The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

January 16, 2014

Brothers and sisters in Christ

By Caleb Slinkard
Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — On Dec. 29, 2013, members of Authentic Life Fellowship gathered at their church. They had been told by their Pastor Jimmy Vaughn that the entire congregation was going to a Sunday morning service at another church, but they didn’t know where. They packed into cars and headed north.

At Salem-Kinser United Methodist Church, Sunday morning regulars were gathering for their service. What they didn’t know is that their pastor, Rev. Bill Shaddox, had been in talks with Vaughn to host the service.

How did the service with two denominations work?

“They loved it,” Shaddox said of his congregation. “It was wonderful. I haven’t heard anything negative about it.”

He said that he didn’t have to alter his sermon, although he did take some time to explain some Methodist traditions to Authentic Life members.

“Historically, the Methodist Church has been open to other people, as long as we share the same core beliefs,” he said.

The idea was born out of a conversation between members of the Authentic Life leadership team, and it quickly took root.

“We asked, ‘Why don’t we go to another church and let them know that we love them and we care about them and we’re on their side?’” Associate Pastor Chris Otto said.

Authentic Life’s intention was to encourage Salem-Kinser, as well as learn how other churches work.

“For us going there, it was just the experience of something different,” Vaughn said. “It’s a fatal flaw of any church to think, ‘This is the way to do church.’ This is the way we do church. It’s the way we’re comfortable and we enjoy it, but it’s not the only way. We went across denominational lines intentionally. There are differences, but I think there’s more in common than are different, and those differences wouldn’t keep us from fellowshipping.”

ALF specifically picked the Sunday after Christmas, a day that historically features low attendance numbers, as a way to both encourage their members and the members of Salem-Kinser. The concept was a new one for Greenville, according to Vaughn. In total, approximately 84 members of Authentic Life visited the Methodist church.

“I’m constantly amazed at this group’s willingness,” Vaughn said of his congregation. “We also had sound logic to it. It wasn’t just ‘Hey, let’s throw this against the wall.’ The fact that leadership had the courage to try it, and the attendance, speaks volumes.”

According to Vaughn, a similar event is already on the ALF calendar for 2014.

Shaddox said he hoped the idea would help foster unity in Greenville churches.

“I think sometimes we misunderstand each other,” he said. “It helps us get rid of preconceptions, and I hope it would help us move closer to working together in ministry and accomplishing our goals together instead of competing. Each church is different, each church is going to be able to reach out in a different way.”

Salem-Kinser was created when two churches merged in 1947. Pastor Shaddox has been at the congregation for 29 years, and said the church emphasizes missional efforts and community involvement in North Greenville.

“We are the only church north of Greenville that has a family life center,” he said. “And we make use of that for the community. Since I’ve been here, we’ve developed a more specialized ministry that focuses on the north side of Greenville.”

The inside of the church features stained glass that depicts the redemption story through both the Old and New Testament, using the cross as the focal point of the design.