Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Saturday, February 20, 2016

What the church needs: Unity

Have you ever thought about the last prayer Jesus prayed before His crucifixion? He prayed for us. John 17 has the prayer, and towards the end of His prayer He prayed this:

20 "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one-as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

  I doubt Jesus had in mind what we have today. Hundreds of different denominations, splits, splinters.... the reason we have so many different denominations and "non-denominational" churches, is people can't agree, and some want power. It is amazing how we all came from the New Testament church, and that we have one Bible; and yet no one agrees.

One church believes in tongues, and another believes it is languages

One church believes once you are saved you will go to Heaven no matter what, another church believes you can walk away from God and miss Heaven

One church is against women preachers, another is fine with them.

One church uses a hymnal, another uses choruses projected on a screen.

  Churches have split over doctrine, music styles, what instruments to use in the church, and even the color of carpet.

  We are far from being one as Jesus prayed we would be. Christians tend to focus too much on what we disagree on instead of focusing on what we agree on.

  I shall give a great example of this: several months back, a man from a Facebook group I am in added me as a friend on Facebook. He was extremely Calvinistic, posting insulting things about people who are not Calvinist - like me. I am friends with a lot of Calvinists and have never had anyone be so rude and in your face about it. It got so bad, that I deleted him.

  Fast forward a few months to the Hope for Wholeness Conference I attended in June. Who should show up partway through the conference, but Dan. I was cordial, but tried to avoid being engaged in conversation. We were having our sharing time for men on the porch of one of the buildings, and he left halfway through while acting rather oddly.

  I discovered later,  by something he said in our Facebook group, that he had had a problem with something my friend Mathew had said while leading our group. Matthew believes in speaking  in tongues, and though he never pushes it and rarely mentions it, he had referenced it in relating a story. Mr. "You're going to hell if you aren't a Calvinist" couldn't handle it.

  Matthew and I have texted several times, talked on the phone, talked in person, I ate with him at the conference. I have had a lot of contact with this man and have total respect and confidence in him....but I totally disagree with what  he and his church believe and practice about speaking in tongues. Not once in any of our talking or texting did he bring tongues up. Not once did we argue about it or discuss it. We talked about our common struggle and our spiritual progress.

  To further illustrate my point, let me tell you about Ed and Kay. Ed is a volunteer in the Emergency room where I work as a greeter for half of my day. He is a great Christian guy in his late 60's who comes in two times a day. He attends a Church of God down the road. There is a lot of down time in the mornings between patients coming in, so we talk. We talk about church, prayer, the Bible, and other church and Christian related things.... and not once have we argued or debated. Sure, there are times we see things a different way, but we talk about what we have in common: the need for improvement in our prayer lives, why churches are getting smaller, and more. I have been encouraged and helped by our conversations. Do we agree on everything theologically and doctrinally ? No. Our churches are a lot different and our beliefs, but we have great conversation about what we agree on.

  And there is Kay. She is a Methodist lady around the same age as Ed. She works the main desk 2-3 days a week where I am stationed in the afternoons. Again, she and I have some great conversations about Christian and church related things. And she and I also would not agree on everything, nor would our churches.

   If we all focused on what we agree on, I have to wonder if there would be so many different denominations, splits, and splinters. Would there be so many new churches springing up if we found what was common and made that our focal point?

Whenever we agree together
The Holy Spirit starts to move
Whenever we agree together
His mighty power He will prove
If His children love each other
Till their hearts become as one
And two or three agree together
He has promised He will be there
And the work will be done (Gaither)

  And could it be some Christians and churches make their differences their focus? Going back to Dan and Matthew. Dan talks all the time about his Calvinist beliefs and why people like me are wrong (according to him). Matthew rarely even mentions speaking in tongues. If a church is known for one particular belief, something is wrong.....whether it be tongues, dress, music, prosperity, Calvinism or Arminianism, or any other of the multitude of issues we differ on. No matter what our beliefs, God should be the main focus, not the things that we believe differently.

  In Heaven, there will be no denominations. There will be no cliques or schisms. We will all be one big happy family, only having Jesus in common.

  There is a blog post I recently did on community. In it, I talked about going to the Hope for Wholeness conferences with other men and women dealing with same-sex attraction. There are a lot of different denominations and beliefs represented. There are Calvinists, Arminians, charismatics, Catholics, and even people who use flags in worship. But you know what? We were gathered there for a common purpose, and there was unity. (Well other than the one man who took issue in the sharing time). I sat and talked with men whose beliefs would differ greatly from mine, and we have fellowship. I received hugs from Catholics, charismatics, and men and women from other denominations. Would we see eye to eye on everything if we had started discussing everything we believe? No.

  But we weren't there to discuss what we differed on. We were there to worship God and receive some help and encouragement on how to serve God while dealing with the issue we all struggle with.

  Imagine if we could do that in our churches....encourage our brothers and sisters and have fellowship and worship together as we focus on what we have in common, instead of looking for what we disagree on. Then imagine taking that outside of our individual churches and denominations and banding together as THE Church of Jesus Christ and showing the world God's love and our love as we become unified in the things we believe in common.

  Radical idea? Maybe, but it was Jesus' idea.

Long Walk Home

Verse 1
One man's trying to build a wall, one's trying to tear it down
One man hears a battle cry, the other hears a peaceful song
Some say once always saved, some say you fall from grace
But if we don't learn to love each other, listen when I say

It's gonna be a long, long walk home
Walking in our differences
It's gonna be a long, long walk home
If we don't walk in the love Jesus gives
If we spend all our time trying to be right
And fighting over who's been wrong
It's gonna be a long walk home

Verse 2
A local congregation singing “Just As I Am”
I hear the preacher saying “some day we''ll walk hand-in-hand”
I can't help but wonder why we don't do that now
If we don't lay aside our pride and learn to reach out

It's gonna be a long, long walk home
Walking in our differences
It's gonna be a long, long walk home
If we don't walk in the love Jesus gives
If we spend all our time trying to be right
And fighting over who's been wrong
It's gonna be a long walk home

No comments:

Post a Comment