Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Church and Unity (1)

I’ve been invited to submit an article for World Alliance of Reformed Churches’ theological journal, Reformed World. In 2010 two ecumenical bodies, the Reformed Ecumenical Council and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches will combine to form one new body which will probably be known as the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Preparing for this occasion, the coming issue of Reformed World will be devoted to the topic of unity and in view of this, I’ve been asked to write an article on the topic of church and unity, using Ephesians 4:3 as background: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
I’m just starting to put my thoughts on paper about the topic and decided to use this blog as public forum to discuss these thoughts. So please respond to this post as you see fit, sharing your ideas about this verse and about the topic.
I remember some years ago that someone wrote a letter in a church magazine in which he attributed the reluctance of Christians churches to unite to the certainties and arrogance found in most churches. It is these same certainties and arrogance, according to this author, which drove people to war and it is the very same attitude keeping Christians apart today.
The irony in these words – and I think the author is correct in what he said – is that the most outstanding characteristic of the post-modern world is supposed to be that we cannot be sure of anything anymore. And yet, at the very point where we need to admit that our knowledge is imperfect, we find that Christians become almost inapproachable because of their certainties and arrogance.
I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with this myself. The Reformed theology has strong viewpoints on many issues. I usually find myself fairly comfortable within this theology. But I’ve been in many situations where this theology had been attacked and where my first reaction is to defend what I believe in. I’ve changed a lot over the past decade or so, being much more willing to accept criticism and to be more willing to accept people regardless of whether they agree with me or not. In fact, some of my closest friends are on fairly opposite grounds with me regarding our theology. And while I do not necessarily agree with everything they do, I have accepted them with their differences (and they have accepted me) and we just have a great time together as Christians.
In a next post I would like to come back to Ephesians 4:3. But in the meantime I would appreciate your thoughts on the topic.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008 - Posted by | Church, Mission, Theology, Unity

8 Comments »

  1. Good Morning…..you state “I’ve been invited to submit an article for World Alliance of Reformed Churches’ theological journal, Reformed World. In 2010 two ecumenical bodies, the Reformed Ecumenical Council and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches will combine to form one new body which will probably be known as the World Communion of Reformed Churches”. I find all of this very disturbing. Where is Jesus and the will of God anywhere in the blog above? Would He approved of this? Do you honestly feel that this is the direction that He wishes you to go?

    Personally, I do not see it and I suggest that you study the Bible along more of a simplistic view. Go walk in His shoes and knock on doors and share the Word. That is what He commanded. We are to evangelize the world and He will supply what we need. You are walking down a very dangerous road with many pitfalls……..Jesus was arrogant, many times. He said it like it was and as it should be. He orders and we are to obey. At no time would Jesus say “In fact, some of my closest friends are on fairly opposite grounds with me regarding our theology. And while I do not necessarily agree with everything they do, I have accepted them with their differences (and they have accepted me) and we just have a great time together as Christians.”

    Personally, if I wrote what is stated above, I would be on my knees asking for forgiveness.

    But He loves you anyway.

    Ronaldo

    Comment by Ron | Friday, July 4, 2008 | Reply

  2. By the way…….maybe it would be good to listen to A.W. Tozer………..or his books……get back to basics and stop trying to re-invent.

    Blessings

    Comment by Ron | Friday, July 4, 2008 | Reply

  3. Ronaldo, may I ask what your concern is regarding the merging of the two groups? I read your comments earlier, then after reading John 17:20-26 your words came to mind. Can you read the entire chapter and share your thoughts?

    Dan

    Comment by Dan | Sunday, July 6, 2008 | Reply

  4. Hi Arnau!

    Ephesians 4 has always been one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. Not to say that I have attained perfection regarding unity, for I am far from perfect, but the Lord has used this chapter many times to educate me.

    To grasp 4:3 I believe you have to take verses 1-16 to lay it out properly. It is in Christ that we find the ability and common ground to be united as brothers, as each one does it’s part.

    Currently I attend a trendy church here in the US. The people are very beautiful and wealthy; nice cars, blackberries and laptops, all accesories to their beautiful appearances. The pastor’s teaching is outstanding, his calling to the position (in my opinion) is evident.

    My previous church was a hodge-podge of all walks of life. We had rich men and women who lived in gated communities as well as the homeless, drug addicts, and prostitutes. The wealthy had a heart for the unfortunate and spent a lot of money through the church to reach out to our community. To see the homeless receive so much love from the church sold me on the place. I am not talking about just shovling out money, but they hugged and invited these people into their lives and homes, investing in them with all they had.

    This is where I saw unity in action. Did some of those folks abuse the grace? Of course; then again, don’t we all? But that didn’t stop the church from reaching out, and in time it was well worth it. Our church grew 10 fold. Bikers became ushers. Kids with mohawks and piercings became prayer partners. Ex prostitutes and strip dancers joined the choir. They were given the opportunity and became part of the church family.

    The woman at the well became our sister. The thief next to Jesus became our brother. The murderer Paul became our brother. Unity of the saints, no matter what the background, it what it’s all about.

    Sorry to be so long winded!

    Dan

    Comment by Dan | Sunday, July 6, 2008 | Reply

  5. Dan, that’s an amazing testimony! You may have read my post with the title “Meeting Jesus over lunch” in which I told how God just changed my life totally when I saw something similar happen in Rotterdam. Oh boy, this is exciting. This is truly “unity in action!” No wonder God blessed that church.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Sunday, July 6, 2008 | Reply

  6. Arnau, sadly I had missed that post, and it was posted on my birthday! Thanks for sharing the link and your story. Ironically, I work with mentally challenged adults, so your story was able to touch me in a deeper sense. One day I should share the joy I have in working with these wonderful people. God blessed me with this job; he told me to apply and had prepared me ahead of time.

    Back to Ephesians; this unity we have witnessed only scratches the surface of the unity the body should have as a whole. That time will come, I assume, since Jesus has prayed that it would. His word has never come back void; it is always perfect and true.

    Now, to jump off subject a little. While reading through John yesterday, many times it stated that things happened a certain way so the words of the prophets would be true. Rather than the prophets seeing exactly how things would happen, it seemed that things happened to verify the words of the prophets. I had never seen it this way before, but it was an attention getter yesterday. When you have some free time, care to share your thoughts?

    Dan

    Comment by Dan | Monday, July 7, 2008 | Reply

  7. Dan, just an interestiong thing I read about in Philip Yancey’s book: “Prayer”, which I recently finished. Apparently he had written somewhere about prayers which Jesus had prayed which did not happen as He asked, and John 17 is one of them, where He prayed for the unity of the church and 2000 years later it still hasn’t happened.

    Concerning the prophecies that you mention. If you can get hold of Adrio König’s book: “The Eclipse of Christ in Eschatology: Toward a Christ-Centered Approach” http://www.amazon.com/Eclipse-Christ-Eschatology-Christ-Centered-Approach/dp/0802803563/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215543062&sr=8-6 you will see that he gives an excellent explanation on the Biblical use of prophecies. If you send me your personal e-mail address I will forward you a chapter from the lectures I give in Russia every year where I broadly follow the explanation given by König. What is boils down to is that the prophets did not fully understand the visions they had seen, but gave the best possible description they could. It was only later, after the prophecies had been fulfilled, that the New Testament authors realised that those prohecies had been fulfilled.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, July 8, 2008 | Reply

  8. Hi Arnau! Please pardon my delay in responding. Thank you, I look forward to your email, please send it to jenkinsdanield@aol.com

    Thanks again!

    Dan

    Comment by Dan | Saturday, July 12, 2008 | Reply


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