By Rodney Kirkpatrick
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 NASB
Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;  for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,
There are at least three things to consider from this scriptural exhortation. First of all it is clear that seeing love among Christians is important to the Apostle Paul to teach, reinforce and see generally present in The Church. Second, if you are close to God, living in relationship with Him, He will ensure that loving other Christians is a priority. Third, walking in the Love that comes from God, especially for members of the Christian Faith, is something every Christian should set as a goal to continually grow in. Loving one another is a central tenant in New Testament Scripture (John 13:34-35, 1 Pet 1:22, Heb 13:1, etc.) and The Body of Christ will never fulfill its purpose unless this is demonstrated as a clear priority.
Trina and I come, by and large, from a Southern Baptist background. We both became Christians in Baptist Churches and spent the bulk of our youths attending services that were part of this historic and proud denomination. Both of our families have numerous examples, past and present, of ministers in this context. The personal impact of this history has been great and I often reference Scripture in sermons, to this day, that I memorized as a Southern Baptist Youth!
The Southern Baptist Church is also a big part of our present walk with Christ. Just before we left for Africa in 2007, we were led to join Acton Baptist Church near our home in Granbury, TX. While we have biological family in this Church, we are exceedingly blessed by the spiritual family that The Lord has given us here over the last 13 years! We can’t even count the number of examples of encouragement that we have received both personally and for our present missionary work from this community.
Trina’s grandmother, Oneta Jones, is the most recent member, from either of our direct family lines, who was clearly identified as a member of a traditional pentecostal denomination. While we did meet at a Church affiliated with the Assembly of God, Bethesda Community Church, the connection was so loose that I knew nothing about it for more than a year. There is very little historic influence on either of us from any of the traditional pentecostal denominations like United Pentecostal, Assembly of God or The Foursquare Church.
In the early 90’s, my walk with Christ took a significant turn and I encountered the Holy Spirit in a way that I had not when I became a Christian in my youth (see Acts 8:14-17 or Eph 5:18 as Scriptural Examples of encounters with the Holy Spirit after the point of salvation). One of the most significant aspects of my encounter was the discovery of the present day reality of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14, 1 Thes 5:19-20, 1 Pet 4:10-11, etc.). It was against the backdrop of this discovery that I sensed the call to ministry which became our livelihood. Having served as both a pastor and a missionary for 25 years, I have seen and believe the modern practice of spiritual gifts is a vital component in preaching Jesus.
The term pentecostal was first given to us in Africa by my friend, colleague and current Anglican Rector, Tim McGowan. This was a loose reference to a Christian that prioritizes the Holy Spirit in Church Ministry & everyday life. Despite the lack of historic ties, we do presently work with many Churches who are affiliated with these formal denominations in Africa, Europe and the USA. We are personally enriched and encouraged through a growing relationship with a wonderful United Pentecostal Church in Lumberton, TX, Parkway Life.
Trina and I not only don’t have any historical influence from The Anglican Church, we also had never heard of it until we first went to Africa on a short term mission trip in 2001. It wasn’t until years later, when the Episocopal Church divided in the USA in 2009, that we ever saw the word Anglican associated with a Church in the USA.
We first became associated with this denomination after living for a year in Africa. We were attending another church in Ballito when I had a dream that both Trina and I felt certain was God’s leading for us to join the local Anglican Church, Allsouls Umhlali. Though we (really me) were initially skeptical about the move, what followed were ten years of some of the most fruitful, blessed times of fellowshiping with The Body of Christ that we have ever experienced.
In addition to the love this precious body showed us personally, we also met many people whose families had generations of history on the North Coast of Durban, South Africa. Before we knew what was happening, we had relationships with people who had extensive knowledge about the area we were living in. Our twelve year long outreach to a local township area, Etete, wouldn’t have been possible without the wisdom that came from the people in this context.
History & Conviction
One reason for the Tales from Africa writings is to share testimony about what the Lord has accomplished in our years living on African soil. He really does deserve the glory for what has taken place because it was far beyond what our intellect, personal resources or abilities could have ever accomplished. It is our hope to encourage others that faith in Christ makes anything He directs possible.
Our history & present connection with all of the streams mentioned in this article haven’t occurred without difficulty. Though we believe God led us to be involved with all of these groups, we have been challenged by differences in scriptural emphasis, personal conflicts, and leadership styles along the way. The reason we have been able to navigate such a diverse experience boils down to one thing: personal conviction. It is clear that The Lord has led us down this path so that we could effectively encourage others to walk in a similar manner. Ephesians 4:1-6 NASB says,
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to 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.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Even though there are considerable differences in doctrine & styles of worship between groups like Southern Baptists, Pentecostals and Anglicans, they are all part of ONE larger spiritual body, The Body of Jesus Christ. The only way we will adequately portray this is to love other Christians regardless of their preferred place of worship, doctrinal convictions, or difficult personalities.
There is no better place to start a new year than by asking The Holy Spirit to personally examine our hearts. What is your attitude toward any part of The Body of Christ that you have touched in the past or present? If anything is diverting you from love that Scripture indicates we must have, repent and ask for God’s help. Your calling, OUR CALLING, depends on it. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 NASB says, “Now as to the love of the brethren…we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.”