the weblog of Alan Knox

Working with other Christians, but not under their organizations

Posted by on Aug 24, 2012 in blog links, unity | 14 comments

Working with other Christians, but not under their organizations

My good friend Eric at “Pilgrim’s Progress” is one of my favorite bloggers. His latest post is called “Two Different Directions,” and the post itself when in a different direction that I thought it would… and was much better than I thought it would be.

Eric begins by pointing out the gatherings of believers seem to be growing in two directions (thus the title of his post): either larger and larger or smaller and smaller. (As an aside, I think this difference is a demonstration of and a living out of a different understanding of what it means to be the church.)

But, when Eric gets into the meat of his post, he takes a turn in a different direction:

It is painfully obvious for all involved that those of us in simple church life reject almost all of the shenanigans that go on in the mega church. However, there are many Christians in mega churches who want to make disciples just as much as we do. Therefore, we have a challenge of working with them while at the same time not working under the constraints of their large institutional framework. How can we do this?

He follows his question with five suggestions about working in unity with those who disagree with us (primarily disagree about the church, but this could include other types of disagreements as well).

Seriously, I love this! Yes, we disagree about what it means to be the church, whether the church is an organization or whether church is the people. And, we disagree about why we gather together and how that purpose is best carried out.

But, if we are in Christ together, then we are brothers/sisters, and we are put together by God for a reason. And, that reason is NOT to argue with one another.

Thanks, Eric, for exhorting us to live in the unity we already have in Christ, in spite of our disagreements!


14 Comments

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  1. 8-24-2012

    isn’t this a bit as someone proposing to marry the ogre’s daughter? She may be fine, but her family is, well…

    also, we must wonder at the apparent shortfall of compassion for those caught behind “constraints of their large institutional framework”. If I know my brother or sister is dragging a ball & chain of “framework”, am I glibly looking to serve alongside someone with an established handicap?

  2. 8-24-2012

    “But, if we are in Christ together, then we are brothers/sisters, and we are put together by God for a reason.”

    I’m working on that “if” part.

  3. 8-24-2012

    Alan,

    Thank you for the kind words. I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot lately. The church must learn to overcome its differences, real as they may be, in order to live out the Great Commission.

  4. 8-24-2012

    I’m sick of arguing. Who are we kidding if we keep putting up walls between us over trivial matters such as mentioned. To the degree we put up walls between us, is the degree we limit our effectiveness to minister to each other and corporately to a lost world.

  5. 8-24-2012

    Marshall,

    It may perhaps be a little like the ogre’s daughter, except that in Christ we are the family. Hopefully, while we are working together, we are also discipling one another, which means they are learning from us and we are learning from them (except there’s not really an us vs. them).

    Donald,

    There were many, many theological problems among the Christians in Corinth, both in the ways that they believe and in the ways that they lived. Yet, Paul called them church, saints, and brothers/sisters. The same could be said of the other recipients of the various letters that became the New Testament.

    Eric,

    I think you hit on something key. We do not dismiss our differences – they are real. But, we do not let our differences separate us if we are united in Christ – who is even more real.

    Jeffery,

    Some of the issues are probably trivial, but some are probably not. And, what we consider trivial, others may consider very important (and vice versa). I’m thinking about the days / food sacrificed to idols issues that Paul dealt with. These were real, theological differences, but he continually exhorted them to live out their unity in Christ in spite of their differences. When we allow those differences to separate us, it definitely hinders our ability to serve others and one another, like you said.

    -Alan

  6. 8-25-2012

    beyond “shenanigan”, the system’s salutaris machina remains as the most challenging aspect of religious institutional framework, with its gears meshed into one or another powerless sectarian “gospel”.

  7. 8-25-2012

    Getting along is non-trivial for sure, but I am dismayed by the harsh-sounding words from some of the ‘organic church (for lack of a better word)’ folks. I assumed that the mega-0church folks would be defending their turf, but I expected the folks on the other end to be more welcoming.

  8. 8-25-2012

    Both types of churches have their place. I attend and work at a mega-church with lots of activities. We are excited for people from smaller churches to take part in our numerous Bible studies, including such things as Bible studies to help children from single-parent homes and some that teach kids how to live free of addiction. livingfree.org

  9. 8-26-2012

    Alan, point well taken. Just blowing off a little steam from my end. :)

  10. 8-26-2012

    I just came from a website for an organization devoted to ending child sex trafficking, Love146. There were a few links to churches in my area, one of which I perused. I have no new thoughts on the matter, but I found this post quite timely!

    I may have posted elsewhere here a couple of my favorite Nee teachings on this subject. He asserts that if we are truly clinging to the Head, we will find ourselves walking lockstep with those who are doing likewise.

    As for the disagreements, he notes that Paul concludes that section in Romans, that deals with some of the differences among various believers, by saying, “God has accepted them,” without tipping his own hand as to his views on the particular matters. Of course, the expression, “tipping his hand” is not one Nee would have used as he frowned upon card playing!

  11. 8-26-2012

    Christians of differing organizations have tried long to be able to work together. At best, they are sometimes able to form temporary, loose coalition; as if allies in a conflict for territory.
    simple church & organic church consists in both institution-compatible and institution-contra. But even this would be an over-simplification knowing that the institution-compatible are acting so within a specific range of doctrine or practice: “denomination-compatible”. (able to work together with some, but not others — much as the broader state of “Christianity”.)
    Lest we somehow forget, it is the inference of simple/organic church that the institution contains some/few true believers while dominated by the presence of religious-but-yet-unbelieving “Christians” both among its “clergy” and “laity”.

  12. 8-27-2012

    Marshall,

    Most of the examples that I’ve witnessed or heard about of Christians attempting to work together begin with some type of human organization or control. As long as that is the basis of our working together, we will always fail. When we begin with Jesus Christ and seek our unity in him, we will be able to work together with those who disagree with us and with whom we disagree. (By the way, I’m not willing to say that those who are part of institutional churches are not followers of Jesus. Yes, I know that means that some will question my own salvation because of that.)

    Tom,

    Yes, there are very harsh sounding words coming from the organic sector of the church as well as from the institutional sector of the church. May God grant us grace to accept one another in the same way that he has accepted us in Jesus Christ.

    Jean,

    I also know of many “organic” brothers and sisters who are doing great work helping their friends and neighbors with addiction. Do you think your friends among the megachurch would be willing to work alongside them as well?

    Jeffery,

    I’m glad you “blew off a little steam.” When it comes to comparing our differences with the unity we have in Jesus Christ, all of our differences are “trivial” – even if we don’t see them that way.

    Chris,

    If you decide to work together with some of the other believers in your area, I’d love to hear about it.

    -Alan

  13. 8-27-2012

    “I’m not willing to say that those who are part of institutional churches are not followers of Jesus. Yes, I know that means that some will question my own salvation because of that.”

    not specifically your salvation, Alan, but your compassion brought to question… How you may watch so many drowning in their own deception and not take up vital concern toward their rescue?

  14. 8-27-2012

    Marshall,

    I know and work together with many people who are part of institutional churches. My concern is not for their salvation, but for the health of the body of Christ, which they are already part of. We disciple one another – yes, they can help me follow Christ as well. Often, some of them begin to see the benefits of relating outside the institutional framework, and I help them grow in that as well. Again, for these friends, my concern is not for their salvation, as their profession, their life, and the Spirit proclaim that they are children of God.

    -Alan