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By David and Brittany Niccotra of Sterling Park Baptist Church, Sterling Virginia USA
This was the first Round Table that we both were able to attend. It was special, to say the least. As we have talked about our time there in Ukraine and the impact it has made on us there are 3 things that we have walked away with: an encouragement, a challenge, and a prayer.
It was a joy and a blessing to meet with fellow believers from so many different countries. We met Christians working in Mongolia, Iceland, Ukraine, Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, England, Ireland, and even from our home country, the United States. One fact came to light; we are all concerned about the same things. We all want to see our family members, friends, cities, and countries come to know Christ and make much of his name. We all want to see churches planted that will meet the needs of our culture and stimulate a growing love for Jesus. Because of our shared love for Jesus our cares and concerns are the same even though we are separated by culture, ethnicity, and language. Only the gospel can unify us across these barriers.
David Snyder’s session, What is a Church?, was challenging for us. He argued for the following definition of what a church is: “A group of people called by Jesus who have agreed to live out God’s word together.” As Brittany and I have talked about Snyder’s session we realized that we were probably guilty of confusing what a church is with what a healthy church is.
While we should be serious about making sure that our definition of a church aligns with what we see in Scripture, we need to be careful not to add requirements to the definition of “church”. Thanks Snyder!
We were reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the Church in Rome in Romans 15 where he exhorts those who are strong in their faith to serve those who are weak. His reason for pleading with them in this way is found in Jesus’ own example. Jesus was in a position of honor and glory and complete freedom from the cares of this world. Yet, he willingly entered into his creation so that he could serve and love us. God came to men in order that men could be brought to God.
In the same way we must imitate our Savior in his sacrificial love for others. Let us, "Love one another with brotherly affection.” Let us, "Outdo one another in showing honor"; (Rom. 12:10). Let us, "in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3) and let us, "look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4) Let us, "have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” towards each other (I Peter 3:8).
Now that we find ourselves back in Northern Virginia, our hearts still remain with all our brothers and sisters who are scattered around the world. Our prayer is that unity would mark our teams and our churches since Christ is our shared treasure.
This is our prayer, "May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).