Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Tag: Denominations

Denominations: A kingdom divided cannot stand.

Picture a mirror. Now picture that mirror with thousands of little cracks in it. Cracks that distort your reflection as look at yourself. This is what denominations do to the body of Christ. Extreme statement? Maybe, but Christ’s prayer was that we (His Church) were one as He and the Father were one. I think we dropped the ball on that.

There are thousands of denominations inside Christianity with their own set of of beliefs, principles, practices, and emphasis. They all like to think that they have church figured out more than the other denominations.

Here’s the glaring problem, we have made denominations walls that cut us off from other parts of the Church. Oh, disclaimer, when I say Church I’m not talking about your local Church body, I’m talking about THE Church, the big picture Church, the Church that we are all apart of. Anyway, as I was saying denominations have become walls, dividers, that have not joined us together but have segregated us. We are comfortable working with people who are inside our denomination, but working with Christians (your other brothers and sisters) outside your denomination? Now I’m just talking crazy. Here’s the crazy part, Christ, if he were here today would be heartbroken at how divided we are.

We have this mentality in the Church that our local Church we are a part of (or for most of us, attend) is the only Church that has it right. We are convinced that the only church body that matters is ours, or our parent/sister/brother/aunt/cousin church (meaning the other churches in our comfortable little circle that we say we partner with about once a year for something). I don’t understand it. I’m convinced that the Church is the only organization that not only is divided, but is literally cut off from itself. This is the kind of thing Paul warns the Corinthians about.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-21 ESV)

Paul hits it out of the park. If you’re a leader in a local Church reading this blog then take that Scripture to heart. Our identity is Christ, not our denomination, not our programs, or our ministries, or anything else. Our identity as a Christian is Christ! We ALL have the same identity, so why are we so DIVIDED! Forgive my use of capital letters, I am just so fired up that we can claim to be Christians and yet over look these parts of Scripture, or worse, we can take a section like I just posted and apply it only to our local Church that we serve in. Notice how Paul says we are in one Spirit baptized in one body, not a local body, not an individual body, one body. Do not apply this scripture only to your expression of the Church, Paul is talking big picture here.

Can we as Christians have different views on some issues? Absolutely. But should these things divide us as deep as they have? Absolutely not. It is in direct conflict with the heart of Christ. (See John 17).

Rob (the other writer for this blog) and I have some stark differences. In fact they are so stark that we probably won’t be planting a church together anytime soon. But these differences do nothing to sever our relationship as brothers in the same Kingdom worshipping the same God. We eat together, we share views together, we talk and hangout, we have great times together and we still have different views on things inside the faith.

America doesn’t need more church buildings, it doesn’t need more expressions of the local church, it needs a united Church. In New Jersey there are roughly 3 church buildings every square mile. We have plenty of church buildings, but a kingdom divided can’t stand. Until we are willing to bridge the denominational divide, we will continue to stifle Church growth, but more importantly we are stifling the growth of the Kingdom of God. We fight over things that are sometimes so ridiculous, our cultures look at it and says “seriously?”

What’s my solution? Here are a few.

1. Make every effort to connect with other local churches in your immediate area. Invite the pastors to lunch and talk about how to be more unified and then actually do things together with your congregations. For instance, what if the Churches in your area organized a park cleanup day? Or what if the Churches in your area went to the mayor’s office and asked what you could all do together to serve the community.

2. Take a week off from your Church service and go worship the same God with another local church body in your immediate area. I recommend doing this often. Not only does it give your pastor, worship band, and other people who help run the Sunday morning service a break, it starts to bridge the gap between local Churches. After all you are trying to reach the SAME community, why the heck would you not talk to each other?

If we are to be followers of the teachings of Christ, if we are to have His heart, then uniting the Church must be a top priority. But we are a prideful bunch, we don’t like to change and conform to someone’s [inferior] view. We don’t like to admit that we were wrong. We’d much rather be comfortable with our circle of believers, then to get uncomfortable and have some difficult conversations with other believers.

I’ll leave you with the words of Jesus. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23 ESV)

It’s ok to Disagree – Tim Whitaker

Denominations are in my opinion one of the most divisive things in the church body today. Now before you pick up stones hear me out. The problem isn’t that we have people with different beliefs about the same Jesus, it’s that we have allowed these differences to divide the body of Christ. Far too often we make our non-essential beliefs an essentiality of the Christian faith. We stick to our beliefs about a certain subject and we are prepared to die on that hill. We alienate other people in the body because they don’t see things in the Bible exactly the way we do. The Bible tells us to be one body (See John 17:11, 20-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, and Ephesians 4:3) numerous times, and yet we live in a culture where so many times we view the church body we attend as the one and only, as if somehow God only revealed to us his plan and no one else. It’s this kind of thinking that I believe Satan has used to divide us as a body. It is this kind of thinking that causes church bodies to be be torn apart and split with bitterness. We must as a church body learn that in many many cases it is ok to have different views on many issues that divide us today.
But it has to go further than just agreeing to disagree. If we are truly in the same body of Christ then why aren’t we submitting to each other in search of truth and not our own ideology? Once our view of the Bible becomes our absolute truth, we are no longer in pursuit of God’s truth and instead we are stuck in somehow thinking that we have it all figured out. This thought is toxic to our pursuit of knowing God. God, as we all know can not be figured out, and neither can every truth in the Bible. The Bible is deep, complicated, and there is much more that has to go in to then taking it simply for face value. Sadly, we allow our narrow minded view of Scripture to choke out that life that is buried in the Scriptures. If we are not listening and having a conversation with people who disagree about a certain interpretation of Scripture then how are we to learn? The times I have learned the most were the times that I heavily discussed (or debated) a certain translation of Scripture. The mindset was never “I must always be right”, it was “How can I see this persons view, and if they are correct how can I change my view of this particular passage”. I’ve seen it so many times, people arguing over a certain passage of Scripture in a way not to learn, but to show off, or to put the other person down. How does this edify the body of Christ? How does this build us up? It does not, it instead causes divides and hurt.
This doesn’t mean that everything is up for interpretation, there are most definitely some clear truths that are seen in the Scriptures and ones that we must not compromise on. So what are the core truths that we need to be uncompromising on? Well in my opinion I think there are a few core truths that every believer who follows Christ must stand on.

1. Being restored to God is only possible because of what Jesus did, it has nothing to do with what we can do

2. The trinity and their roles as seen in Scripture.

3. If we claim to believe in the teachings and work of Christ, then there is fruit of that in our life.

4. The Bible is God’s word to humanity. That doesn’t mean it’s simple, or easy, or that we have it figured out, but the Scriptures are God inspired, God breathed

The end. Everything else is up for grabs, is up for discussion, is up for debate within the body in love. Debating is not a bad thing if the heart of the people involved is to uncover more of the truth of God. If the motive is to destroy the other person, then forget it.
We must stand as one church body, united under Christ, reaching our culture and restoring people to God. If we divide or various interpretations of the Bible, or what that looks like then we have COMPLETELY missed the heart of the gospel. Instead of clinging to our doctrines, we need to have open discussions and hear how other brothers and sisters are interpreting the same Scriptures. We might not see eye to eye, and that is ok. Because it’s not doctrines that should unify, it’s the work of Jesus on the cross and the pursuit of Him.

Rob and I have many differences in opinion and views when it comes to the Bible. But you know what? We have only let that fuel our discussions Instead of dividing us, it’s only brought us closer to Jesus and each other. The motive behind Rob and I’s discussions is never to tear each other down, but to learn and see Scripture in new light. Because of this I know that I personally have learned a great deal from Rob and even changed some of my views of certain Scriptures thanks to his expertise.

What’s the bottom line? It’s this: we need to stop letting Satan win when it comes to dividing the body of Christ. In New Jersey on average there are 3 church buildings per square mile. Could you imagine if they started talking to each other? Partnering together to reach the community? What if the church pastors who lived in the same town from different church bodies got together to share thoughts, opinions, and ideas for how the church can become ONE body in that town and reach those people more effectively? Imagine the power we are sitting on if we agreed to disagree, and instead agreed that Jesus died for humanity to restore them to Jesus. What a simple truth that is so deep and so enormously transforming. A truth when united behind can change nations.