Theology for the Long Haul

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Church Unity Part 2: I’m Just Your Typical Third-Wave Charismatic, Moderately Reformed, Post-Modern Conservative, Evangelical Christian!

You too? …Probably not. Why? Because even though we all acknowledge Christ as the ultimate source of our unity (2 Cor. 5:14-17), we are not all exactly the same; and as I proposed in my last post, maybe God is OK with that for now. A few days ago I began a series of posts that address the issue of church unity. I proposed that with some limitations, denominations and movements play a positive and maybe necessary role in the greater body of Christ. In this post I want to address the reality that sometimes you just aren’t going to naturally fit into an existing church movement. I, for one, sometimes find this difficult. So what do you do? I propose two suggestions;

Recognize the purpose of the church (Ephesians 4:1-3)

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Do we as Christians come together to be encouraged in our mutual agreement on all topics theological, or do we come together to learn how to love one another with the love of Christ? If you have faithfully attended church at any point in your life, than you understand why this is difficult. People are not always easy to love especially when we think they are wrong about something we value. Never-the-less we must learn to love with humility. One way to maintain peace with those with whom we disagree is by relating to one another with humility, gentleness, patience, and love. If we can learn to dialogue while bearing the fruit of the Spirit, than we may find that people are less offended by us. Often offenses within the body of Christ have more to do with the spirit in which one was related to, rather than the content of a conversation.

Recognize the purpose of spiritual authority (Hebrews 13:17)

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

We like to think that we don’t need anyone “caring for our soul.” We would rather believe that our relationship with God is the only authority we need (as if we could never misinterpret God’s voice in our lives). In my experience, the Christian life requires the humility to acknowledge the need for leadership in life. If you have earnestly sought God’s direction, and/or approached the Bible with due humility, than your opinion on theological issues has developed and changed over time (this is called sanctification, see John 15). We all need to learn that there is a certain balance to living confidently with our convictions, while maintaining enough humility to say that we could be wrong on debatable issues. We must also learn to walk out this tension within a church context and under the care of God appointed spiritual leaders. One of God’s tools for shaping us and for bringing about unity in His body is the provision of strong, Christ-like leadership. As Christians we are better served by submitting our lives to one another and to those whom God has given the responsibility to disciple us.

In conclusion, it is possible to be spiritually honest, while being faithful to a local church. It is my conviction that God created church for just this purpose. So when you are choosing a church, choose carefully and prayerfully, but always remember the calling to which you have been called (see above).

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