I don’t want to overstate my frustration. I’m not thinking about giving up on the ministry. I’m not facing burnout. I’m not mad at anyone. I don’t plan on going on a rant. And I’m not picking on Avondale Baptist Church. Honestly, on this issue, we are better than most.
But I am frustrated.
What is causing my frustration?
It’s simple. We are experiencing a severe lack of unity within churches, within denominations, and within the Christian community. This lack of unity is diametrically opposed to the teaching of Jesus—who wanted His church to be unified. And this lack of teaching is causing great harm to the church. Jesus Himself prayed that we “may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23, NIV)
But we’re not unified.
Most of those I know who are living with a lack of unity feel that they are justified in their disunity. But, honestly, the only two reasons I can find for disunity among believers is either a major issue related to orthodoxy (right doctrines) or orthopraxy (right practices.) And the disunity in the church today is related to neither of those.
We’re allowing political differences of opinions to separate us. We’re allowing cultural differences of opinion to separate us. We’re allowing responses to the pandemic (masks, vaccines, closures, social distancing) to separate us. We’re allowing secondary doctrinal differences to separate us. We are allowing church procedures which are of no great importance (though they may seem so at the time) to separate us.
So we argue. We break fellowship with our church family instead of solving issues. We hold grudges instead of reconciling. We write blogs putting down other believers. We say things about other believers and churches on social media that makes us look petty and immature. We pass on gossip about other believers or Christian leaders.
Unfortunately, we’ve taken our cue from the world rather than from Jesus. The world—more so today than at any time in my memory—loves to divide, putdown, call names, and separate. Think of how the world acts: If you didn’t vote for my candidate, I will call you an idiot (or worse.) If you don’t agree with my stance on ‘X,” then I won’t do business with you. If you don’t share my understanding of how to act during the pandemic, I won’t be your friend.
That’s how the world acts.
Believers in Jesus are called to be different.
I’m not calling for uniformity—we will never all be alike, nor should we be. I’m not calling for unanimity. We have never experienced (and never will until we gather in heaven) a unanimous opinion on much of anything except the reality of Jesus as God’s Son and the basics of Christian doctrine and Christian living.
I’m calling for unity.
And that takes hard work. It takes really listening to each other rather than responding with anger. It requires repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation instead of broken relationships. It means that we must have the graciousness to be willing to disagree on secondary matters without allowing that disagreement to cause separation. It means that we need to learn to disagree with class and not pettiness. It means that we need to learn our behavior from Jesus and not from the world of politics, sports, or entertainment.
Unity is not a secondary issue. When those outside the church see pettiness and division, they turn away from us. When people see denominational strife, they stay away from our churches. When they see anger from believers on social media, it gives them one more reason to say “no” to church and even to Jesus.
And that destroys our witness and detracts greatly from the Great Commission.
It’s been a frustrating year, but let’s make sure that we work hard not to take it out on other believers. We need unity—and love and compassion and forgiveness and reconciliation—to do the work God has called us to do.
As Jesus said, “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”