outline, a full sermon manuscript, and then some recommendations of several sermons from different traditions that faithfully exposit this. So we do this for a dozen different passages from the two great love commandments to the new commandment to the early church in Acts 2 to the importance of distinguishing the essentials and the opera, the non essentials and Romans 14. And then three of these, we've actually expanded into a fuller presentation that's actually available as a book that has one, what we call unity classics, or exploring the classics for we take other commentaries and sermons and works from church history on Psalm 133, or john 17, are 1 Corinthians 12. And we also expand with addendum. It explains, for example, the role of the Holy Spirit in fostering unity in the early church and today. An exploration of the spiritual gifts that should be unifying, but sadly had been divisive; of unpacking how we apply the Unity appeal for in Psalm 133, according to Colossians 3. And so these are additional resources on these three central passages.
But we're not the first ones to have reflected on scripture. And so we have gone back through church history trying to find the great saints that God has used to insightfully write on these topics. And broadly speaking, they're broken into those people who have summarized the uniting truths that should unify us. And many of these are patristic by intent, because as we go back in church history, whether you're Roman Catholic or Eastern, orthodox, or Protestant, these are all of our forefathers of the faith. So Irenaeus of Leone, his demonstration of the apostolic preaching is one of the early summaries of the faith once for all delivered to the saints in the early presentation of the regular Fidei. Athanasius, of course, and explaining what do we mean when we confess Jesus is Lord? And why is the cross and the Incarnation so essential, Augustus in karidian, or is handbook that the way we worship God is by living in faith and hope and love faith summarized in the Apostles Creed, hope in the Lord's Prayer, both of those expressed in love for God and others, Martin Luther's presentation of the gospel of that the Christian is Lord of all and subject to none. But then we use that freedom not to indulge the flesh, but to make ourselves servant of all and subject to all. And so this presentation about the faith of the gospel and the expression of the gospel Cyprian's On the Unity of the Church, which is the first monograph on church unity, John Owen, responding as a Puritan nonconformist, how his church is not schismatic because they're not conforming to the Church of England, and how we can be in different congregations and denominations, but still believe in promote love, church peace, and true unity. And then Jonathan Edwards, you were talking about being in the Great Awakening. And of course, some of the dynamic experiences of some of the people lead to controversy. And so Jonathan Edwards goes to 1 john 4 to say, how do we in fact recognize a true work of the Holy Spirit. And it's that which exalts Jesus which reveres God in His Word, which reveals truth, which opposes Satan, and which promotes holiness and love. And so these are the truths around which we can have unity in accordance with God's word. But then we also have to have the virtues of those who are Christ like in order to actually apply this in a unifying way. And so, Dr. Armstrong and his book crazy love emphasizes the importance of loving God in order to love others. And the classic presentation of this is Bernard of clairvaux, who talks about the founder of the cistercians he talks about how we're all born, loving ourselves, for our own sake, but then we begin to love God for our sake. But then we begin to love God for His own sake. And hopefully we aspire to loving ourselves only for God's sake. But we grow in love which enables us to grow in love for others. Henry School in work that led to the conversion of George Whitfield talks about the Christian life as a divine life of God putting his spirit within the regenerate children. And we express that by growing in humility and holiness, and expressing that in love for God and others, the Beatitudes of Thomas Watson, that he describes as 8 beautiful pearls adorning the neck of the bride of Christ, to begin in poverty of spirit and end in persecution of the church, Matthew Henry known his first commentary, talks about how until we have peace within us, we can't have peace between us. And so we need to foster a meek and gentle spirit we have to be peaceable. Before we can be peacemakers Andrew Murray talking about humility, because it was pride that separates us from God and one another, and humility that reconciles and restores. And then Gregory the Great's great work on pastoral ministry to help church leaders know how to guide their flocks in a unifying way. And then John Owen actually wrote a book getting 22 rules for his congregants on how to serve their pastor and how to serve one another. So that whether those were in the pulpit, or those in the Pew, can both get guidance in how to be unifying within their local churches.
And then, three of the classics that we've actually not just summarize, but we've updated in simplifying the grammar, the vocabulary and offering introductions and outlines, three of these Jeremiah Burroughs, his work the Irenicum, that's unfortunately not more well known, but it's difficult to find difficult to read. So we've created a condensed synthesis of his exhortation and guidance, and how we can achieve peace and unity. Charles Spurgeon, who's just a delightful voice, and as ardent as he was in appealing for evangelical truth, was equally zealous for the unity of the church. So we've taken nine of his sermons and introduced and summarize those because he's a very engaging, compelling voice for today. And then Jonathan Edwards, two of his works, actually. So when his church was being expanded, there was conflict in the body among of all things where people were going to sit in the pews. And so he preached a sermon series on 1 Corinthians 13 that culminates in heaven is a world of love. And knowing that we are going to be living in a perfectly loving place, perfectly loving one another, because we will now be perfectly lovely. And that should now inspire us to be loving today, in anticipation and advertise an advertisement of what awaits. And then also in this is his sermon sinners in the hands of an angry God that presents people with the gospel presentation, we need to choose Christ now, so that we end up in a world of love, and not a world of hate, and division. So these are our book summaries. We've also then done six original writings. Now, one of these is known as the three great love commandments, just briefly explaining what it is to love God wholeheartedly. Love one another or love our neighbor selflessly, to love one another as Christ loved us, a basic devotional grace for everyday living, to try to get people in the habit of everyday spending time reading and reflecting on God's word praying to Him, because it's only as we grow in Christ that we can be more united in Christ. So these are two introductory levels for believers of any maturity level, to more intermediate Christian unity in you, explains in 40 lessons, how we can establish a foundation of unity, and then how we express that unity foster that unity preserve that unity, by doing things such as worshiping together, asking forgiveness, when we wronged someone getting forgiveness when we've been wronged. God's will for Christian unity, that simply summarizes what God teaches on this in his in his word. One is a biblical theology of unity that then is summarized in essentials
and our goal, our vision in offering all these is that first of all Christians will learn what God has spoken in His Word for His people. And that in learning it, they will apply it and then applying it they will share it. And so there's this beautiful repeating theme in the book of Ezra. Ezra was able to reestablish worship because the good hand of the Lord was upon him, and he was able to make it safely through the journey because the good hand of the Lord was upon him. And when they needed more Levi knights, they were discovered because the good hand of the Lord was upon him, and they were given permission to return and the resources of a pagan king Because the good hand of the Lord was upon him. But then in Ezra seven, it tells us why the good hand of the Lord was upon him, because Ezra had set his heart, to study the Word of God, and to apply it and to teach it. And so our goal, our vision in making these resources available, is that Christians of all traditions, all denominations, all levels, will learn what God has to say about their Christian life and the way they should treat their brothers and sisters in Christ. apply that in their own life, dealing with their own logs before they look at other remotes, so that they work to become more holy, more loving, more forgiving, more compassionate. And then they share that they share that with those in their family, they share that with those in their Bible studies and their Sunday schools in the seats around them, and then share it around with other Christians of other traditions that basically, we want people to go back to the Word of God to see what our Father has to say about how we treat one another. So the ministry, the way that we want to promote Christian unity, in accordance with God's word, is by making a broad range of accessible resources available to people to learn, apply and share. So that individual Christians in their churches, between churches across denominational traditional lines begin to become the loving bodies that God desires to be by becoming the loving believers, the God commands and enables us to be. And since Christ has united us in himself through the cross, we want people to understand how we can visibly express that by being united in Christ. So with that is my brief summary, I'll open it up to the panel discussion.
Thank you so much, john, we really appreciate that we really appreciate your availability, so that we can host hold this conversation. applauding doesn't work so well in zoom, but we're applauding you, John, and thankful for your time, let's open it up for discussion.
Um, I didn't know John, or these works until what maybe about a year ago or so he reached out to me sent me a number of them. I haven't read that from cover to cover, but I've looked at them fairly carefully. And I commend you on producing kind of transformative teaching tools that I think are needed.
I think they're especially effective
in settings where people are more biblically literate, more biblically rooted in terms of the kind of ministry they are under week by week, the kind of church or context in which they worship in and are formed in discipleship. I also appreciate the fact that there is a historical breath of theological width that remains orthodox. While at the same time it does not shut out people who would not self identify as Evangelicals. So those are all extreme positives. Um, the only you know, and this is, this is probably a matter of gifting and calling, I would think, john, we've not discussed this, but everything you're doing, I completely resonate with. But as you know, if you watch me for long, my own journey has taken me with the same principles into different fields of mission. And I'm not promoting that I'm just saying, I think that there's some place perhaps in the future of what you do to, to touch on the gifts, not the gifts to the spirit and the typical Evangelical way of listing them and exegeting them. But the idea of giftedness and calling and vocation of being a part of this unity theme, which I'm sure you resonate with, I just haven't picked it up yet. Maybe it's there. And I haven't seen it because I haven't read everything. But I think that part of what God gave to me, in my own experience was the opportunity to go outside my own Wheaton, Evangelical, conservative circles. And not to become a liberal, though some evangelicals think I did, but to become really ecumenical in the right sense of the word to see the whole Catholic small 'c' church. And that has taken me as you know, into relationships from the Vatican, through our bishops and cardinals, to local priests, to light Catholics to Catholic movements for unity. It's taken me into the Orthodox Church, it's taken me into other Protestant churches, and it's taken me into Pentecostal settings, which I've never knew in my Evangelical, pastoral years. So it just it blew my life up and reordered it, but I see that now, I hope wisely, as God's calling me not God's calling everybody else. Um, I'd be interested in your response, your thoughts, we've never discussed it and maybe there's some others that want to contribute to this.
No. And as we interacted briefly an email we shared a set on our journey, so for me who was saved in a fundamentalist evangelical setting, but as I began to read church history and work my way backwards, from 20th century to Edwards, and Owen, and then Aquinas and Agustine and early fathers, and to realize that the Christian family was much broader and more diverse than I had realized, and in working with this project, to realize that it's those who are in Christ, that are united in Christ, and therefore were to express that unity, so we're not achieving we're preserving. And the defining call is those who acknowledge Jesus is Lord, because it's only by the Holy Spirit that we're able to confess in a biblical sense of saving sense that Jesus is Lord. And the sign of a true Christian, someone who truly is in Christ is the Holy Spirit. And so part of it, I think, what exactly your calling has been is to identify people who recognize Jesus as Lord, and who had been born again and indwelt by the Spirit. And we are to identify with them as brothers and sisters in Christ, even through tradition is different than our own.
Yeah, quick, just a quick response. And I don't want to dominate here. But absolutely, we agree, what was shocking to me with that similar kind of background having been a Southern Baptists, and that's not an attack. That's just a statement of having been a very conservative Southern Baptist and a Wheaton grad who worked almost totally with Evangelicals throughout my pastoral years. What was shocking to me was to discover what to use our language which are happy to use, or brothers and sisters in Christ, born again of the Spirit, in context, and theological systems and practices that just blew my mind. It's like, what do I do with what's right in front of me, this guy loves Jesus, he wants to pray with me. He loves my message. I mean, I, for example, if presented in large Catholic settings, and the first hand that goes up is Dr. Armstrong, you sound like you love the Catholic Church. I've never met anybody like you. You know, and that's no longer stunning to me. I doubt if People from other traditions have met people, whether they're evangelicalstowards others, or others towards Evangelicals, who can, who say, and maybe this is part of it, john, and I'm interested in others. There was a pretty well known theologian who said years ago in a setting of mine, until you can explain the other person's view to their satisfaction that they say you got it right, you really can engage with the person. And that's what's motivated me in working with Catholics, orthodox, all kinds of Protestants. Do I know what they believe? And can I represent it with love and fairness, not attacking it? Well, I disagree. But here's what I think you're saying. And they don't disagree with me that I'm getting it right.
So I was asked, I was on staff at a mega church working in their missions office for a decade, and was asked to teach a history of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, which was not our church's tradition. And I said, Well, I'm happy to, but I'm not a Pentecostal basher. And so the way we did the class is what I said, we're only going to read Pentecostal authors. And we're going to read them in their own words, because until we understand someone, which you don't understand by reading their opponents, so we're going to read their best advocates, then we're going to empathize with them. So why would someone believe this and say that? Only then are we in a position to agree or disagree and to say why. And so we went 11 weeks through the course, and just in their own words, and their own story, told their story tried to understand what they were saying and why. And then we were able to engage with but why do we not embrace this? Why do we not express this this way? But we could do so fairly, because we had taken the time to hear them justly.
Very well said, Thank you, you
know, some of what, john just to play off of some of what you shared in your presentation, just the individual focused, it seems like what you're both describing is where the individual focus is most important, where it's not general labels, sort of general, here's the camp you fit in, because this is the title you've taken, whether you understand what that title means or not. But until there's a conversation, until you're able to ask questions get to know each other. Can you even begin to establish what in Christ means what? faith alone in Christ alone? And his? Because I would even say as a Yeah, in the Bible Belt pastoring. In the Bible Belt, there's even the assumption that within our particular tradition, everybody means the same thing by what they're saying, as a Christian, like, Oh, yes, I believe Jesus is Lord. Well, what you pointed out, okay, is that a saving confession? What do they mean by that? Is that just something that this is the world they've grown up in? And so it sort of seems to cut both ways that there's both outside a particular tradition? Do I really know this individual what they believe what they think what they feel. Even within my own tradition, do actually know the people and what they think what they believe. And just there's no substitute, it seems for that really hard work of getting to know people well. and spending time with people and getting behind some of the labels and words understand, okay, what, what actually do you believe upon? What is your faith resting? whose work? Is it your work or Christ's work? Is it faith alone? are you adding a lot of stuff to it? And it's interesting how the just the labels don't necessarily help us get there, or the particular traditional titles we take. They can sometimes provide helpful summaries. I mean, there's people who are in particular traditions for reasons they really do embrace particular tenants of those things. But there's also just a lot of people within that, that that's just the world they're in. And sometimes they don't know why. Or if they know why they have good reasons. But just yeah, I appreciate what you shared about just the individual focus sort of forces us to not just do this by Twitter, or just sort of blog at each other in general, but how do we spend time with each other in a very personal way, the people that the Lord has put around us, but I think, john, what you're sharing about calling, it's like, not me caring about everybody else, I'm never gonna meet. Okay, who were the people around me? And what does it mean to love them to be unified with them? In Christ?
John, thank you. I've gotten several of your books in the mail and giving them out eagerly to church members, and just appreciate what you're doing. And just this morning, and hearing you recount the philosophy of the ministry, the point about anonymity was encouraging and challenging. And I just thought, that's a wonderful thing to recenter my heart on that this is all about God's glory and his purpose, not about us, just a few thoughts. One is, I appreciate so much the how you draw from church history and from all of church history, I just see that it's such a helpful resource right now. Because some of those who, when they hear the call to unity, they want to immediately go to Yeah, but truth. And they're very nervous about unity. They've seen a ecumenism done in ways that water down the importance of truth. And so they get very nervous about this topic. Some of the things from the Puritans and from john and from Spurgeon, I found really helpful, because if you can give someone a resource from someone that they think of is safe. And it's making the same appeal that can be really helpful. So I'm really interested in actually, there's a book by Richard Baxter called the cure for church divisions, which I'm sure you're familiar with. It's been really, it's very powerful on the importance of Christian love, which is so much of what is I think, at play in discussions of unity, so that I just so appreciate as well. I just had two thoughts. One is, in addition to books, are there ways to build out more online presence, because there's a lot of people I know, especially having done youth in college ministry in earlier seasons of life, seeing where those people are at. I just know so many people who will never read a book, but they will watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts. Just a practical thing of just wondering what might that look like to stretch into those areas. And the other is, are there ways to create opportunities for just dialogue. Because as our culture, it gets more polarized, and more people are getting their news through social media and cable news. And increasingly, we live in echo chambers where people don't talk to others who have a different ideological perspective of any kind. And just the point that John Armstrong was raising about seeing, articulating someone else's view in a way that they would be satisfied by. And I always think of the character Atticus Finch and To Kill a Mockingbird and his powerful statement about seeing the world through someone else's eyes, and the unmaking of prejudice in that when you can step into someone else's skin and really see the world through their eyes. But I just think, in addition to everything else we're doing, one of the things I often think about it for me at our church, can we model dialogue. A lot of our people have never seen a Roman Catholic and a Protestant talk. They've never talked to a Roman Catholic. All they know of Roman Catholicism is second hand. And so just are there ways to just model respectful, kinda like we were saying a moment ago, not compromising but even just dialogue that stakes out, here's what the differences are. We're just clarifying the disagreements. I think modeling that kind of dialogue is really important in our culture right now. Because there's so much polarization that people just don't communicate with. Other. So it's just a question in my own ministry as well as, are there ways to do that? Are there ways and I'm sure you're already doing that, in many ways. I'm just sharing kind of what's what's on my mind is
thank you for the recommendation with regard to your first question right now, there isn't a plan to do the videos and the other things, although it's a wonderful recommendation. Partly that's because we want people to read. And this ties into maybe the second, how can we do dialogue, and then let people hear presentations of their own positions fairly. And I think it's by letting them speak for themselves. And so one of the things that I've really enjoyed and found fruitful, has been hosting reading groups in my home of classical Christian literature, and grabbing people, not just from my own church, but other pastors from other churches and just people out in the community. And we'll read, sometimes just an entire author will spend a semester on Agustine or on Edwards, other times, we'll pick a theme and see how that's treated by different and I'll say at the beginning is none of the people that we're going to read Martin Luther, John Calvin, Gustin, Bernard, etc, would be permitted to teach in our church, because they couldn't sound the doctrinal statement. And that kind of catches everybody back because I thought these were good guys. Well, they are. And one we should say, have we cut the Bologna too thin have we charmless the lines in the sand to fine. But I want to encourage them to have a first hand acquaintance with these great saints that are part of our heritage. And by doing that, I want to teach them how to read, I want to show them the joy of reading for themselves and not watching a video clip of someone summarizing, I want them to find the joy of encountering Lewis and Chesterton on their own, and saying I can do this. And this is better than the fun of watching someone draw while a narrator explains. And so I think part of the way to promote dialogue is also to foster reading, and then also to read people that allows them to speak for themselves and to realize this is a great saint, even though he's in a tradition different than my own.
John, you probably know this, in terms of visual one of my passions for 15 years was to produce a documentary type film that was pretty substantive on what it meant to pursue oneness and to live Christian unity. And we finally have accomplished that I think you've seen it. Yes, it's available from vision video. It's called one. And it's a 90 minute two part, documentary style film. I love documentaries, I've studied them, I've not made them. But I was involved in producing this with good filmmakers. It's got a whole range of theological voices, orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, you know, across the spectrum. It features married couples that are Protestant and Catholic together who love Jesus and practice their faith. It's just it's a great storytelling form. I don't think it replaces reading, but I think it does reach the visual generation in certain ways. There's a subsequent, shorter film, about Catholic and Protestant marriages that actually work. Obviously, what's lying beneath that that causes people on both sides to take note of it is that it doesn't work. If they're not really loving Christ together. It doesn't work cuz they're Catholic and Protestant, and they tolerate each other. It works cuz they love Jesus together. That comes through very powerfully.
And part of what the video shows is it gives us good models of healthy humanism. As a Dr. Putnam, in your book when you talk about Whitfield and Wesley, that's not theoretical, that's historical that happened. And he was how they committed to whoever died First, the other would say the memorial at his service. And people don't realize, for example, that Luther quoted Bernard as much. Luther and Calvin both quoted Bernard as much as anyone other than Agustine. And they don't realize that Calvin and molang, Tom met with Cardinal contarini, and others at Regensburg who tried to harmonize and have unity. So even the great saints that are known as stalwarts for the truth, were also advocates of unity. And we need those models to know one that it's okay and then to see how we can do it without compromise. Just one brief anecdote that impacted me. You mentioned Spurgeon. Spurgeon doesn't just say, Spurgeon is a giant, and no one would ever accuse him of compromising on truth. But when the metro Metropolitan tabernacle opens, and here's Spurgeon was 26 years old, uneducated, attacked by many in the pulpit, and now he is the pastor of this mega church. But when He instituted the church, he invited other evangelical pastors to come and be part of an ecumenical service, because this was a new battleship, in the convoy of Christ. And then he invited other Baptist pastors to come and be part of a special service because this was good for his particular denominational affiliation. And then he had a special service for the neighborhood churches. And they shouldn't view the tabernacle as a threat, but as a resource for the whole community in the neighborhood. And then he had a service for His own members, exhorting them to be unified. And so Spurgeon went above and beyond and just imagine what it would be today for a young, popular megachurch pastor of foenum, to have the largest church in Christendom open, but to intentionally and explicitly and humbly make it an ecumenical event, and to make it about Christ and not himself. And it all of these services, he yields the forum to other pastors. He has the minority amount of the preaching there, because it's not about him. It's about Christ in His Kingdom. And this church is for the good of God and not his own ego.
And john, that kind of plays off that first, the anonymous that you talked about, but maybe more importantly, even under that anonymous word was that word humility and the danger of pride and love what you said that pride was a Jeremiah verse at the ringleader of all riots, divisions and disturbances among us that it What did Louis call it like the mother of all sins, like it's the one that gives birth to all the others in it? It does seem like that is that unavoidable piece of which I think it seems like why these resources are also equipping pastors equipping church leaders, to preach Christ to minister His Word to by God's grace, who actually produce more humble people. That because at the end of the day, I don't hear you saying, this is a technique, this is a strategy. This is here's the steps, it's okay God has to do something in our hearts to make us humble, and not proud to help us enter into some of these conversations in relationships are as Gavin shared, just to be able to have dialogue. That is actually humble dialogue, even with people we disagree with, that we listen well, that we understand well, that we give sort of benefits of the doubt that we learn to be patient that we read outside of our own generations, outside of our own centuries, outside of our own immediate groups. There's something about that that is very humbling.
The reformed philosopher Nicholas wolterstorff, said one time that he would be teaching students at Yale, and they would say, oh, Aquinas, he was Catholic, and just dismiss him with a label. And voltage voltage drop said, you have to earn the right to disagree with certain people. You don't get to take a mind like Aquinas, and dismiss him. And of course, when you find out more about the humble life, and how he resisted attempts to make him Pope, and of course, after his breakdown, and apparently he had this epiphany, this vision. And according to the anecdote, I hope it's true. When Jesus said, Thomas, my servants, you have written well of me, what do you want of me? Thomas purportedly replied, only yourself, Lord. And it was about Christ. It was about God, not about anything that he could achieve.
Yeah, and just that I think it's been shared in a few different ways. Already. Just that combination of truth and love, like speaking truth, in love of Christ being full of grace and truth that there's, I know, that's the tension I feel is in the constant prayer I have is that the Lord would keep those wed in my own life, because it's so easy for those just to get to do either just go all sort of grace, all love, no truth or just all truth. And just what a mercy of God it is to help us keep those tethered. The way they're tethered in his own mind and in his own heart,
when of course, Jesus before praying for the unity of disciples pray that God would Sanctify them in his truth. Because if I love you, I want you to know the truth. And so yeah, we can only be in unity if we're in accord with the truth.
John, do you have any desire or intention to broaden the historical sources that you're using? Because I'm just thinking about how some of my Wesleyan brothers or my Armenian brothers might look at this, this list of resources and say, there's a lacuna here there is,
do you have any desire or intention to step out and so
we do have Wesley's a sermon in his sermon on schism. In one of our works in one of our exegetical guides, we do have some Wesleyan commentators that are there. So they are represented, but they're probably underrepresented.
I find Wesley's letter to a Roman Catholic priest, and if you publish any of that, it's just a two page letter, put it in there. It's one of the most masterful letters of that era of how an evangelical reached out to a Catholic,
but no one thought on the Dr. Putnam would be so we kind of associate Armenian Calvinists, we're going to read different resources. But Jeremiah Burroughs, who was a reformed Puritan, his book was abridged and passed out to the missionaries by Francis Asbury. So actually, the Methodist put out an official version and abridgement for all their American missionaries, because it was an indispensable source to promote unity in the Methodist congregations. So even removing the label And to saying I don't have to categorize my bookshelf that way cross-pollinate my reading. And not just say there is a so I agree that there's an underrepresentation it sad that we viewed it, view those as lacuna.
And I just think that might be warming them to this kind of ministry if you know the evangelical wesleyans, who who take a lot of these serious these concerns seriously as well.
There are there are, as some of you may know, and you may know, Dr. Putnam, Dr. Putman there, there is a significant movement and prayer for unity among Pentecostal and charismatic Christians. It's pretty deep. And there really there's a several books that research from the beginning of Azusa Street with the seed of what you're talking about was in the movement. But what most historians believe killed it was racism. Because it was a black, black poor black ministers and Christians that were baptized in the spirit. And when it got to the deep south, it was essentially Pentecostalism was segregated. And you talk to some old pentecostal scholars a good one is Cecil Mel robeck, at Fuller, who's a historian and ag pastor, he was disciplined by his own denomination for associating with Catholics. But he's a solid Pentecostal scholar space whole life in that tradition, his father was a minister in the ag. And he's one of the world class humanists in terms of bridging this dialogue out to the old church from that perspective. And there's a he'll tell you, there's a growing number of scholars and practitioners in those traditions that are ecumenical.
But even in the 1960s, when the Pentecostal movement entered into the mainline denominations, which what characterizes the charismatic or the second wave, right, then we find all of a sudden, that's not just simply Pentecostals. It was an operation Methodist Holiness, and now it's in reformed churches. Now it's in orthodox and Catholic, and now it's no longer just us in them. It's in our denominations as well.
John, I just have a question. In in the current climate where there's so much rancor and division, and I, it's a difficult time right now, lots of polarization. Increasingly, I find myself talking to Christians, who don't seem to even want to have a conversation about this topic. So in other words, it's not as though it's like, there's a theoretical agreement that unity matters, but we disagree on how to pursue it. There's just a complete
lack of interest or desire.
I don't know if you see that increasing or not. But when you're talking to someone, I guess, just a, how do you approach a conversation like that with someone where there's not even a shared value at the starting point?
No, that's a really great question. And it was that question that really compelled the writing of a book God's will for Christian unity. And it says, you know, God's will is a really big deal. And unity is a really big part of God's will. And so part of it, I think we have work to do in showing people. Unity is not an option for you, if you're a Christian, you know, this is something that was central to Christ, and on the night before he died, this was his emphasis, whether from the washing of the feet to the giving of the new commandment to the repeating of the love commandments to the prayer for unity. Christ cares deeply about that. And every book of the New Testament, in fact, in the book, three great love commandments, we walk book through book by book through every book, The New Testament, and talk about how this is a central theme. And we've individualized many things that actually have a corporate element in their original writing. So the way I always understood Acts, 1:8 is that I as an individual has the Holy Spirit to be an individual witness. But of course, Christ is talking to the apostles in the plural and the imperatives are plural. And then we see that corporate witness in the church at the end of Acts 2 that leads to this dynamic growth. And then when we look at, for example, commands to Christian charity, that had been embraced to just kind of help the poor everywhere, in the New Testament context, that's Christian charity. And so Paul was raising funds for the food relief of the Palestinian Christians, not just everyone living in Palestine, not that we neglect our neighbors, we love them as ourselves. But that there's this priority to the family of God that people don't realize. It's I think part of it is we need to educate Christians on their corporate identity in Christ. Because as Americans, we're individualistic. And we need to teach them that everyone who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior has a corporate relationship with the body of Christ as their family. And that has with it that is the context of their Christian life. That is their identity. And God has much to say on that. So I think we have an educational role, and not just an exhortational role and it's not going to be about You know, care about ecumenism or care about the rancor, I think it has to be care about what your God your Creator and Redeemer has to say on this. And He has much more to say. And it's much more emphatic and central than you've ever realized. And it's wonderful. So, last night in our churches midweek meeting, I spoke on Christian citizenship. And of course, that's how we ended with voting and how do we live in the context of that, but where I started was, what does it mean to be a citizen. So the word citizen goes to 1300. And the idea of a resident a denizen of a city, back in time of city states, where your identity was being a Florentine, or a Venetian. And of course, it was one of the grievous wounds to Dante soul when he was evicted from the city by his political rivals. But God meant us to live in community. And that's part of our identity. And there's an allegiance there, to the community and to one another, and there's rights and responsibilities, because our God exists as community. And it goes back to the Trinity, and his intention for creation and his design. And I wanted to create a beautiful picture of harmony and community, before we get into the things that now our a tension momentarily between citizens, it's a glorious thing to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. It's a glorious thing to be part of the family of God. And we need to embrace that identity, enjoy that identity, but then work at preserving the entity that God wants to be manifested in His family, so that others are called and compelled to come join the family.
Thank you. And I love the focus on john 13, to 17. Especially, there's so much in that section of scripture I find useful on this topic. We have a I minister in Ojai, which is a very spiritually dark, needy place for the gospel. And we have a group of ministers that meets and prays for each other about once a month. And it's been such a encouragement, it's such a blessing to have pastors from other traditions, and there is really because of the neediness here, there's no sense of competition. We're just coming to encourage each other and lift each other up. And that is, it's been one of the most wonderful things about serving here. One of the questions that always comes up is How wide is that circle? Yeah, you know. And right now, I think I'm not in charge of it. So I can't really exert too much control over that. But right now, it's basically just the Evangelical ministers here. But I'm curious how you'd speak in this goes to John Henderson's concerned about the truth and unity combination. I mean, would like, for example, in our community, there's a female minister who affirms gay marriage, there's a then there's a Roman Catholic Parish, and then there's a another church, that wouldn't even be Trinitarian. So I'm curious how you would approach a context like that, who would you invite to a meeting because the purpose of that meeting is to pray for each other and encourage each other. So I'm curious kind of how you'd see the boundaries for something like that.
That's really challenging, and case by case, individual by individual and, of course, your book on finding the right hills to die on. And then Dr. Putmans, when doctrine divides, both try to create categories for theological triage, that has to then be applied in those circumstances. You know, biblically, a Christian is someone who is in Christ, someone who the Holy Spirit enables to say Jesus is Lord and therefore has the Holy Spirit. So the presence of the Spirit authenticates someone as being in Christ. And so that's why when the gospel went to the Samaritans or to the Gentiles, "Oh they have the spirit, well, then we have to embrace them, too." And the way we evaluate that is, do they have an orthodox confession? And there are certain essentials of level one doctrines, and whether First Corinthians 15, and 1 john, specify some of those that do need to be affirmed, or you don't have an orthodox enough confession to be considered a Christian. And then that's to be verified, validated by a credible testimony, whether individual growth in holiness, love, and then long term perseverance. And so if there's an overt rejection of clear biblical morality, that I think that would remove someone outside the purview of fellowship, if there's a clear rejection. So there's a difference between an ignorance of a doctrine and a rejection of a doctrine. And if there's a rejection of an essential doctrine, then that would remove one from the pale of Orthodoxy and identifying as a Christian, much less than evangelical. The challenge is, like you said, how does that fall for this person that confesses this but then practices this? I think we prayerfully case by case ask for God's direction, discernment, but we do have some categories that we can work through to help us make not just a gut feel, but at least we've thought through this logically, and biblically, and prayerfully as we try to make very difficult decisions on those things.
Either one or two of it. It depends on what we're trying to do. The meeting, like if it's if this is a gathering about just caring for the poor and a community or addressing abortion, or, or if this is actually a prayer meeting for reaching people for salvation. You know, those are sometimes things I've wondered of, does it? Are there certain things where you we can draw the circles more broadly? Because the work itself? Yeah, it's more general that the closer you move toward gospel, absolute direct line to gospel type issues, the narrower that circle ends up getting, you know,
we found a new word called that ecumenicalism, in the trenches
that came in the trenches and talking about the like the political, socio political things like abortion and marriage and that sort of thing where we can find a lot of, you know, common ground, but when you do get more and more narrow in your focus when you get towards the mission of your church in fulfilling the Great Commission,
because I know we found it, you know, with the biblical counseling coalition, and I'm a part of that. Some of how we've thought about it is there's there's some in our organization, in our group and our coalition that have what we call expansionist impulses. Their impulse is bigger, broader, more, and others that have more protectionist impulses, like guarding the fence lines, keeping it pure, clearer. And every year it's just we feel that tension. protectionist, expansionist protectionist expansionist. Are we trying to reach more broadly build more bridges? Are we trying to build more gates and lock more doors? And, and yeah, if you any of you brothers ever figured that out? I mean, let me know, because I'd love to read that book. But it just I think Gavin's that's some of what I feel like is, is the constant tension is expand here or, or protect. But
yeah, I think if you if you try to escape the tension, you'll you'll run into problems, the tension won't go away. So it seems to me at least from now, lifetime of experience I'm the old guy here that you just can't escape the tension. So part of Gavin's question, I think, would depend, as john Brown has said, and john Henderson has commented, it depends on who you're trying what you're trying to do. What's the purpose of this meeting? What's the focus of it? And and why are you inviting who you're inviting? We had a similar thing, Gavin and Wheaton for decades. That's how my own ministry got it started. It was called the Whitfield fellowship, named after George Whitfield, because in Whitfield, I saw the spirit of love for john Wesley. And so we bridge that division within evangelicalism by Whitfield and Wesley, as our models. But as the fellowship grew, other people found, hey, wait, this is pretty neat. You got 30, 40, 50 people come into this, and we start doing him around Chicago. And the more of these scholarships we did, the more drew and people that were not necessarily comfortable with the churches we were in. But we welcome them because they weren't joining anything. They weren't signing anything. We were praying, we kept the focus on Jesus and the scriptures and Christian stuff. We didn't we didn't interrogate them. If we were if they were joining our church, and we were making them elders or ordaining them, that's a totally different question. So there are going to be those tensions. But my own experience is remove some of the barriers keep the center set in place. But no, where the barriers belong in terms of a local church and its leadership, they clearly belong. In terms of some of these wider things, I gave you one story, and I'll quit as a very conservative Bible Church that supported me, pray for me, the pastor and our best friends. And the elders wanted to meet with me because they were growing suspicious that I was fellowshipping with the wrong people, and they were financially supporting that. So I met with them. And the pastor said to me, don't be defensive. Just be yourself. So I tried. And I'll never forget, one of the elders said this, he said, Are you asking us to go down the street and form a fellowship with a Catholic priest in his parish? And I said, No, I'm asking you to go down the street and find people like yourself and start loving them first. You don't even know how to respond to the Catholics if you don't love the people like yourself. So as john has said, Today, I mean, start with those that your closest to you if you can't love them, you'll never love people beyond them. So people are always trying to build a bridge to nowhere, I call it and that's a bridge to nowhere start with a bridge to people that are in proximity. But in these other fellowships, you know,
that's enough said I think that
Charles Spurgeon as he talks on this talks about love for Christ being an identifying factor. And so he says, you know, when I read George Herbert the poet's he's a high church man and I hate his high churchmanship He loves the Lord. And so I love George Herbert. And he runs through all these examples of people who. And he's got a great phrase, he says, you can hear the Galilean accent. That when you read these people, you can hear the Galilean accent, but that person loves Jesus, and I love Jesus. And because we both love Jesus, we're brothers in Christ. And there's this affectionate aspect that Edwards would appreciate of, you know, those who truly love Christ and find him lovely. That's only done by the Spirit. And so when we find other Christ lovers, that becomes a helpful way to we can praise our Lord together we can serve our Lord together, aspire to be more like him together.
This is really excellent. I want to guard everybody's time. So I'm just noticing it's past its past the hour, maybe we can go for another 10 minutes or so. But but time will be very limited. One of the things that I'd be interested in if if this is also of general interest is a is compiling questions that you all have. You're all in in different relationships in Evangelical ecumenical endeavors. And there's there's going to be broad consensus in this group about the the ultimate goals of of your work there probably a real differences in methods and strategies that you're building what you think covid and transformations in the churches and this proliferation of electronic communication, what all that means for the future of ecumenism, I would love to take stock of the questions that are on your minds, and whatever other questions we have from people before we close.
How do we promote gospel unity beyond our political disagreements? I mean, I think that's in even within my own denomination right now, we are tearing each other apart. And it's, and it's over the slightest difference of nuance, in political perspectives, not even a wide gap, like what Gavin was talking about, how do we get over that?
I think of how do you articulate appreciation for an aspect of a point of view without now being thrown into that ocean of that entire thing that comes with it as well, your that, you know, and even you know, whether it's politics, or you think of, okay, black lives matter? So how, how do you value lives of minorities and be able to communicate that without now becoming, You know, okay, there, that group or there, so the polarization that we talked about? So I'm, how do we learn to articulate appreciation for the nuances and the details, the aspects without communicating that we've abandoned, sort of the gospel or the Word of God or any of those things?
Yeah, most of us are readers, obviously, on this. This meeting, we're readers, we're thinkers, even authors, pastors. You mentioned the racial divide. i'm john, I'm, I knew for years and the things that I did, like we're doing here, I looked around and said, we're all white. Something wrong with this. Now, we weren't in a community that was black, but we had black ministers and churches within easy, you know, geographical proximity. And it was intentional, and it was not easy. But as we began to develop a national Ministry of building relationships, for unity, we said, we have to have black leaders, we have to have them in leadership, we have to have them in the middle of this discussion, we have the most important thing we have to design, they have them here, but we need to listen to them. And they need to know we're listening. Those are just that's just as basic to unity as anything can be. But if you talk about what we've talked about today with black leaders, I'll tell you right now, they're not interested, because they don't think we're interested in them. So our version of unity is for our understanding and our purpose. The only way we get over that problem is to bridge it by actual relationships, and friendships. And I can say from experience, I made many an attempt with major black leaders and pastors in the Chicago area and had the door slammed in my face a couple dozen times with no response. I'm as the white guy from Wheaton and nobody cares. But I just kept knocking and pounding on that doors. Jesus said, keep asking, keep succeed, keep knocking, and ask for the Holy Spirit. And I took that seriously and said, Holy Spirit, come give me a black partner or give me a black heart. Give me other people that are not like me to pursue this vision. So the question is, how do we do that? I think it's just, it's the painful, dedicated hard work of building relationships and friendships.
Thanks for that word, that's really important
thing, one outstanding question. My own mind is about discipleship of the next generation and younger people who are growing up in a very different world and most of us have grown up in. I mean, my kids walked out in the middle of the first presidential debate. And I realized that the first presidential debate they've ever seen, and it was different. The spirit and nature of that debate was very different than the debates I remember in the, you know, early 90s, in that kind of time. And so, and then technologically, people mean, my, my kids, it's frightening how good they are at zoom, because we're schools are closed down in there, they might, kindergarten, or a girl who's five years old, can log into zoom, which is terrifying to me. But she can, and they just learned all those skills so quickly, but and there. And so I just think that's just a question in my mind is how do we keep and I love your focus, john of we need to help people learn how to read books, and we need to kind of help bring them up. With that. I'm also curious how do we move towards them and move into their platforms and avenues? And what does this whole topic look like for those who are, you know, teenagers right now, and they're going to be church leaders in 20 years?
I think my question is a lot with Dr. Orleans. I feel the generational gap increasingly, of I don't think I'm that old. I'm 51. But I'm in a different world than 18 to 22. And the categories that we think on how we process information, willingness to read a book versus my unwillingness to watch a video because I don't enjoy that media. And so how do we communicate cross generationally in this? And then in along with that? How can we effectively convey to Christians, especially American Christians, that they are a family, and the church isn't somewhere that just oh, I want the youth program or I like the preacher or I like the worship that? No, this is my identity. If I am in Christ, I am in the body of Christ, and I must live with other members who are going to be different than me, and some of whom I'm going to find challenging, but I they're part of my family, nonetheless.
really excellent. any final comments? final remarks?
Gavin, are you Gavin? Or when are you Ray ortlund? Son?
Yes. Okay. He was my classmate.
Okay, I knew you guys knew each other somehow.
He was the star in Greek class when I barely got by.
And we met he actually spoke at one of our Whitfield fellowships years ago. On his own Stefan revival. Yeah.
And john, I could have my kids do the research, but I think the content of the book one, I think it could go into about 3.2 5 million tiktoks.
I think there is a way you can get this into the right.
or you gonna do the dance. Yeah.
Oh, that's barbless. Dr. Armstrong, well, if we've got you on the line I've got to ask was was Robert Weber, part of your journey into evangelicalism humanism, can you share 90 seconds
briefly story? Oh, Bob, when I was a student at Wheaton, Bob was coming into his own in terms of the Vietnam War was on. And he was sort of on the side of the protest, and I was on the other side, and we clashed. But after I graduated, I began to read him and appreciate him. I didn't have him as a teacher. But we knew one another. And we've had some dialogues, and they were conflicted. But we kept talking, kept talking, kept, and I kept reading him. And the more I read him and his ancient future faith material, the more it impacted me along the way. The greatest thing by Weber ever said to me, I think was he had my son as a student. And he said, Your son's a pretty bright guy. And he said, I think, I think he's one of my best students. And he said, He's got the courage to say what he needs to say. And he says it graciously. He said, You should be very pleased. And in some sense, we came together in his last 20 years, because some of the people that misunderstood him and, and sort of stabbed him did the same thing to me. So maybe misery loves company. But we became very close friends in the last couple decades of his life. And one of the great joys of living here is that my Wheaton professors, almost all of them became my friends. And I see most of them pass on to the Lord. But it's unusual if you stay in that I begged God to take me out of Wheaton my whole life, but by leading me here, I built these fellowships with all these diverse professors, different traditions, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, Baptist, Presbyterian. You know, I'm from a reformed tradition, but I got over it pretty quickly in terms of loving other Christians. And I've learned from from all those voices. So yeah, Weber was a Weber in my new book, Weber is a major part of my story.
But wonderful. Dr. Armstrong, can we ask you just to close this and in a brief prayer?
Sure. I'd love to
and thank you, all of you. I don't know Most of you I except for john, I don't think we've ever communicated. And I'm getting used to this technology as well. And this has been delightful didn't know what to think of it. And I'm delighted by what I've heard and seen. So let me pray.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
May Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. May Your kingdom come, it may come through us, through our ministries, through our teaching, through I'm loving of the people we serve. May our people see in us the love of Christ, operating and caring, and listening. And patiently entering into the kind of dialogue that isn't just a running around in circles, but actually embraces people who are loved by you, brings us closer together through conversation and through tearing down walls and building bridges of real friendship. I thank you for the work and witness, john and for united in Christ and for the vision of this fire ministry and the resources they're producing. I pray that this conversation today would guide them towards the next stage of things that they're contemplating producing and how you would use them. JOHN has just said he's 51 years old. And for me, this journey really, really began when I was about that age about 4746 47. And I remember asking, Is there a time in my life for this to make a difference, and now 25 years later, I can see there was so encouraged him that he may be just beginning what you really given him to do. And bless each one who shared him this time. There's always a longing in my heart to know each one better when I meet them and hear them. And this has been a refreshing and encouraging conversation. So we commit ourselves to you and especially our prayer with Jesus our Lord for oneness, and for love and unity in the body of Christ. We commit ourselves again to you with gratitude and Christ holy name, Amen.
Thank you so much, everybody.
Thank you guys.