Tuesday, November 03, 2009

We Are "ALL" One In Christ Part 2: Challenge For The Restoration Movement

Christians only. Not the only Christians!
Motto of the Restoration Movement????

The Restoration Movement was a movement of unity. It has changed so much over the years. Churches are splitting not over matters of essential doctrinal issues but over opinions and lack of what they think should be "uniformity". Jesus tells about a kingdom divided within itself will not stand." The same goes for any church that is divided within itself cannot stand! In order for us to strive and thrive in the 21st century we must be united within first. We cannot share commonality with other believers if we are fussing, fighting and destroying each other. Jesus prayed for us to be ONE. One with all believers. One in faith, one in love and one in hope. These I believe are the key essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Faith, Hope and Love. The greatest of these essential doctrines is love! Without love everything we do means nothing!

Listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-ff, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing! And if I give all my possessions to the poor, and if I deliver my to be burned, but do not have love, it profits nothing! Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous, love does not brag and is not arrogant, and does not act unbecomingly, it odes not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.' Vs. 13, "But now abide: faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." NASV

Do we focus on the petty non-essentials of faith? Our differences? Get mad and hate because things don't go our way or do we set our differences aside for the sake of love? If we have not love everything we do means nothing. The way we sing, the way we do worship every Sunday, the ideas and opinions on what we think is dogma or doctrine means nothing! Is pointless and meaningless if we have not love.

Can we set aside our difference and find unity with all believers within the Restoration Movement? Can we find and celebrate our similarity on the key, essential doctrines of all Christian faiths:
1.Faith in Christ
2.Hope that He Promises Everyone
The greatest of these love!

Ministers, elders, deacons, all believers the time is now to start striving and focusing on unity! It is time to start preaching it from our pulpits, teaching it in our classes, practicing it in small groups, living and striving for it in all aspects of our life and faith. May we be know as a people who loves and accepts all believers. May we be known for our authenticity of grace through Christ Jesus. God help us not to confuse "uniformity" with "unity"! May we be Christians Only. Not the only Christians!

What will it take for the Restoration Movement to be a movement of unity once again? Can those within the Restoration Movement set aside differences for the sake of unity within its own fellowship? Can we set aside our difference for the sake of unity with all believers of the Christian faith? What do you think about the they key essential doctrines that I list? Have you thought of them as doctrines before? Have we focused and practiced them the way we should or have we focused on more non-essentials? Is it time to stop focusing on what is essential and what is not for the sake of these three essential doctrines and unity? Is your church striving for unity with other believers within the Restoration Movement or believers of all Christian ? Does your church accept all believers? What does it say when a group is exclusive or isn't willing to fellowship with others? How can your church be known for its unity? How far are you willing to go for the sake of unity? How can you personally make a difference?

What do you think?
Share your thoughts.


Blogger reborn1995 said...

i still think you're significantly oversimplifying the matter. While there's good folk wisdom in the advice to "set aside your differences and love each other," surely you'd agree we can't do that in every case. Otherwise, someone wil come along and just measure the situation with a larger yard stick: "Why can't all the world religions just unify? Why can't they all set aside their petty differences and love each other? Why can't Christians just set aside their petty difference with the Jews about Jesus being the Messiah so that they both can unify and love each other?" Well, because that difference isn't petty and setting it aside isn't loving.

Have people divided over "petty non-essentials"? Of course, they have. But did *those* people believe they were dividing over petty non-essentials? It's very likely that no group ever divided over something that both factions involved believed was "petty" and "non-essential."

Thus, two things have to happen.

1. You have to decide what is or isn't a difference worth dividing over. --i.e., which are the non-negotiable essentials and which are the petty non-essentials?

We can't move toward unity under the guise that answering those kinds of questions don't matter. That's the fast track to all-world-religions-are-acceptable-ism. Who gets to decide the list of non-negotiables and why? While plenty of us agree there really is such a thing as a "correct list" (for instance, you've provided a sample list), we nevertheless do not all agree on which items do and don't belong on it. (Some of us don't even agree with ourselves from one day to the next.)

2. You have to convince the divided-peoples that their differences are among the non-essentials.

It may seem clear to you and me that whether there is a kitchen in the building or whether we eat in the building is a petty-non-essential. But is that clear to the anti-CoC's who believe such?

If you just tell someone, "hey, listen, give up your petty non-essential difference and join us," you've taken for granted people's sincere and treasured convictions. i would not appreciate hearing some Baha'i follower telling me that my belief in Jesus as the Christ was a "petty non-essential" difference between she and i. Why? It's among my most deeply held, deeply treasured convictions--one that i've fought for and fought through and invested a tremendous amount of mental and emotional energy into. How dare someone tell me it's "petty."

Similarly, i highly doubt that some anti-CoC member would appreciate me telling him his insistence on one-cup for the Lord's Supper was a "petty difference." It may very well be true that it's a non-essential. And it may very well be true that it's "petty" in that it's among the last things Christ would ever want us to get hung up on. But to tell that person to give up his "petty non-essential" suggests that his personal convictions are petty--convictions he may have fought for, fought through, and by which he's defined himself.

Handling each other this way would be careless and inconsiderate. Thus, it would be counter-productive to unity rather than conducive. So rather than calling on those people to give up their petty non-essentials, why not rather love them sacrificially whether they give up those petty non-essentials or not, in hopes of building trust? That potential platform of trust will be the place on which we can stand and dialogue about differences.


2:00 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Reborn 1995,
I greatly appreciate your thoughts on this discussion. Do you think fellowship among Churches of Christ can be accomplished? Is it possible for anti's to consider other Churches of Christ brothers; fellowshipping with those who have classes, multiple cups, support orphan homes, Christian colleges, etc. Is it possible for those churches who have multiple cups, have bible classes to come together with those don't and use single cup for the sake of love? Is it possible for those who cherish the KJV as the one true bible to come together with those church of Christ who use the NIV for the sake of love and untiy? Can those who have contemporary songs and praise teams fellowship and get along with and love those who don't and vice versa? I wonder is unity possible. What do you think Guy?

3:11 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

I believe one of the problems is we have many, many believers within the Church of Christ who have the attitude of why should I change for the sake of unity? Why should I give up such and such? Why dosent the other group change what they do? Vice versa within the church of Christ and Restoration Movement and nothing is accomplished. I believe that kind of stubberness and self-righteousness has got to change for unity to occur.

3:18 PM  
Blogger reborn1995 said...

i think you're right that "the other guy has to change" attitude keeps unity from happening in many cases. But there's one particular problem that i don't see how to overcome: My father was chatting with someone (i don't know if it was a preacher or whatever) from the local one-cup congregation. My dad asked, "If my congregation agreed to only use one cup, then could your congregation unite with us and fellowship with us?" The one-cupper said, "No, because they still wouldn't teach that you had to do it that way."

There's a difference between believing that a certain practice is essential and believing that believing-that-a-certain-practice-is-essential is essential. The first problem seems easy to fix sometimes. It's not going to kill us to cater our practices sometimes. But the latter problem, how do you get over that unless someone involved actually changes their beliefs?

All in all: i think some CoC's really have split over dumb stuff--carpet colors, personality conflicts, preacher changes, etc. Those churches definitely could learn to unify again. Bigger differences? i think some conservatives and progressives could unify if they were willing to bend a little and respect each other's consciences. (i think my home congregation does a fairly good job of keep a wide spectrum of people in the same building.) Further, i think some CoC's will just plain die out. Some particular congregations hold peculiar views, but they're also very non-missional/non-evangelistic; they'll erode away with time. But can all CoC's come together? i really don't think so. Both ends of the spectrum have become two wide, two incompatible, and (sadly) in some cases, too hostile.

Unity across the Restoration Movement is quite ambitious. Bear in mind, there's likely plenty of Independent Christian Churches who also would be unwilling to unify with many of the Disciples of Christ because of the DoC's theological liberalism. i think we have to start with what's reasonable to expect just within the CoC.

As more CoC's move toward using instruments, or at least instruments-okay-but-we-choose-not-to, then those churches could start to cooperate more with the Independent Christian Churches. But i don't see how the hard-right or right-leaning CoC's will ever get there.

Here's what i think is important: learning unity at that congregational level. Learning how *i* need to unify with the people i'm already seated next to in the pews every week. How does one congregation internally practice unity? And how do they do it well? And how do they do it better? i think you have to start with intra-congregational unity before you can move out to inter-congregational unity. (i won't lie, i'm a little biased; i have enough trouble trying to sort out my own personal discipleship to spend much time worrying about whether two congregations in town get along.)


3:45 PM  
Blogger Royce Ogle said...

There are countless blogs, editorial, magazine articles and journal pieces about "unity" in Restoration churches.

I don't expect it to happen, but for the sake of an illustration lets assume that all the churches with Restoration Movement roots started "fellowshippng" each other and had "unity". Sorry to disappoint but that would not be unity.

As long as Restoration Movement churches think they are the only ones saved they obviously will not have biblical unity, that is unity that rises from our common faith in Jesus Christ and our devotion to him.

Alexander Campbell and other founders understood this but not many of their spiritual decendents see things they way they did.

Many of our people probaly should't be pretenting to be interested on the one hand and condemning Max Lucado and others to hell on the other.


5:21 PM  
Blogger Royce Ogle said...

...that is (pretending unity)

5:23 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Exactly Royce!

We must get beyond thinking we are the only ones saved. I know I have! I think most progressive churches with in the Church of Christ are moving that way. I am apart of a progressive congregation now that is very diverse. We have baptist, methodists, non-denominationalists, and other Christians fellowshipping and worshiping with us. It is very grace-oreinted and open to change. It so far is the most authentic group of believers that I have been apart of. I know they don't see themselves as the only ones saved which is refreshing and great! We do things with other denomination groups in the community and I hope to see us do more as far as community worships in the future. It is great to be apart of an eccumentical congregation.

As the Restoration Movement we must move beyond thinking exclusively. We must stop isolating ourselves from others.

Thank you Royce for adding to this discussion. You are so right on. If Max Lucado is going to hell then God help us all. :-) LOL

5:40 PM  
Anonymous dell kimberly said...

Before we have unity we must have a big dose of humility. Too often we see the attitude displayed that says, "I have it all together and all figured out. If you want it you have to stand in my circle." This is so far from where God intends we be. Didn't He say through the proverbs, "Trust God and lean not on your own understanding." Does anyone have it all figured out? I don't. I think I'll trust God rather than my own understanding. Maybe this will produce unity. Our rationalization of Scripture hasn't.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a member of the Church of Christ and think that there is hope for the future even if we don't strive for unity with other denominational groups. We are the true church. We follow the Bible and practice baptism for remission of sins like Jesus taught. I believe that I cannot have unity with someone who hasn't been baptized. I can't have unity with someone who has instruments. I can't have unity with someone who is a Calvinist. I can't have unity with someone who isn't in Christ. I disagree with your three doctinal points. What about baptism, instruments, women's role in the church? These I think are key essential doctrines of the Church.

9:57 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

I agree that humility is a must. I believe that we all don't have it down. I know I am striving everyday not lean on my own understanding but God's. Thank you for your words and challenging us to undertand that we all don't have it together. We all fall short. I know I do!

8:38 AM  
Blogger preacherman said...


I want to thank you for sharing your feelings on this topic. I know that many Church of Christ believers think the way you do. As being raised church of Christ myself I have had to allow my experiences with family, the church, youth groups experiences, Christian college has allowed me to open and stretch my faith. Are all Christians willing to grow? Are all believers willing to question what they do and why? Are all believers going to what they can to get out of comfort zone for the sake of making a real kingdom difference? Do we get to self-centered? Does Church become just another country club?

Yes there may be some churches of Christ who survive without fellowshipping with other denominations. The questions I have is what about love Love. Our first Love. Will God remove the "Lamp Stand" of those church who refuse to love?

My prayer for you Anonymous is that you will continue to pray, read, seek truth, be open to what the word is actually saying, let it speak to your heart. My I suject reading 1 Cor 13; the entire book of 1st John.. I love you Anonymous and hope this helps.

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Wade Tannehill said...


You're getting pretty bold in your older age. I think the real issue in dividing the essential from the non-essential among those who take the Bible as authoritative really comes back down to hermeneutics. If someone thinks examples and inferences are as binding as express statements of Scripture, they'll naturally have a longer list of what they think is essential.

My own opinion is that if we try to bind example and inference as law it is the same as teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. If we would only bind what Scripture explicitly says and only make issues of what the Bible makes issues, I think we'd be in much better shape.

10:03 AM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Thank you mentor for your thought on hermeneutics being key and not binding mens laws on others and make issues of what God makes issues. It excellent advice for us as we strive to be ONE. Can the same hermeneutical practice of only binding what God commands? As I look laws of the Old Testament most of them were for physical health. The Ten commandments were moral codes that God wanted men to strive to live according to. The wonderful thing about the commands given to believers, Christians in the New Testament by Jesus, and stressed by his apostles: "Love the lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind. Secondly, love your neighbor as yourself. The law and the prophets hangs on these." If only we as believers would apply these two commands in the way we read, study, mediatate, pray and live our lives. Thanks way for challenging everyone to stress the issues that God would stress. I agree that everything would be better all around. I'd love for you to continue adding your thoughts to this discussion and any discussion in the future. You have been a true mentor to me.

5:38 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

I want to thank everyone for their comments in adding to this discussion. I hope and pray that the Restoration Movement will strive to be united within the movement as well as strive for unity with other denominations that we will ALL BE ONE IN CHRIST JESUS!

8:26 PM  
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