This morning a group of about twenty five men met at the Grace Place here in Enid for our weekly discipleship meeting. The group is composed of businessmen, farmers, doctors, Air Force pilots, and other men from Emmanuel who meet for the purpose of discipleship and encouragement. This morning we studied the first two chapters of I Corinthians and discussed the causes of divisions within the body of Christ. Corinthian Christians were divided. Paul sought to unite them by reminding the church of the centrality of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. The Apostle reminded his readers that when we lose sight of 'Christ and him crucified' we lose the basis of our fellowship, for it is the gospel, as applied to our hearts by the Spirit, that forms the basis of our spiritual power and unity.
Almost two years ago I wrote a post entitled Conversion to Christ Over a Glass of Wine. That particular post recounts leading a Roman Catholic woman to faith in Christ, and restoring her marriage to her husband over a meal she had prepared in their home for my wife and me. Though it is my usual custom to practice abstinence and I have never even tasted 'beer,' the recounting of the story of how this woman was brought to the place of recognizing the power of Christ to transform her life has been the focus of a great deal of attention over the past few months in the blog world. Because of it, one blogger concerned with Baptist identity has written an entire series on the sin of drinking wine. Another blogger has posted an email that I am a 'beer-guzzler.' Much has been written about the post, but nobody critical of it has ever asked me about the woman and her husband.
Let me introduce you to them. If you have about five minutes, I would encourage you to watch this past Sunday's worship service at Emmanuel, April 13, 2008. After the first set of worship songs, Kyle and Carol Williams, whose marriage was transformed and lives turned around by the power of Jesus Christ over dinner in their home, share their testimony of involvement in small group ministry at Emmanuel. During their testimony time you will hear how they are currently working with a group of Christians in Poland to establish a Christian Radio Network that will reach every city of that country. They continue to be active leaders in our church, evangelistic in their outreach to Enid's business community, and now use their wealth to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.
Our discussion in small group discipleship reminded me of this couple. Kyle Williams was there. He shared that his understanding of the gospel caused him to only use his wine collection in moderation, always avoids drunkenness, and has been able to lead others to Christ through his testimony. Another man at the discipleship group, Brent Price, shared how he used his personal conviction of abstinence has been used by God to lead basketball teammates to Christ. The professional basketball players around whom Brent spent several years of his life had no concept of moderation, and as Brent would eat dinner with them, and abstain, his abstinence would cause conversation to turn to Christ. Brent was a wonderful example to his teammates of the power of the Spirit to control fleshly appetites. I know the difficulties Brent faced as a Christian in the professional basketball world because when I was with Brent in Houston in the mid 1990's, his Houston Rockets teammate, Charles Barkley, invited me to go with him to the strip club - and that was after he found out I was Brent's pastor.
Kyle and Brent take different approaches on how they relate to the world around them. Both Kyle and Brent are Southern Baptists and two of the finest Christian men I know. During our meeting this morning Kyle affirmed Brent in his convictions and Brent affirmed Kyle in his. To me, that is an example of Christian unity. The ability to rally around the essentials of the faith and give freedom to tertiary issues is the key to Christian unity. There are areas where Scripture does not give either a direct command or clear prohibition. We will be healthier as a convention when we base our Southern Baptist fellowship and cooperation on the centrality of Jesus Christ and him crucified and resist the urge to demand others conform to any other identity of our own making.
In His Grace,