A Willingness to Tolerate (A Little Doctrinal) Error

purposepowerReflections from a recent Field school of Evangelism in Tacoma, WA

By William Simpson, one of the Andrews Seminary participants

Wouldn’t you think that when a guest attends nearly each of the 24 meetings they would accept the message and be baptized into the church? Roughly between ten and fifteen guests attended on a very regular basis but in the end decided against coming into the church. Some people where somewhat sporadic in attendance, but in the end they decided to be baptized and join the church. Why does attendance not necessarily dictate the final number of baptisms? One of my experiences offers a hint into this reality.

On opening night, he briskly marched in with Elton John-type shoes, a leopard skin shirt with a pinned on name tag, capris, and he was wearing thick rimmed glasses which were attached with a braided bungee strap. He marched right up to the front pew, took his place and took out his note book to take notes like a good student. He routinely marched up to the front pew, five minutes early, for at least twenty-three of the twenty-four meetings. He stood out in the crowd. I was one of the students assigned to visit with this gentleman. This guy was sharp. He knew dates and facts on many aspects of life and history, but it was difficult to relate to him because, socially, he was unique. Talking about thoughts or feelings sent him into a mild state of melt down, so speaking about spiritual issues with him was a challenge. It seemed that he had difficulties organizing facts and information into meaningful ideas.

In the process of our interaction, he invited me to attend an early morning service at his church on Sunday morning. We decided joining him would be a good way to expand our life experience and to demonstrate our care for him, so my wife and I met him at church. He was visibly exhilarated with joy and anxiousness when he saw my wife and me at his church. As a responsible member of the hospitality department, he offered us coffee and donuts, gave us visitor name tags, provided us with a visitors care package, introduced us to two friends and two church pastors, showed us into the sanctuary and sat with us. He was extremely intentional about his hospitality responsibilities and wore his name tag with honor. Though the service was not what we were accustomed to, we had a good experience.

In his personal interview with the evangelist he admitted that the Bible does show that Saturday is the Sabbath but he also expressed that he was willing to tolerate a little doctrinal error. He made it clear that he was not leaving his denomination. My experience at his church showed me that he found great fulfillment as a greeter and a writer of short stories in his church newsletter. He found purpose and satisfaction where he was. In the end, this illustrated to me that doctrinal correctness does not motivate all people to change. People need a specific mission, purpose and satisfaction at least as much as doctrinal correctness.

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