A few days ago in my post “Q&A Session,” I offered to give thought to and answer questions that my readers asked. Several people asked some very good questions.
Eric, from “A Pilgrim’s Progress,” asked about unity. Unity is very important to me, and given Jesus’ prayer in John 17, it is very important to him as well.
Here is Eric’s question:
What have you found to be tangible ways that Christians with varying views on the church can show their unity in Christ? So often we are semi-isolated within our own local bodies that we fail to live out the one-anothers with other believers. What are some real ways that you would suggest to promote unity?
Now, I want to begin with a statement that some of my readers may not like. But, unless we understand this, we will not know how to deal with the structures and the attitudes that hinder our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ.
The ideology of the local church (as it is practiced today in many sectors) causes sectarianism and exclusivism that tends to divide the church. It could be more institutional local churches or more organic local churches.
In order to promote unity among God’s children, we must be willing to cross the boundaries created by the local church.Â And, the person interested in living in unity with others will be the one who has to cross those boundaries. Other Christians will probably not come knocking on your door to serve Jesus together with you. You will have to be the to make the first (and probably second and third and fourth…) move.
The best way to cross those boundaries is through existing relationships with family members, coworkers, neighbors, and friends. Those seeking unity will need to work with the churches that their family members, coworkers, neighbors, and friends “belong to.”
So, what are some real ways that I have attempted to show and promote unity?
Well, I want to begin with an example of what it means to cross the boundaries. As a church, we usually eat together on Sundays. We often invite other Christians to join us (after their own church meeting, of course). In fact, we tell them that this is an open invitation, and that we don’t expect them to “join” our church, only to have lunch with us. So far, very few have taken us up on that offer. Why? I think it’s primarily because it would require THEM to cross local church boundaries.
So, we have to be willing to cross those boundaries. The most obvious way that we’re currently crossing local church boundaries is through the local food pantry. The food pantry is hosted by a megachurch in our city. But, we’ve started going to their building and serving alongside them. We thank them for the opportunity to serve with them every chance we get. We’re trying to show that we are united with them in Jesus Christ, not only “spiritually” united, but united in our mission to “the least” in our community.
We’ve also found that children and teenagers more easily cross local church boundaries. Our teenagers often take part in the activities of other churches, and we’ve invited teenagers from other church to join us. We’re probably seeing more “success” in this than in any other way of showing and living in unity with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
We encourage the brothers and sisters who meet with us to meet with other churches – yes, on Sunday. Again, this works best if we “attend” with family, coworkers, neighbors, or friends who are part of the other church. Then, we try to continue fellowship by eating together with them, even if we need to make lunch or invite them to a local restaurant after the church meeting.
Furthermore, remember that Christians are often eager for fellowship with others, as long as it doesn’t force them to cross the boundaries of their local church. So, we work together with other brothers and sisters in activities that are often not considered “church,” such as homeschooling, Bible studies, community service, or parties.
Finally, even if other Christians will not cross local church boundaries, we can continue to invite them. But, don’t invite them only to your Sunday church meetings. Invite them to your home. Invite them to serve others in your community with you. Invite them on mission trips. Invite them to be part of your life. (Of course, this assumes that you are sharing your life with others.)
It is difficult to cross boundaries created by the local church. Some will think you are trying to “steal” sheep. Others will think you are “church shopping” if you are the one meeting with different churches. Some will think you are just plain weird. Don’t worry about what other think. Simply make yourself available and make efforts to spend time with other believers, especially those brothers and sisters with whom you already have a relationship.