Archive for the ‘ Christian Unity ’ Category

My church, your church, our Church

In keeping with the Rally to Restore Unity this week, I am looking at one area that causes division: ministry.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Romans 12:3-13, NIV

Vibrant and Dead

There are a lot of churches around that cater to something specific. This church offers a homeless ministry. That church has a car repair club. This other church reaches out to abused women and children. That other church has a great addiction recovery program. This church works with that church to reach out to the local prisons.

Everybody does a lot of great things.

The problem comes in that many of these churches offer these great ministries and programs … exclusively. Then they look down on other churches for not doing the same thing.

“You don’t help the homeless! Jesus told us to!” “How come you are not getting into the prisons?! Jesus said visiting those in prison is visiting Him!” “Why are you not reaching out to these people with these problems!”

It is almost a heresy to not do what “my church” does. Each church may have a great specialty, but that specialty often becomes “this is the way church is supposed to be done, and you are doing it wrong.”

I am not saying these churches or these people are bad. Quite the contrary. They are meeting a need that has not been adequately met in their area. GREAT! The problem comes in when our focus is on the ministry more than unity within the Church. The problem comes in when our focus is more on our work than on our relationships. The problem comes in when our focus is on how we are serving more than on our Lord Jesus Christ.

Unity through Difference

I am going to make a suggestion. If you are involved in a ministry, make sure you are in a church that offers other ministries different from your own. If you work with the homeless, make sure your church offers a ministry in recovery. If you work in a ministry of recovery, make sure your church offers a ministry that works with divorcees. If you work in a ministry that works with divorcees, make sure your church offers a healthy children’s ministry.

All of these are suggestions, not definite ideas. I was a part of a church (I still think of it as home, actually) which had a great youth ministry, offered several outreach opportunities throughout the year, supported several missionaries, had some men who offered their car mechanic specialties to those who needed it, and many classes to grow in understanding of the Bible and our Lord. They did not have a college ministry, and this is in a town with two major universities, some community colleges, and several satellite campuses and other colleges. We ended up plugging in with another church’s college ministry. It was working and vibrant, had access to resources we did not, and was already in with the colleges.

The point is we saw needs. We saw ways to meet those needs. We did not start new churches and/or condemn others for not doing anything. We worked together, we met the needs. We found ways to get past ourselves and doctrine to unite.

Like Paul said in Romans (and as it is said in many places in the New Testament) we belong to each other in Christ and each have gifts that benefit all. Our beliefs may not always line up. Our ideas of ministry may not always be the same. Together we can do more than apart. At the very least, make sure you know people from other churches and ministries. It will help you, your church, and the Body of Christ.

Let us get over ourselves and let Christ reign.

One in Heart and Mind

There is a lot going on in the world today. There always has, but there are definitely more ways in which everything can happen.

Also, we often have almost instantaneous access to the news about almost everything.

We are also able to say what we think about everything almost instantly. Sometimes mistakes are made (such as John Piper bidding a “Farewell, Rob Bell” to the wrong Rob Bell), and sometimes toes are stepped on (such as Rob Bell’s, as of late).

Rachel Held Evans talked about this very thing in relation to the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed. I completely, 100% agree with what she said.

She also is encouraging some fun and togetherness. Rachel was inspired by our nation’s two favorite “news authorities” – Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert – to declare this week the “Rally to Restore Unity” for Christianity. We are even trying to help our world’s water needs with Charity: Water. I have failed to make a sign, but here is my contribution to the blogging part:

D.O.C.T.R.I.N.E.

People have a tendency to forego reason if for only a moment to voice their opinion. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they are wrong. Sometimes they think they are right for one reason that is actually wrong even though they are right. Sometimes … we just can not know.

Sometimes there are good reasons for coming to the reached conclusions. Sometimes conclusions are reached simply to go against what is commonly held. It is never a good idea to disregard history. Many Protestants have done this in the last five centuries, often to their – and our – detriment, but of course not always.

Hank Hanegraaff came up with an idea for agreeing on church doctrines that should work in unifying believers. I have modified it slightly, but you can find the original article here (subscription required). Using the letters of doctrine, he made an acrostic:

  • Deity of Christ
  • Original sin
  • Canon
  • Trinity
  • Resurrection
  • Incarnation
  • New creation
  • Eschatology

Basically, we should all agree that Jesus is God (John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1, Revelation 1), all humans are sinful (Romans 3:23), we have divinely inspired scriptures on which to base our understanding of God and ourselves (2 Timothy 3:16), being one God is also three (1 Corinthians 8:6, Hebrews 1:8, Acts 5:3-4), Jesus died and rose again and will resurrect believers (1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), God became man – fully God and fully man (John 1:1, 14), we are a new creation and all things will one day be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 8:18-25, Revelation 21), and this world will one day cease to exist as it is – even non-Christians believe this, we just hold that God shall renew it (mentioned in Resurrection and New creation).

We might disagree over what sin is, what “divinely inspired” means, what exactly “canon” and “scripture” entails, or how and when this world comes to an end; but that should be secondary. The only thing that comes from arguing about these meanings is division. The only arguments that are valid are those that bolster truth and unity. If we resort to declaring all angels have wings and only 144,000 people get into heaven and blue carpeting is better than beige (for a couple examples out of countless others) and declare it as ultimate truth, we are saying we fully understand God how His plan works. This is blasphemy and unscriptural (yes, I declared an absolute truth that can offend, and we should not dare to presume we understand God. See also here and here). The first believers were Jews who could not agree on whether or not the scriptures should be read in the original Hebrew/Aramaic or Greek, yet the Bible says that in Christ they were united in one heart and mind.

We should agree our God loves us. Everyone, even Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush. Even you. Even me.

We should agree God is God and we are not.

We should agree that we need God.

We should agree that we need each other.

We should agree that only God knows what is truly happening and will happen.

We should stop bickering and fighting: Jesus said so. Paul reminded us. At least twice more.

Love one another. Please, for Christ’s sake. Literally.