Here are some thoughts coming out of our time with the pastors of Seven Mile Road Boston:
»» It was so good for us to watch a team of pastors at work. Just as important as the content of what we talked through was being able to see six men who loved Jesus, loved the Bible, loved each other, and loved the church and city God called them to serve. We watched them agree and disagree; and were instructed by how they did both. They have very different personalities, different gifts, and you can tell they are healthier for it. You can also tell that the chemistry they have together didn’t spring up over night, but is something they have thought intentionally about and worked hard at. All four of us agreed that the trip was worth it just to observe how a team of pastors handle important issues.
»» SMR Boston’s new building is coming along and it is gorgeous. They launch the new site in a few weeks. I am totally planning to steal their colors to paint our hall – though Siby thinks he has a better idea. I highly doubt it, but I’ll amuse him.
»» We spent 30+ hours together, 12 of them in a car (thankfully Dennis’ SUV and not Siby’s Aveo), and enjoyed every minute of it. I laughed till my sides hurt. Siby, Dennis, and Binu are a gift to Seven Mile Road and to me.
»» We are grateful for our wives/wife-to-be. We don’t deserve them. We were freed to go because they stayed home. If the church is better served because we were freed to spend this time thinking through the sacraments, it is because they served us and freed us to do it.
»» We spent no less than 13 hours talking about the sacraments and baptism in particular. It was so helpful to be able to think through this with these brothers. The four of us from Philly come from different backgrounds. Two of us grew up in charismatic Pentecostal churches. Two of us grew up in Eastern Oriental churches. There was perhaps no more divisive issue between these churches than baptism. Unfortunately, the sacraments often trumped the gospel in terms of importance. Yet to see the four of us cling tighter to Jesus than to our backgrounds, upbringings, or even the sacraments was right, refreshing, and good. Matt from Boston said it well:
We are NOT sacramentalists, centering our theology and practice on baptism and communion, like if we just get those right we are all set, or if we don’t get those exactly right we are doomed. No. It is the good news/preached Word of the person and work of Christ and the gospel promises of God in His person and work that are of central importance. This is what Jesus’ Apostle Paul was getting at when he said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Corinthians 1:17 ESV) Whether you are baptized or not does not determine whether you are saved or not. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus, alone. Glad for that. Still want to do the sacraments faithfully and well, but they are not the center.
»» We have more study and work to do. The goal is to spend some time this summer teaching and preaching through our best understanding of the sacraments at Seven Mile Road. Some helpful documents informing our theology and practice are forthcoming.