No. Jesus isn’t talking about “sameness” He is talking about “Oneness”. Most of our disagreements with each other have more to do with misunderstanding our different functions within the Body of Christ. Your body has many different parts and organs that are not the same but operate in “oneness” and unity of purpose. We don’t want our lungs acting like our liver; nor do we want our eyes acting like our kidneys. Even the 12 tribes of Israel rarely got it together except in worship and warfare. If the Church of Jesus Christ can focus on worshipping the Lord and fighting Satan we will go a long way towards “oneness” in purpose.
2. Aren’t there some doctrines we are supposed to fight for?
Absolutely; yet before we begin a discussion of what they might be let’s look at the context with which Christianity exploded all over the world during the first generation of believers. First of all nobody walked around with a Bible. Yes I know I’m scaring you, but think about it. Only a very few select synagogues even had a complete copy of the Torah. Think about this; Jesus only opened the Scriptures once in His entire ministry. Today some religious believers will have a cow if you don’t read directly from the Bible while you are ministering to them; even if people are convicted of sin or healed from sickness and disease.
Did you know that about 95% of every person you read about doing something in the Bible wasn’t reading something from the Scriptures? The early believers didn’t have seminaries, Sunday School curriculum, and systematic theology to keep them straight on their doctrines. Yet God used them to change their world. Why would our God use such theologically unsophisticated people to do so much? Is God trying to tell us something?
Have you considered that Jesus Himself purposely did not pick His disciples from the churches (synagogues) of His day; not from the Bible schools of His day? Not one was a Pharisee, a Sadducee or a Scribe. Jesus went out of His way to be sure His followers were not from professional religious circles. Selah! This is more than just introducing a New Covenant, but a new way of thinking about how we interact with God. Have we continued in the error of the Pharisees? Why then do we put such an emphasis on so many non-essential doctrines? In a word; it is Satan’s strategy to use our sinful human propensity for self-justification and to be religious (or in control); to try to earn God’s acceptance or approval through religious works. This spirit is always trying to corrupt our minds from the simplicity that is in Christ. The Apostle Paul even went so far as to say he was determined not to know anything except Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Yes I know that same apostle went on to write 2/3rds of the New Testament, but I think you get mine and his point.
Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:1-3
When we leave the simple fact of the finished work of Christ on the cross it is because we have been bewitched by a religious spirit; that puts us and our followers under spiritual bondage, devoid of Biblical power. It also produces a hellish religious breeding ground for new sects and denominations that are resistant to working with the other believers in the Body of Christ. I heard one Baptist pastor say he finally got free from this mindset after realizing that although there were about 117 different Baptist denominations, his group was only allowed to fellowship with 3 of them. A light bulb went off as he realized surely the Church of Jesus Christ must be bigger than his 3 groups.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:1-3
The key to the early Church was they were connected to God through the Holy Spirit. The early Church was Spirit sensitive, Spirit directed, Spirit ordered and Spirit governed. They died for their faith before the lions and were burned at the stake not because they had correct doctrine but because they knew and loved the resurrected Lord Jesus. Even the Biblical qualifications for leadership specified in Timothy and Titus have more to do with character than perfect systematic theology.
3. What about the great falling away? Should we be looking for a great move of God as you suggest if things are supposed to get worse?
A significant number of biblical scholars believe this “falling away” already happened in the first century, because they believe it refers to the Jews falling away from their covenant with God and His Messiah. (The young Church started out 95% Jewish and 5% Gentile; now it is the opposite). This is why Jesus said the kingdom would be taken from them and given to another (Gentiles) nation bearing fruit. However for those who are from a more dispensational faith community and believe the great falling away is in front of us; have you ever considered that many believers have fallen away from Biblical faith in what Jesus prayer for in John 17 or Ephesians 4? Perhaps the Lord is more concern with your faith posture than your theological posture. Could that be the reason Jesus asked. “When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on the earth”? (See Luke 18:8)
Finally, what if things do get worse? What does that have to do with us cooperating with the Lord as He purifies His bride for His return? Shouldn’t we who are the redeemed remnant still be praying and working together for His glory? Is the prayer that His kingdom come, His will be done, a bogus prayer? Was the Lord just asking us to pray a vain and repetious prayer? I think we all know that the God we serve is not like that.
4. Isn’t this unity thing just the world-wide harlot church of the last days?
We also believe the Scriptures indicate that there will be tares growing at the same time the wheat grows. There is even now a false ecumenical movement of false churches around the world. Discerning believers should be aware of their false doctrine and false unity. Yet we should not fall away from Biblical faith and the mandate to dwell together in unity. If the devil is capable of bringing his crowd together, is our God any less powerful to unify His bride? It is not the will of God that we all hide in our individual churches and bomb shelters waiting for the Lord to return. Is it demonic when pastors and churches pray together under the banner of “Jesus Christ is Lord”? Do we have more faith in the devil’s power to deceive us, than in God’s power to keep us? Jesus isn’t coming back for a harem; He’s coming back for one bride. Are you part of that one Bride?
5. Isn’t this just another issue that side tracks the Church from its mission to reach the lost?
It certainly can be. There are believers who have tried working together with ministry groups or prayer groups who have become disheartened by all the time and energy spent trying to get different churches working together. We can be side tracked if we are waiting for some level of unity to take place before we devote our energies towards reaching out to the lost in the specific way we have been called to. We all should live faithfully before the Lord in doing all we know to do to reach the lost regardless if anyone else comes along side to help.
However, we remind believers to remember we don’t create the unity of the Spirit; according to the Scriptures it already exists (Ephesians 4). Our role is to properly discern the Body; to recognize the unity of the Spirit in every geographical region. We don’t strain to make it happen, we simply acknowledge and cooperate with the unity God has created beneath the surface or behind the scenes.
Finally we need to bring the people coming to Christ to the kind of Christianity that Jesus prayed for; not the sub-normal kind that currently exists. Our goal should be the same as what Jesus laid out before us. After all, the people of the world who have come from dysfunctional families are looking to see if God has a healthy unified family that they want to be part of.
6. My pastor says it’s a waste of time trying to get ministers and churches working together; is he right? Should we simply stay to ourselves?
It is understandable that many in the ministry are reluctant when talking about working together with Christians from different networks or denominations. The typical pastor has enough difficulty trying to keep the people inside their own church from killing each other, no wonder they are reticent to try it outside their four walls. This may also reveal the fact that your pastor only has vision for what’s inside their house. However we submit that according to the Scriptures Jesus gave the ministry gifts of Ephesians 4 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) for the expressed purpose of raising Christians joined and knitted together who are mature in Christ. To not do this is an indication of the immaturity of our leaders. If Jesus Christ (not your organization) truly ordained you, you have no choice but to work towards the ends specified in Ephesians 4:11-16 where you live. To not do so would mean your ordination is from man or you are building your own kingdom in His name.
Sadly most of our seminaries have a self-interest to produce “franchised disciples” in their company image instead of Christ’s. We ask every believer to consider that their church or denominational camp is similar to the school or college they were educated in. It is appropriate to be proud of one’s school heritage, but the purpose of that school is to prepare you to go out into society to work with others from different schools to make society a better place. Staying to ourselves, in our own camp causes inbreeding and inbreeding produces birth defects in the natural as well as in our spiritual offspring.
7. Where does this actually get fleshed out? After all don’t we all still end up going to our own church or home group on Sunday?
This is an excellent question. What we believe is taking place all over the world among the growing Body of Christ is this; Christians are coming to the realization that God must be doing more than what goes on inside the four walls of their church, regardless how big your church is. Maturing believers begin to see that our awesome God is orchestrating a work of His Spirit throughout our town, state and nation. Sovereign relationships from outside your denominational tribe begin to be common place in your life. You find yourself having connections with other like-minded believers who sense the move of the Holy Spirit to network and minister to together in unusual ways. Community events come together by the unseen hand of the Lord. Unexplainable cooperation between churches that normally would have nothing to do with each other becomes more common. These new initiatives are not about promoting an individual church or denomination. It has kingdom of God written all over it.
This isn’t being led or initiated by your organization. It is a work only God can facilitate by His Holy Spirit through average believers, businessman, as well as apostolic and prophetic ministry leaders. This supernatural knitting together is what we are all destined for as Christians. These new relationships and ministries are the emerging Church that is advancing the rule of the Kingdom of God in the earth. Truly this is the temple not made by human hands. For those with discerning eyes it is happening everywhere, and is glorious to behold.
Once again we submit that a substantial portion of the Church will increasingly see that the purpose of their church or Bible school is to train up believers to be part of the work of God taking place outside their group, with other believers who are also maturing in Christ.
8. What does this reformation look life?
Much of what has been missing in the Church has been apostolic and prophetic vision and grace that sees how Christ’s vision for oneness can be a reality. Perhaps 90 percent of the Christian community is under the care of only pastoral and teaching ministries who are developing new believers. This is similar to the nurturing environment we had growing up in our homes until we were mature enough to leave home and begin our own family and career. However the Bible says the contemporary Church is still built on the foundation of Christ and apostles and prophets (See Eph. 3:5 where Paul says “now” apostolic and prophetic graces operate in the Church). These ministries are not about maintaining the family of God but about advancing the army of God. Our book “Working Together For Jesus“ goes into detail how this is happening all over the world in preparation for the Lord’s return.
Remember Jesus is a King who has a King’s domain. He rules His kingdom with proper alignment and order. It’s also important to remember that the Kingdom produces the Church not the other way around. That means Jesus is our model for how we do Church or Christianity … not the Church; don’t let your church traditions choke-out the Word of God in this area. The following diagram shows how God has established good government in His kingdom in the earth. This is how the unity of the Spirit is being worked out in your ministry, your city and nation.