Christian Unity in 350 Words
by- DEREK MAUL
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21)
One of my regular writing jobs is a weekly profile column featuring interesting people who make the community tick. Teachers, doctors, politicians, small business owners, preachers, artists, personalities; I'll talk to just about anyone.
In one market I concentrate exclusively on spiritual leaders; 130 to date in Plant City (Florida) alone. According to my records, and in writing for five local papers, I've conducted in-depth interviews with over 250 preachers over the past six years.
The diversity has been remarkable. Eighteen recognizable denominations; tall steeples; modern auditoriums; humble meeting houses. Traditional congregations, counter-cultural gatherings, and then one church for motorcyclists that features hard rock music and a preacher wearing leather.
I've interviewed clergy with advanced degrees who disdain titles and high-school drop-outs who insist I call them "bishop." I've met with pastors who drive BMWs and parsons who ride tractors. From the polished mega-church leader who preaches to 3,000 to the farmer who shepherds a congregation of fourteen.
Ages range from twenty-one to ninety-two, politics from left to right, ethnicity is all over the map. I have had conversations that lasted as little as twenty minutes, comfortable discussions that covered an hour, and – more than once – listened to three hour monologs featuring anecdotes I could never hope to run in the newspaper.
Each individual minister shared their own story, unique in every detail. But, and this is true every time – from the Eastern Orthodox priest who wore gold vestments and a huge black hat, to the Baptist preacher in a suit, to the Methodist who interviewed in jeans and heels, her hair stuffed under a baseball cap – the bottom line has been consistent, compelling, and charged with a degree of authenticity that speaks volumes.
Hundreds of preachers, representing variations in worship style and doctrine and religious expression that will make your head spin; but they all witness to this one simple truth: We were all created for relationship with God, and a life committed to following Jesus is the heart of God's plan for everyone.
There it is; end of story; Christian unity in 350 words; that wasn't so hard after all.
Love and blessings,
DEREK MAUL is the author of Get Real, A Spritual Journey for Men and a columist for the Tampa Tribune.
His book second book, My Heart I Carry A Star: Stories for Advent" is to be released August 2008).
Click on the link to see his newest book to be released.