Unity is a buzzword that has been going around for some time now, but I have been hearing it more frequently these days and how terrible it is that we as a church are divided.
Anyhow, I have been putting my brain to the test of trying to understand this notion of "the church is not united as Jesus had intended."
I would like to challenge that notion.
Lets look at John 17:11b
Holy Father,(AG) keep them in your name,(AH) which you have given me,(AI) that they may be one,(AJ) even as we are one.
The Restoration Movement and the Campbellites have used this passage as their banner of truth for saying that the church is divided and needs to be united back to the Bible. I can truly appreciate the idea, and I think they should be commended for wanting Unity.
But, I think this misunderstands what Jesus was praying for, and it also lessons the power of Christ as the head of the church.
I will grant you that there are obviously many denominations... and within those denominations there are different slants or peculiarities that they have held as being important when in fact these things are secondary issues.
But, these many denominations does NOT mean that the church is divided as a BODY of Christ. It truly IS one!!!!
Look at it this way... if Jesus prayed that He wanted us to be ONE... You better believe it that we are indeed ONE. He is still the head of the church and we are still the body.
Of course I'm talking about the "invisible church" and not so much these many organizations, denominations, and sects that have segregated themselves. But, it seems to me that there were many small churches from the very beginning. They couldn't all meet in big church buildings like we have today.
Anyone who is a true believer, and any true church believes in the essentials of the Christian Faith... And especially when we are all united in Christ through the Holy Spirit. We are all ONE.
Look at it this way... When we hear about martyrs around the world and Christians being thrown in prison for their faith. How important does my denomination or congregation mean to me when I'm in prison with a Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Seventh-Day Adventist, or Assembly of God, etc. Those things seem to be less important, and our bonds as Brothers, and Sisters in Christ seem to be the only thing we have left. And in those moments, we see that we really truly are ONE in Christ.
Now, that we in America are not for the most part (yet) having to deal with being imprisoned for our faith in Christ, I can see an advantage for having many denominations.
I know you're thinking I've lost my marbles... but I haven't... hear me out.
1) Some denominations excel in traditions (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed churches, etc.) We can learn tons from these churches about our history and the depths of scripture for those that have stayed loyal to scripture.
2) Some denominations we can see have a heart for those who are lost and are not stuck with traditions but tend to embrace the concept of being a family and caring for each other. They tend to focus on evangelism and growth more than those belonging to the 1) category. (Baptists, Christian Churches, etc.)
3) Some Churches excel in doing outreach ministries or they invest a lot of time, money and resources into missions in the community and/or around the world.
So, if you have a bent towards any of these it would be likely that you would feel at home somewhere in one of these denominations. Just like someone might want to go to a church where they speak the same languge.
Another advantage to having the many denominations is we make each other dig into God's Word and we challenge each other to "know what we believe, and why we believe it". And that drives us to understand God's Word and to study it more dilligently. After all iron sharpens iron.
I see that there are many blessings to be found in each denomination and I'm not certain I would want any one of them to change because they after all maybe functioning how Christ wants them too. Someone has to be the foot. Someone has to be the hands. Someone has to be the heart, lungs, nervous system, stomach (Baptists - Fried Chicken), etc. Not all the parts of the body do the same function but they are still part of the same body.
Well, that's my take on the whole UNITY thing. I know that we as believers can do a better job of showing the world on the outside that we are really United it is important that they understand it, because in Christ we truly are... ONE!
Grace and Peace,
E Pluribus Unum - Out of many ONE