What do you consider the main obstacles to Unity?
This question came up in a recent conversation. The Church of God (Anderson fellowship) has long proclaimed the unity of the Family of God, often doing a better job of proclaiming it than practicing it.
So, what do we see as practical obstacles to Church unity? Or, “How can we eliminate those obstacles?” Following are a few of my thoughts on the matter, nothing conclusive but hopefully provocative of further discussion.
1. First on my list
is our misguided, worldly motivated, independence of one another (what some have called Lone Rangerism).
We sit at computers all day and talk electronically to everybody and face to face to nobody. You can’t make a phone call and get anything but a phone tree. Or, watch individuals stand around with a gadget in their hand, or a phone in their ear - texting everybody but talking to nobody
We talk bibleze and pay homage to the biblical interdependence of 1st Corinthians 12, but the language we speak is that of “me-ism”. Me, myself, and I are in a majority, which is idolatry, or even core atheism if you know anything about Ayn Rand.
The institutional church remains suspect, as are group concepts, and denominational goals. Congregations reflect the precepts of a visionary pastor, who frequently turns out to be a Lone Ranger, or an “Independent” Church Leader.
2. Denominational pride was a strong factor in the evolution of Christian denominationalism--pride that was ethnic in origin, denominational, doctrinal, or just “independence” pride. The list is endless.
Without discussing all the reasons for “ethnic” churches, or “holiness” or “Pentecostal” church”, suffice it for now to say that when a church or denomination majors on being competitive rather than complimentary and cooperative, generally a huge factor of human pride is involved, or just too much institutional and organizational baggage..
Such pride need not always be the case. In the early days of the Church of God, there were ethnic-speaking congregations where a local body of believers speaking a given language reached out to other newcomers speaking that same language. I know of several such churches that eventually found it expedient to initiate English-speaking services and relinquished their ethnic identity to become culturally mainstream. They pursued their mission of reaching people, which was more healthy.
Denominational pride as such is not so prominent as it once was. We no longer have such fierce debates and denominational competitions, where everybody felt he or she had the right form of organization, or the most pure form of doctrine. In each case, their “distinctive” was what made them the only choice for the pure in heart.
Actually, “distinctives” are a word we Church of God folk like to use, and we feel pretty good knowing “our church” outclasses everybody else … Hummm? I like the way James Earl Massey clarifies usage of this word “denomination” - it being first used “to express diversity in a related community” and not intended “to express exclusiveness” (Massey/Concerning Christian Unity/1972/63-79).
Massey suggests there is nothing wrong in “denominating” something, or naming it. Because of our dislike of “denominationalism” as such, we call ourselves a “Movement,” rather than denomination; yet, there is nothing inherently wrong in the word denomination.
However, I would suggest that it is an abuse of scripture, a misuse of doctrine, and an arrogant pride that causes any institutional body to claim for itself exclusive rights to doctrines, practices, and teachings, when that agenda belongs to God’s Universal Church (cf. Morrison/The Unfinished Reformation/Harper/1953).
I would not say this problem is unfamiliar to the Church of God (Anderson), but I tend to believe such pride is downright sinful … even heretical, if you please!
3. “Come-out-ism” remains for me a major obstacle to unity within the Church of God (Anderson). This tends to overlap, but space here will not allow adequate discussion.
4. Closely akin to the “come-out doctrine” is a fear of cooperating with “Babylon” (perhaps even misunderstanding what Babylon is).
Babylon in this context is generally “others” not of our more pure practice or teaching; thus, diluted in their faith, or less pure.
5. Lack of misunderstanding remains a major hindrance to unity.
This comes out of one’s inability to see the need for cooperating with, and/or complementing, the efforts of others to win lost souls to Christ. If a major reason for unity of the church is that the world may see and believe, it stands to reason that evangelism was a major factor in God calling “his people” (the church) into existence.
Failure to understand this often results in individuals, and denominational bodies of believers in failing (or refusing) to unite enough to correlate their missionary efforts and complement--fulfill-flesh out--one another (cf. dictionary meaning of complement).
From Warner’s World,
it seems indisputable that God intended for all of His Universal Family of God to be one in faith, one in fellowship, and one in purpose… walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com