Do We Really Want Unity?

The Challenge of Unity in the Face of Denominationalism

You may agree with my view or not and that is fine, but seeking unity in the church within the denominational backdrop seems very contradictory.

I am a pastor of a non-denomination church.  A frequent question asked deals with my thoughts on denominations versus non-denomination and unit of the body of Christ.

Let me first state I have developed great friendships and relationships with several pastors in my area who lead denominational churches.  Baptists, Assemblies, Vineyard, and others.  We have a bond of brotherhood that has turned into a true strength for each of us.  We meet each week to pray and talk, sharing lessons we are teaching, bible discussions, issues we may be having and prayer.  Over time many the walls that have separated us because of our denominational associations have slowly disappeared brick by brick. We have come a long way in our overcoming division in our move toward unity.

As a non-denominational pastor, I do see the benefit of being part of a denominational organization.  Denominational pastors have available to them and the church they lead resources over and above what is available to a non-denominational church.

  • Financial availability, advice, and direction
  • Discipline issues regarding the pastor or other church leaders
  • Teaching support programs
    • Seminaries and universities
  • Coaching support for new or young pastors and leaders

Being part of a denomination does have its strengths, but it also creates a real challenge to unity in the church within a community.  I love my fellow brothers who pastor denominational churches around me, but no matter how sincere hearts are, divisions exist within the body.  There are formal and informal rules that create these divisions.  Think about why there are denominations in the first place.  They were not created to advance the Christian influence and ministries but created because of differences in beliefs. (1Co 1:10 NKJV Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.)

I am sure all believers and disciples of Jesus Christ would love to see a powerful body that works together strengthening and edifying the entire body.  For the church to show the unbelievers the love of Jesus Christ by our love one for another. (Joh 13:35 NKJV By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”)
I cannot see how the unity of the body of Christ will occur with denominationalism in place as it is today.  Why keep the denominational names and ties unless there is a need to keep some semblance of individual identity.

My brother pastors are awesome men and smarter than me for sure.  I am a simple pastor and a believer in Jesus Christ and the simplicity of the Gospel that struggles with the whole notion and concept of denominations.

I can only imagine what our Lord Jesus Christ would tell us if He physically visited us here in the United States.   Would He start with the moral decay we are witnessing in our society, or rebuke us in the church for our thought process and lack of unit?  I am thinking the latter, for if we were as unified as the early church was, we probably would not have the problems in the church we presently have.  It is hard to influence society when the church is not that much different many times.

  • Divorce
  • Drugs
  • Pornography
  • Love of money
  • Love of self

Shall I go on?

You may agree with my view or not and that is fine, but please do not forget to pray that His Spirit influences the hearts of the leaders God has placed in His Body here in America, to do His Will and create the unity in the church body that glorifies Him and effectively does His Will. (1Co 12:25 NKJV that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.)

God Bless, John, the simple pastor

Persecution by 1000 stones

The messages I have been sharing at church recently centered on the persecuted church.  Here in the U.S. we look at the persecution we see our brothers and sisters face in other parts of the world and pray it does not come here to greet us.  But, has it not already visited us?

The purpose of persecution is to accomplish:

  • To create fear in our hearts, to fear the ones that can injure our body or our status in society.
  • Intimidation through this fear to hinder the sharing and spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Demonizing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through lies, misstatements and half truths and in effect minimize the words Christian will share.
  • To physically kill those that will not stop sharing the Truth

Here in the U.S. we presently do not fear prison, torture, or physical death, but there are key elements of persecution that are occurring.  We may not fear the bullet or sword, but we are fearing the stones that are being thrown.  We are being persecuted by 1000 stones instead of one big element as a bullet or beheading.

Is persecution by a 1000 stones actually occurring?   (1 Thessalonians 2:13-16)

  • Intimidation – Look at the increase in fear and anxiety we have regarding sharing our faith in public, work, and school.  Just sharing the name of Jesus Christ in public will make many people wince.  We now often fear what people say about us when we share our belief and faith.  We are told it is “unlawful” to share.  We are told that if we disagree with teachings of evolution, homosexuality and gender issues we have no right to share our views or even believe in them, and in many cases are told we are breaking the law.  Have we have moved closer to acting as an “underground” church in many respects keeping our faith and beliefs out of the public eye?
  • Demonizing- You would be hard pressed not to agree that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Word have not been demonized and minimized over the past several decades.
    • Share your belief and faith, share the truth of what God has written to us in His Word, and many times what are we told?  We are called haters, small minded, weak minded, brain washed, judgmental, intolerant….the list can go on.
    • The political process has entangle the Gospel and made it a part of a political system…something it was never intended to be.
    • Our news media, History channel and other venues on TV and the internet have done all they can to share manipulated information to minimize Jesus, His Word, and His church.

There are more examples that can be drawn out, but just looking at the two items above is it not clear that persecution by a 1000 stones is occurring?

If this is persecution, is it effective?

This type of persecution has been tied into a society that has worked for 60 or more years to rid itself of belief in God.  Add to this the belief that man is in charge and more recently the earth is in charge and man is the problem.  Compounding this with our lives of materialism and this has created a perfect scenario for the type of persecution we see here in the U.S. to be extremely effective!

Here is some data that supports this thought:

Christian growth

These are the annual growth rates (AAGR) of those claiming to be Christian in countries where severe persecution of the Christian belief occurs.

Here in the U.S. the number of people claiming to be Christians has declined by over 7% from 1990 until 2012.  I am sure that the decline has increased in the six years since 2012.  The enemy’s plan of tactics and persecution are showing to be more effective here in the U.S.  than the outright brutality of persecution used in the 10 countries that have shown the greatest increase in Christianity in the world.

So, what should you do?

  • Read 1 Peter (Peter’s letter to the persecuted church on how the body should act)
  • (Mark 8:38) Determine in yourself and your heart if you are truly a citizen in His Kingdom that will not deny his/her citizenship.
  • (Romans 12) Find a body of believers that truly care for one another, support one another.  The number in the congregation is not important, but are the fruit of the Spirit of God occurring among those in the body.

And stay tune, I am sure I will share more on this in the near future.

Christian Unity, are we strangers in this world?

We are in the world but not of the world…Christian unity needs to become a priority.  If we truly believe we are citizens of the kingdom of God and not citizens of the world, we need to treat one another as part of the same team. 

travel-photos NKJV  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,  (2)  elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied….1Pe 2:9-12   But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  (10)  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.  (11)  Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,  (12)  having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

These verses expose a critical fact that many Christians never really grasp or even consider in their lives.  It can change the way they look at the world around them and the lost of this world.  It can also change the way Christians look at one another.

We are in the world but not of the world…Christian unity needs to become a priority.  If we truly believe we are citizens of the kingdom of God and not citizens of the world, we need to treat one another as part of the same team.  Unfortunately Christian denominationalism has produced a Christian Body that fights more with itself than the true enemy, Satan and his army.

Let us first look at how we view situations and the way we view others.

I live in northern Minnesota and we view people who live in various parts of the state differently.  Some people we see living in certain areas as the “rich and yuppie”. Other areas of the state are the “artsy”, and still other areas have people who we see are “clickish and clannish”.  We identify the differences they have with us and hold our identity as different and apart from them in many ways.

However, have you ever traveled to a different state or country and run into someone from Minnesota or the state you reside in?  Those differences seem to disappear and we find unity with a fellow Minnesotan.  Why is this?  It is because we are on someone else’s turf or territory and find comfort and a relationship with someone from the state we live in.  Our paradigm of how we view that person has changed and it reflects in the way we act with them.  They can easily become a friend and companion.

How does this have anything to do with the Christian Church?

The scriptures throughout the Bible make it clear this world is not our home.  The example of the Israelite’s shows how no matter where they were they were not considered welcome or part of the area.  The apostle Peter describes us, who are believers and followers of Jesus Christ, with the Greek word parepidēmos, which is defined as: one who comes from a foreign country into a city or land to reside there by the side of the natives, a stranger, sojourning in a strange place, a foreigner.

Do we act as Peter describes?  As aliens, strangers living in this world with worldly cultures and beliefs? 

  • We should see other believers that go to different fellowships as having something in common that creates a relationship of unity that supports us in the face of the “world” we live in.
  • For those that truly believe that Jesus is God and Lord and King, the world sees that in us and sees us as strangers living in their world. The Holy Spirit in us leaves an identity mark that the world sees clearly in how we act, talk and share the truth.
    • Do you find yourself trying to hide this distinguishing identity?

We as believers must get past the divisions that we have put in place with one another. 

  • Is the difference we have with another Christian fellowship really that critical that we will not nurture a relationship with them?
  • Do we place the pride in the name of the church we attend and the number that attend there over the unifying name of Jesus Christ? The tower in Babel was seen as an object that all the citizens could claim identity with and have pride in what they were a part of. (Gen 11:4)  Churches can fall into this same error with placing their identity on items like holiness standards, exercising of the gifts, number attending, and doctrinal statements that the Bible does not prove out.

We as believers in the truth and salvation in Jesus Christ need to live and share in the fight for independence from sin, Satan and the world.  We need to bind together and not separate.  What Benjamin Franklin stated to those promoting independence from England is relevant to us.  Ben stated, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”