Tag Archive: denominations


BlissfulExploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion

Different camps of thinking easily form into what become exclusive groups (exclusive to certain thinking and practices) especially where leadership is top down and where the leaders impart and control the belief system. Denominations are examples of these clusters of believers who are like minded on certain issues of faith. And, many local churches operate in the same way. This sameness is also brought about because members simply assume or are duped into thinking that all must be right in their denomination, house church or fellowship.

This sameness especially flourishes where folk are guru followers rather than Jesus followers. And, I don’t only mean the Super-Gurus, like the international speakers and book writers, but also how folk relate to the leaders and pastors in their fellowship. You see, it seems many people blindly take all that is said by anointed teachers to be true simply because they were touched at one time or another through that person’s ministry.

Satisfied with the claim that their denomination or church is Bible-based, most folk seem to be content in the environments that they are being discipled in. With everything explained to them from their trusted source, they seem oblivious, or act oblivious, or are kept oblivious to fair representation of other points of view on the big issues.

Clearly, this claim by churches and teachers to Biblical authority for their points of view is flawed when we have a multitude of denominations, churches and Super-Guru’s who claim this and yet differ in so many significant areas. It’s a bit of hit-and-miss when it comes to certain issues and they’re often discipling others with their own view of Scripture, which at times departs from the truth.

Keeping people ignorant of fully represented views by anybody in the Body of Christ is not protective of unity but ultimately entrenches division. Unity with diversity under one roof must be possible, or we are not living out our DNA of being known by our love, not our doctrine.

In my next post I’ll share on the problem of being different.

Rob

Other posts in this series:

Part 1: God’s Home

Part 2: Issues and Opinions

Part 4: The Problem of Being Different in Church

Part 5: Dividing over Issues

Part 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

Part 7: Preeminent Leaders and Super-Gurus

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mutual submission

Part 3 (Go here for part 1, part 2part 4, part 5, part 6)

We have patterns in our Christianity that follow the exact philosophies of this world. One of these is in the area of leadership. We are aware that we should not lord it over one another, but our structures have hierarchy and establish automatic preeminence in the body of Christ. Occasionally and refreshingly, I might add, a leader steps out of his role and gives free room for the Spirit to move in a group, or the Spirit simply bypasses the leadership and does amazing things through the body. When this happens we all enjoy the fruit that comes from submitting to the Only Head and one to another. Then, for some strange reason, we default back to our structures that allow someone positional leadership and our beautiful experience of being led as a body by Jesus Himself goes south.  We are like kids playing dress-up, just temporarily wearing the clothes of the freedom in the Spirit and then we return to our own fashion of tradition.

The reason that this happens isn’t that strange. You see, we think that positional leadership is biblical and so we make room for it. Now, if you are anything like me, then alarm bells are ringing because you are sure, or in fact know that there are Bible verses that show positional hierarchy in the body. I would suggest after a good look at these texts in the context of all of Scripture, that they have been misinterpreted according to our worldly thinking. Texts that “obviously” show positional leadership in the church turn out, in actual fact, not to be showing that at all.

Many have experienced good leaders, but that doesn’t justify positional leadership. Surely mutual submission to one another has fostered the true brotherhood rather than positional leadership that easily gets in the way. Some argue that it is not in the doing away of positional leadership, but in the correct application of it. However, the fact is that you cannot reform what never had a biblical mandate in the first place. Mutual submission does not do away with leadership, it just fosters a better form of it.

The only authority anyone needs in the Church is the word of God. Where there are differences of opinion in interpreting God’s word, each need to be valued by allowing God in his time to show them the truth. For things not specifically prescribed in God’s word consensus is needed. Seeking consensus can take long and will require, love, patience and humility, but it is in this attitude that we can expect the Lord to bless us.

Doctrinal positions may differ and sometimes consensus cannot be reached on issues of say procedure. Room should be given for separate views or ways to be taken, and for the Lord to show His approval or disapproval of them. However, we should avoid meeting separately or enforcing our views on the group we are in, like happens in the denominational systems of today.

(click here for part 4)

Rob

I have a dream

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, let me share my dream.

I have a dream that one day we will again gather as the ecclesia, regardless of our differences, united by God’s love as expressly seen in Jesus, and letting nothing get in the way of that. Until then, the current church paradigm where we divide based on doctrine is at odds with this.

When considering the issue of division in the body of Christ and trying to remedy it, we need to make the scriptures our starting point rather than our experiences, and the Scriptures certainly don’t advocate what we see! Ignoring them and looking only at historical and current circumstances, we might feel inclined to justify what we have. However, it’s dubious at best to think something is God’s intention when He never advocated it.

We need to accept that unity in Christ already exists despite our disagreements over doctrine. We already have true unity in a very real sense through having been joined together in Christ. You see, in Jesus, God has reconciled man to God and believers to one another. We have all been baptized into one body. It’s in recognizing this that we have our platform to enjoying this unity with one another.  In other words, we can have unity, because we do have unity.

The unity that we already have in Christ needs only to be made manifest, but this requires our co-operation. One way is by not making other reasons a prerequisite for unity. It’s by creating other reasons as the basis for unity that we have negated the greatest reason, and so doing have undone God’s intentions. Through making certain “truths” a basis for unity, we have only created schisms. For example, ones mode of baptism, end time theology or understanding of the baptism in the Spirit may be the biblically correct one, but as a basis for unity it doesn’t trump our unity in Christ that already exists. By all means have your ideas, share your ideas, but don’t create churches based around them. Chances are, amongst all your “truths” you have something wrong anyway.

In this day and age, most believers recognize members of various churches and denominations to be their brothers and sisters despite differences in doctrine and practice. However, by making doctrinal beliefs and practices a primary reason for unity, churches have denied everyone the joy of celebrating in unity. I believe we need to have gatherings that accommodate all believers, where views are not quashed, and where we love one another by allowing our various views to be aired and corrected by God in His time. In Phil. 3:15 we have an example of where Paul accommodated believers holding different views where he says, “…if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

A national sports team has their millions of fans in unity despite varied views on play options, player choices, etc. This unity is often expressed when supporters gather together in front of the TV in homes, pubs, etc. In these gatherings you can often hear disagreements among supporters of the same team, but this does not detract from their celebratory unity.

The Bible, like the rules of play for a game and not our interpretation of them, is sufficient security for keeping the general course of conversation healthy. We tend to think that our particular interpretation of scripture that we inscribe in statements of faith, church constitutions, etc. gives security to truth for future generations. However, this has often proven to be divisive and often little security at all. The Bible is enough. So, if on the interpretation of the Bible we disagree, let’s let the Bible and The Author correct each other and not let our differences keep us from gathering together and celebrating our unity in Jesus.

By all means meet where you do, but not out of a need to be separate from others in the body of Christ. Elders, as those who lead by example, be inclusive and unthreatened. God can handle His Household and will give you the grace to help ensure that the truth of our unity is guarded amidst differences, even amongst yourselves.

Rob

 Silence of the Lambs

Churches and denominations have created an impasse for true unity, by holding on to different beliefs and practices that members are expected to adhere to. Any discussions outside the boundaries that are allowed in churches are generally muted by the immediate leaders who are often in no position to effect any real changes anyway. Should members believe otherwise, they are generally expected to keep it to themselves or leave quietly.

Around these issues, church leaders have simply become enforcers of the views that they have been brain washed into believing. (Sorry to be so harsh.) Why is it that, say for example, Methodist ministers think as they do as opposed to Pentecostal ministers? There’s no guessing as to what the flock ends up believing! Those who claim to be teaching God’s word, but are not accountable to it, or worse still, are given authority by their church’s established sets of beliefs, not only implement the divisions, but are protected in doing this too.

Now, each of these churches claims to be Christ’s church when they meet, but their differences only serve to prove that they often teach, outside of Christ’s authority, simply passing down what their founders had interpreted and passed on to them. Which church can claim to be right in every area? None! If so, we need to agree that unity based on doctrine has been a chasing after the wind, a futile exercise. In fact, it is a large contributor for ongoing schisms.

The Bible is God’s authority over all spheres of society and issues in life. Absurd as it may seem, but those in the church sphere need reminding of this too. Church history shows many small and large failures by the church to represent God properly. They are all as a result of not living in the light of God’s word. Drastic discrepancies between the Word of God and how the church conducts itself can develop and become engrained over time.

Appearing first as seeds of truth, incorrect interpretations or assumptions easily take root where the ground of our lives is barren of the Lord’s presence and the Word of God. Then, astonishingly, the lie can grow undetected for years among our plants of truth, even for decades or centuries. The unrecognized lie becomes so a part of life that thinking contrary to it seems wrong.

However, should someone venture upon the truth in God’s word that exposes the lie, he may feel compelled to take steps to uproot it, just as at the Reformation, and at other times, when the church needed to correct its ways. Sadly, in this process, we have often made our corrections at the expense of our unity. As a result, one of the worst weeds of all came about – the approval of division among ourselves to accommodate our differences.

This lie has become so entwined in our belief system that we can hardly imagine that it’s a weed at all. It seems so necessary and useful. But, when looking at God’s word, we see that a lot was tolerated in the early churches and things were very messy, yet dividing wasn’t an option. In contrast, today we have sterile environments where, like me, many members have kept silent on their views to keep the bond of peace. But this too is wrong if it’s only to maintain a false unity and keep a false peace around questionable doctrine and not around Jesus. There is a difference. In my next post I’ll share more on the mindset needed to once again embrace the unity that we have lost and begin to uproot the lie of division.

Rob

No Reason to Ever Separate

We are all a part of Jesus and the ecclesia and that is our reason for gathering. We have made the idea of dividing around doctrine the norm of Christianity when it shouldn’t even be in our thoughts. If Jesus hangs out with you, then who am I not to do the same?

Rather than to unrealistically expect to raise people in our squeaky clean versions of doctrine and ways of doing things, we should learn to accept and live with anyone that Jesus does. We all know that He is in the midst of each of our gatherings, yet sadly we cannot find a way to be in each other’s presence despite our differences.

For the most part, what separates us is no reason to do so. In fact, I’m not sure that there is a reason to ever gather separately. Our separating smacks of the old apartheid (I speak as a white South African). When one’s in the middle of it, you might not really see it for what it is, but certainly in hindsight it is something to be ashamed of.

I like to think of church like family. There needs to be some very serious differences to keep a family from sharing a Thanksgiving meal together. Surely our differences that we separate over are meant to be overcome by longsuffering and not through separation. Our variant views are seldom flagrant sin and even the necessary separation of those who are unrepentant and practicing obvious moral sin is only so that they may be restored.

Not only is our separation shameful, but it hinders our own blessing, for where we live in unity God commands His blessing. Hanging out with each other despite our differences is not easy and it will require a lot of His grace and the love that Jesus said we would be recognized by, but surely it’s worth it.

We cannot find our security in our doctrines and denominations, but we have our security in Jesus and the word of God. We were not left to have to choose the best group. These groups are of our own making through putting our knowledge above the type of love and unity where there is a freedom to disagree.

Let us remember 1Cor 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Rob

Growing or Cloning

On “joining a church” believers may be in the early stages of discipleship, unaware of what the teachings of the new group really are or mean. Should they later discover something that another group holds to be true and important to have become important to them too, it seems sad that often the only way to embrace the new truth is to leave where they are. This is because denominations and many churches give “their members” little room for exploration, and even less to accommodate different persuasions and practices. Their minds are generally made up on their accepted practices and beliefs.

Granted, denominations and churches have been strongholds of truth, but it’s the manner that they stand for their so called “truths” that becomes divisive. The “Our way or the highway” mentality generally exists and it creates a forced and false unity within the groups all the while creating disunity with other Christians! When we divide over “truths,” aren’t we denying the members of the body of Christ the opportunity to learn to love the whole flock, despite differences? Isn’t our focus wrong from the start? Do we really need to agree with each other in order to happily gather with each other?

In today’s scenario, we are expected to find a “church” that we feel best accommodates our personal beliefs. Do I believe all of Billy Graham’s views? No, but it would be sad if on Sunday I sat in a church down the road from where he was and even sadder if I was his son or daughter. Imagine the Sunday morning when your family is divided all over a town because of beliefs that divide. We can’t! So why do we divide God’s family!

Signs outside church buildings read “All welcome!”, but in truth mean “Clones welcome!”

Rob

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