The other day I at dinner with students from several denominations at a(n unofficial) Pre-Seminary Club meeting and we started talking about the direction we were going with the club and what activities we could do in the future. After the basic conversations about application process and campus visits, one of my friends suggested we discuss some different denominational doctrine and some controversial subjects just to try to understand each person's denominational background.
What a great idea! We need to start coming together as denominations! We need to understand each other, look past our difference, and look at the Truth underneath. We should find the common grounds where we agree and stop looking at what divides us.
I've been taking a course on Religion in America, and I noticed that our American mindset really screws up religions. We take every religion that comes into this country and totally....well.... Americanize it. When the Protestant Reformation happened, it was just a return back to the Bible and away from the hierarchy and domination of the church. Then Protestants came to America... and oh boy! I won't bore you with a history lesson, but let me put it into perspective by saying that we now have over 20,000 different Christian denominations.
In America, its all about "ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! ME!" We look at what works for us, thinking WE are right and the other person must be wrong. Instead of trying to understand their point of view, we just say, "Oh, well, we will just go off and start our own group over here." And we wonder why people are not being impacted for Christ. We wonder why only 4% of the current generation are Bible-believing, born again, followers of Christ. We wonder why the Church is not making an impact in the world.
It's because a body can't function when it is in pieces.
It's time we came together. It's time, right now, in America, to show the world that we are the Body of Christ. Whether you are Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist, Amish, Catholic, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Christian, or Church of Christ, it doesn't matter! Let's stop naming ourselves and start following Christ!
I know it sounds easy and too good to be true, but in reality it is that easy. I understand there are many large doctrinal gaps between many of these dominations--especially between Catholics and Protestants. I get it. But we can still get along and recognize each other as one United Church. True koinonia.
Koinonia (κοινωνία) is a Greek word used commonly in the New Testament to show the unification of the church. It is where we get our words community and communion. Koinonia appears 19 times in the NT: 12 times it is translated as "fellowship", 3 times as "sharing", twice as "participation", and twice as "contribution". It is a special link that connects a person first to Jesus, then that same connection links a person to others. It is a true love connection. Acts 2:42-47 puts it clearly:
"42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
This is the church. This is what we should look like. (For more on koinonia, check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koinonia)
So how do we do it? How can we make it work?
First, it starts with the heart. Look at the world as God sees it and let Christ change your heart. Only by letting Him lead first can we truly accomplish this monumental task. Stop thinking your idea is the only correct one and start looking at what others have to offer.
What I'm getting at here is that we preach the Truths. Focus on them and unite under these Truths. Then teach the essentials secondary to the Truth. Whether you believe that you can loose your salvation in the end or not is not going to affect the fact that Christ died to save man and that we can only get to heaven through Him. But it will affect how you live your life. It doesn't matter whether you believe in predestination or not, only Jesus matters. We need to be preaching Him and not our ideas about Him.
Don't get me wrong, the essentials are important, but they are not something to divide a church over. Just because one person believes the world will end in a specific seven-year tribulation followed by a thousand years of peace and another believes those time-frames are symbols does not mean we should fight over it and go our separate ways. Just because one person thinks that once they accept Christ that they are set forever in Him and another believes that you can loose your salvation by sinning enough is not something to start another church over. You both love Christ and are following Him and His commands, correct? Then what does it matter if you CAN lose it or not? You SHOULD NOT if you are following Him. Why are we abandoning each other?!
Even Peter and Paul fought and disagreed on important things such as how to reach the Gentiles, but in the end, Paul still loved and admonished Peter as one of his own brothers. They worked together on many missionary journeys and worked to spread the Kingdom to the world. They both had their heads in the right spot. They both were focused on God first and not man and our ideas.
It's time we followed their example.
Following His Call,
(1 John 3:16)