Have you ever wondered what unity in Christ’s Church today would look like if Jesus had His way? For some Christians, unity in the church means that everyone in their own church is getting along – that is, they’re not bickering or quarrelling. For others, unity means that the congregations in their church’s denomination or conference work successfully together. To others, it means striving to get all denominations to merge into one large organization.
The night before Jesus was crucified he prayed the following prayer,
“. . . I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. – Jesus (John 17:20–23)
When you stop and think about it, these are potent words. When we come to experience the same oneness with one another that Jesus and His Father have with each other, the entire world will come to believe in Jesus Christ.
I would like to point out several observations when it comes to restoring the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ:
Diversity in the Church is not necessarily a terrible thing. Just as God did not make us all to look alike, so He did not make us all to think alike. He gave us different temperaments and different sets of social and cultural backgrounds. As a result, we all see things differently. These differences have led to diverse ways to think about God, the Church and the Holy Scriptures. People tend to navigate toward the religious group that best reflects how they think and what they believe. This calls for both tolerance and discernment on the part of all believers.
Organizational union will not necessarily bring about organic unity. At times organizational leaders will make a “top-down” attempt to create a union between groups without addressing differences in their social, cultural and theological makeup. This will inevitably lead to apathy within the ranks and ultimately to a demise of the movements that inspired the groups in the first place. “Organic unity” between groups can only occur when there is unity of belief and oneness of purpose.
It is the non-essentials that divide us. Because denominations have become the bedrock of religion in America, Christians must learn to work together. There are certain fundamental truths of the Christian faith that make Christianity what it is. These must not be compromised. These are not what normally divide us as Christians. It is the non-essentials that tend to divide us. We must focus on what we agree on and work together to build the Church of Jesus Christ.
As the newly appointed coordinator of the Osage Ministerial Association, I am excited about bringing our local pastors and their churches together in seeking God’s will for serving our community and our world.