For someone to plot disunity, an effective strategy would be to focus on differences.
There's too much unity in the church they would say. All that would have to be done is to help people lose sight of what is fundamental.
Different methods of baptism, emphasis on tongues, different worship styles, predestination – all of it will distract. The labels of conservative and progressive acting as utensils for a dividing cause.
It’s too easy to split people up, especially if the branching off cause is perceived as a righteous one. A compromise for the sake of peace.
This type of mentality creates and reinforces denominations - a fancy word for disunity. This type of thinking stimulates our self-righteousness and charms us into thinking we are operating for the greater good.
While denominations might not appear as a great chasm, they are like rippling fissures in the bedrock of the collective. Acting as a catalyst for disunity.
The problem is the structure itself. Labels like Pentecostal and Baptist make us latch onto that identity. Naturally producing thoughts like - this is the way to do it, that other church is misguided, that other church worships in a weird way, that church is too uptight.
We might not say it, but we think it.
When we create a focus on distinctiveness, we lose perspective of being united and interdependent. How can we love other Christians when all of our thinking of them consists of their faulty doctrine?
Jesus prayed for his bride that - “they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” - (John chapter 17, verse 23.)
As strongly as I feel, I do recognise that the abolition of denominations is a pipe dream. Idyllic and naïve. At the very least, we should take the power out of it by embracing people from other churches. Learning from others. Being uncomfortable. Being stretched.
It doesn't have to be such a foreign an idea for a Baptist church goer to attend a Pentecostal church and vice versa.
From a personal standpoint, the Pentecostal church has deepened my love for praise and worship and has helped me conceptualise what it looks like to live like Jesus practically.
The Reformed/Baptist church has penetrated my heart with rich theology, deepened my understanding of the nature of God and helped me revere the scriptures as well.
Far from it
If one is right, is the other wrong? Far from it. As matter of fact, they are both essential to comprehensively grasp the infinitely complex relationship we have with God.
Baptist and Reformed theology is especially rich. The Pentecostal application is especially powerful and compelling. We need both in equal portions. In my experience, I have been built up by both denominations in different seasons in my life.
I don't mean to say that the Pentecostal church has weak theology, and I don't mean to say that the Baptist church don't apply their faith. I think they both do well. But the respective churches carry an emphasis/bias in their teaching. The natural fruit of this is specialisation.
The specialisation is great. Creating a label/structure around this specialisation is not. It leads to individualistic thinking. Promoting disunity.
Specialisation under one united body, holds incredible potential.
Imagine you conversing with someone who truly understood the richness of scripture, the intricacies and nuances, who viewed the scriptures correctly through a historical context.
Imagine, the very next conversation you have is riddled with testimonies, the person speaking oozes the light of Jesus and is completely sold out for Jesus in everything they do.
Imagine R.C Sproul and Todd White under the same banner and you were privileged to learn from them both. What if we were corrected by John McArthur, and, on the next day, we were reminded of the importance of a changed heart by Dan Mohler?
Learn from other denominations. Zeal without knowledge is not good. But all knowledge and no application puffs up. Completion and balance of your perception of God is predicated on the humility to learn from a united body.
Roden Meares enjoys playing basketball, reading comics and going to the gym. He has a passion for evangelising and helping others in their faith through writing.