Our church, especially in the lands that have historically been identified as “Christian”, is beginning to see the first hints of a turning point. As our modern society continues to move further and further from our religious roots, churches are being challenged on every side. Concepts such as sin are unpopular and are being met with increasing antagonism. As our society continues to move in an increasingly secular direction, our beliefs are going to come under attack and fall out of favor with the general public. As the darkness begins to close in, the light of the Gospel shines brighter. In view of this, what needs to be the response of the church, which has often done more to promote divisiveness instead of unity?
In light of this, the church needs to put aside its differences and all of the things that have caused division, both in the past and in our current context. The rest of the world is at some point going to be turning against the church. Accordingly, we don’t need the church to be tearing itself down. Infighting and divisions only serve the enemy’s purpose. We have enough foes that we do not need to have to worry about other members of the body of Christ attacking us either. Jesus said that a house the fights against itself cannot hope to stand. This is simply common sense. However, it seems that throughout most of its history, the church in general has forgotten this.
It is easy to look back at the errors of the church of the past and assume that we would have never made such mistakes. But, divisions and infighting still exists today. What are we doing in the life of our own local church to promote the unity and mutual upbuilding of the universal church? We may not be responsible to mend all of the fractures that exist in the church, but we are called, each one of us, to faithfully serve and live in a way that is glorifying to God and edifying to the church. In light of that, what can we do to help the church unite as one body under the banner of Jesus?
I love doctrine. I can discuss and debate doctrine all day long. However, as long as the doctrinal differences are peripheral issues, allowing them to negatively impact the unity and health of the church is a sin. Pastors who call out other pastors or church leaders as false teachers over small differences are completely missing the point and fail to see the bigger picture. These nearsighted people are keeping churches that should be working together to reach the community with the love of Jesus separated and ineffective.
In speaking to people that I work with about Jesus, one question that comes up is, “But what is with all of the different churches?” People from the outside look at us and laugh. If we all read the same book, then why are we all so different? Unfortunately, that is a very good question, and one that I often don’t have a good answer to.
I know that most people in this generation had nothing to do with the forming of many of the denominations that we have today. However, we run the risk of perpetuating the problem by letting such things keep us apart. I don’t care if you are a Baptist, Methodist, or non-denominationalist. If your focus is on Jesus and spreading His message to the ends of the earth, then we are on the same team. You may believe that He is coming back at a different time than I do, but that point is that His is coming back. We can have conversation about our differences, and I think we should, but those conversations should be carried out in a spirit of love and humility.
When Jesus prays for the church in the seventeenth chapter of John, He prays that we would be as one. Obviously He know that unity was important. The world, looking at a united church, would know that there is something about us that is bigger than ourselves. If something can take people from all around the world and all walks of life and join them together in a bond of unity, then there is something real about it.
I think that the first letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church has a lot of application for us today. Basically, the church at that time was faced with divisions. Some were claiming to follow Paul, some were following Peter, and some were following Apollos. Paul wrote to them and basically told them that they were missing the point. The point was God. God called them. God caused the church to form and grow. It was God who was going to take the church and do incredible things. I feel like this is the same thing that is going on today. God has a work that He wants do in our midst. God wants to empower us to take the Gospel to all nations. God wants to do a work among us that will be talked about for all of eternity, but we are more interested in our differences than we are in being a part of something that is going to change the course of human history.