Category Archives: On OneChristianVoice.com

A Model of Unity

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That’s me, second from the right, in front of the new campus for TCCTC. (Credit: SociallyLoved)

The following article was first posted on OneChristianVoice and their subsidiary, TallyChristianVoice. Check out their site for more inspiring stories as well as news that impacts Christians around the world.


UNITY 

Imagine, if you can, a place where Christians of all colors and creeds gather together. Every believer is welcome, regardless of his or her denomination, background, education level, or socio-economic status. Together, they spend hours poring over the Bible in various translations and ancient languages. They focus on God and the Scriptures. They pray together, learn from one another, and encourage one another in their walk with the Lord.

You may think this kind of unity only existed in the first century church. (See Acts 2.) At least, that’s what I thought…until I saw it first hand at the Tallahassee Christian College and Training Center (TCCTC).

 

MODEL

Over the past 12 years, I’ve been connected with TCCTC as a student, volunteer, board member, and faculty member. With each passing year, I become more amazed that such a spirit of unity exists—and even thrives!—within this small college. In a world full of segregated churches, of discord and confusion, TCCTC stands out as a model of unity.

I sat down recently with Jo Anne Arnett, the president and co-founder of TCCTC, and asked her an important question: How does the college achieve such unity?

Below, I’ve compiled a short list of Jo Anne’s responses, as well as suggestions on how we can apply the model of TCCTC to our own churches, youth groups, small groups, and Bible studies. While I’m sure there are more elements we could include, these few items are sufficient to challenge even the most established group of believers. 

 

1 – Diversify – Seek “unity at every level.”

Since its inception in 1990, TCCTC has embraced all manner of diversification (including age, color, background, and denomination) among the board of directors, faculty, and student body. Each semester, the faculty represent 15-20 denominations, while the total student body has come from over 400 congregations. Jo Anne puts it simply: “Everybody’s welcome.”

Application: Unity does not mean sameness. Encourage diversification in your group, then seek unity. 

 

2 – Focus – “We focus on Jesus and the Scriptures.”

Jo Anne is careful to point out that TCCTC focuses on Jesus and the Scriptures. True Christianity includes the study of both, for we are directed to “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23 NAS).

Over the years, I’ve heard Jo Anne say, “We major in the majors…but we don’t avoid the minors, either.” In other words, the majority of classes are focused on the major topics, such as the books of the Bible, hermeneutics (how to interpret Scripture), and Church history. There are numerous other classes students can explore for personal growth or continuing education, but they are not the major focus of the college.

Application: Focus on Jesus and the Scriptures. However, don’t get sidetracked or bogged down in details to the point that you miss the overarching message of God’s love and redemption.

 

3 – Concentrate – Unity is “not about watering down” the truth.

Too often, we feel that we have to dilute the Gospel to make it more acceptable for a wider audience. However, TCCTC takes a different approach: they face difficult Scriptures or topics head-on. They trust that God’s Word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” and so they search the Scriptures for clarity. (See 2 Timothy 3:16 NAS.)

As for doctrinal conflicts, Jo Anne said there are only a few areas in which real differences of interpretations may appear. For those rare instances, teachers agree up front to give “equal voice and weight” to alternative interpretations. The students can then lean on the Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to interpret the meaning of the passage. Even if students disagree on the interpretation, they can be unified in their whole-hearted approach to seeking God and learning more about His Word.

Application: Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and clarity as you dig into the Scriptures. Concentrate on the Word and don’t shy away from difficult subjects. When differences arise within your group, retain unity as you explore other interpretations of the Word.

 

4 – Appreciate – Unity involves “appreciating each other’s different gifts.”

Most of us are familiar with the metaphor of a single Church Body with many members, as seen in 1 Corinthians 12. During our talk, Jo Anne used the same Scripture in reference to the various denominations within the Church—an analogy I had never considered before.

She said that TCCTC appreciates the different roles of each denomination and the value they bring to the Church Body. Instead of trying to break down denominational walls, the college seeks to “train and equip congregations to better fulfill their purpose within the Body.”

Application: Appreciate the various roles of individuals as well as denominations and congregations within the Church. When you do, you’ll begin to build bridges and spread unity within the Body.

 

5 – Serve – “Every follower of Jesus Christ is in full-time ministry.”

According to Jo Anne, the goal of TCCTC is to “train and equip believers to fulfill their various roles as followers of Jesus, and to do so in love with a biblical basis.” They believe every Christian—not just pastors—is in full-time ministry, so those roles could be within the home, church, workplace, or community.

Application: Acknowledge that every believer has an important role within the Church Body. Encourage one another to discover that role and develop it. Don’t go it alone, though. Seek appropriate training and equipping from knowledgeable, mature believers.

 


New Semester Fall Ad

(Credit: SociallyLoved)

If you’re in the Tallahassee region, I encourage you to check out TCCTC in person. But, regardless of your location, I challenge you to seek unity in your church, youth group, and Bible study. As Paul said, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3 NAS).

Real Promises for a Lasting Marriage

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Robby and I recited our vows in March 2011. (Photo credit: Lindsay Osborne Photography.)

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Fantasy

Music fills the church. A hush descends as guests take to their feet. The church doors open, revealing the bride in glistening white. She clutches a bouquet of red roses…no, make that yellow tulips flown in from Holland that very morning. The groom’s eyes glisten as he takes in the image of his beautiful bride.

Holding hands, the couple repeats time-honored vows. They quickly promise to love and keep one another for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, for as long as they both shall live.

After sharing a passionate (but church-appropriate) kiss, they burst out of the building in a shower of flower petals and confetti, and ride off in the sunset toward their fabulous honeymoon destination.

The credits roll.

 

Reality

Thanks to the romanticism of movies and TV, that’s how most of us envision weddings. This image is reinforced by a gazillion posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, all subtly promising enduring happiness if we can only find the right combination of gowns, flowers, music, and cake. Perhaps that’s why the average cost of a wedding, reception, and honeymoon is over $28,000.[1] (And we’re still coming out of a recession!)

No matter how fantastic the wedding day is, it only lasts a day. It is suddenly replaced with the reality of married life. For many of us, that reality is a joyful partnership, filled with love and laughter that help get us through the rough patches of life. But for others, the reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy. Perhaps that’s a big reason why so many marriages end in divorce.

I can’t help but think that couples would be better prepared for marriage if they had just a dose of reality before the wedding day. That’s why I’d like to propose a change—not to TV shows or social media posts (Rom Coms and pins about color palettes all have their place). No, I’d like to expand those wedding vows.

 

Revised Wedding Vows

Instead of the sing-song words that we repeat but don’t take to heart, what if the bride and groom had to make real promises to one another—promises to love in spite of issues, to forgive when necessary, and to stay together no matter what? What if we packed our vows with Scripture, such as Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 13:13, and Galatians 5:22-23?

The following is an example of what that could look like.

I, [Bride and Groom], promise:

  • To prioritize God first, you second, and myself third.
  • To encourage you to grow closer to the Lord.
  • To accept you just as you are, with all your flaws (which may become more apparent over time).
  • To forgive you completely of all past, current, and future wrong-doings, then put it behind me and move on.
  • To take care of you when you’re sick, even if it makes me sick.
  • To stay with you, even if (God forbid) you become disabled in any way.
  • To have eyes only for you, even when you’re old and no longer sexy.
  • To cherish you, even if you can’t give me the kids I’ve always dreamed of.
  • To respect you, never speaking discouraging or belittling words to you.
  • To always be lovingly honest with you.
  • To make all effort to live in peace and harmony with you.

 

There would also be vows specific to the bride and groom.

I, [Bride], promise:

  • To submit to you as the Church submits to Christ, even when it’s difficult or it doesn’t make sense at the time.
  • To let you take the lead, even when I think I know a faster, better way.

I, [Groom], promise:

  • To love you as Christ loves the Church, being willing to sacrifice myself completely for your well-being.
  • To help you pursue the call God has for your life, even if I have to make sacrifices for a season, such as doing all the “girly stuff,” like cooking and cleaning.

 

Once the vows are exchanged, the new married couple share a kiss, have cake, and dance all night! (This is a wedding celebration, after all.)

 

A Good Start

If all marriages in the Christian church started out with these vows—with real promises—would it refocus the emphasis from the fantasy of the wedding day to the reality of married life? Would it really make a difference on the quality of a marriage or its lasting success?

I don’t know. But I am certain that it’s a good start.

[1] “Wedding Cost Statistics” – Statistic Brain.” 2017 Statistic Brain Research Institute, publishing as Statistic Brain. 5/17/17. http://www.statisticbrain.com/average-costs-of-an-american-wedding