For a while now, I’ve tossed around the idea of writing a book entitled, “Let Me Tell You Why You’re Wrong: A Plea for Church Unity.” But, as I have said previously in my blog, I cannot justify writing books that should remain blogs. So, perhaps this theme will just be a series of blog posts.
“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” – John 17.23 (ESV)
This verse, by far, has impacted my view of ministry. For those of you that know me, I’m a little stubborn. I have my opinions. I voice my opinions. And many times, if you do not agree with my opinions, I am quick to tell you why you are wrong. I know this mindset is wrong. I hate this about myself. I think that we tend to divide ourselves into teams; and we want the most people on our team (or maybe I’m the only one who thinks this way…and if that’s the case, you can quite reading).
Many of us are trying to cross the lines in the denominational world. However, our beliefs or theologies are stopping us from doing so. Our beliefs about God have gotten in the way of our call from God. Now before you begin to say “your beliefs about God determine your call from God,” let me ask you this: why is it that there are so many people passionately pursuing God and His Kingdom and still doing things that “you wouldn’t necessarily do?” This boils down to methodology. We agree on core beliefs, but not on practice. But churches still split over methodology. Or we publicly mock another church’s methodology (and I am as guilty of this as anyone).
I think we sometimes confuse doctrine, theology, and methodology. Follow me for a moment: Theology shapes our methodology, but theology is not doctrine. But when theology moves in the doctrine category, methodology then becomes doctrine. Now there are probably many intelligent people out there who will tell me why I’m wrong on this, or why this doesn’t add up. But can we entertain, for a bit, the thought that perhaps we hold our theologies/beliefs/practices so close, that we are willing to fight until everyone agrees with us?
I fear that we have become too content with saying things like:
“that’s fine, you should go to that church.” or
“it works for them, but we would never do that.” or
“I don’t agree with them, but that’s not my church.”
I’ve said these things. In fact, yep, I’ve said all of these things. So I know that I fail at this daily.
But can we begin to see that it’s never “another church?” It’s “our church.” It’s “the church.” We move as a body. We do things as one.
We have become far too content with chopping off body parts. An arm here, a hand there, a leg a little bit later. Anytime we disagree, let’s split on it. And we justify it by saying “they’re still part of the body, they are just doing something that we don’t agree with.” We’re content with that? We’re content with not striving for church unity?
I remember reading the verse from John when I was a junior in college. It struck me. It was so simple and so profound. “Become perfectly one.” It became something that drove me. It became something that reshaped how I saw ministry.
Now I’m not close to achieving this. I still cling tightly to what I believe. But slowly, I see myself beginning to loosen my grip on things that I once thought extremely important (that really weren’t). Can we begin to live like Jesus prayed for us to live? As perfectly one? Are we willing to try this? Can we stop saying “that church” or “their church” or “my church” and instead say, “the church?” I know that I’m going to begin trying again.