What Prevents Evangelical Church Unity?

Evangelicals have historically been splintered by denominational affiliations and doctrinal differences, while at the same time acknowledging evangelicals of different groups and persuasions as brothers and sisters in Christ.

In light of this acknowledgment of our oneness in Christ, what prevents us from establishing some sort of committee that would enable us to work together to achieve vital goals, especially since we are confronted by challenges that need meeting such as world evangelism and cultural enemies seeking our demise?

I am not referring to a parachurch organization that might have as its reason for existence tackling such objectives. There are plenty of those, and they do serve a purpose, in a small way filling the gap left by the absence of the kind of unified committee I am referring to above. The problem with a parachurch organization is that it is just that, an organization lacking an organic link to churches, and therefore only enjoying minimal participation by them. The type of committee I am referring to would have an organic link to all evangelical denominations and churches, and therefore it would no doubt enjoy almost universal influence over evangelical churches. That is what the evangelical church needs.

I sense that animosity is not a major factor preventing the formation of such a committee of cooperation. Often the secular world makes that accusation, and evangelicals join in, beating themselves up on that count. Such guilt to my mind is not warranted. While I do not believe that baptizing babies is biblical, and I would not be able in good conscience to join a church where that is practiced, I have had a number of good friends who belong to those churches and hold that belief. That difference has not prevented me from enjoying good fellowship with or loving these people in Christ. When we meet Christians of other persuasions in the workplace or other public venues it is always a joy to encounter another brother or sister in Christ regardless of what their theological particulars might be. I don’t find myself thinking or feeling, “I don’t like you because you’re a Presbyterian,” and I don’t think most other Christians have those responses to doctrinal differences either.

What, then, is the culprit that prevents us from joining forces so that we can effectively take on common enemies and achieve common goals? In a word, or two words, I believe that the force preventing the formation of such an extremely valuable entity is self-absorption.

In my experience churches are so into their own programs, schedules, activities, and approaches to doing things that it takes a major explosion to blast them out of that rut and get them to consider that really important things are happening outside of that rut deserving their attention and involvement.

That is not to say that they do not seek to minister to the world beyond their walls. They do. They have their missions programs and various outreach programs and other programs that meet the needs of various segments of society. But that is the point. As long as they have a program they are good to go. If you can get on their program list you are in a really good place. But if you are not, good luck. “We have established our parameters of operation and nothing important exist outside of them. We are a McDonald’s church so don’t order sushi. Maybe they can help you down the street.”

This reality leads to a second problem, that is, that conservatives are conservative. If we’ve always done it that way it must be right, and if we don’t do it that way it must be wrong, and even if it’s not wrong don’t count on us doing it.

If you have read this blog more than two or three times you have bumped into one of my tirades about the church not praying for or showing concern for persecuted Christians. When individual Christians are confronted by the plight of these brothers and sisters, they display genuine concern. But of course that is not a concern that could be inserted into the public worship service because we’ve never done that. That’s not who we are. Likewise, most churches are glad that those pro-life organizations are out there, and will even fill baby bottles with change once a year, but ongoing prayer for babies who will be murdered in the week ahead and mothers complicit in the crime is not part of our culture, so why would we do that?

So initiating, or even participating in an umbrella committee that would enable us to accomplish highly important objectives is out of the question.

Maybe, if times get bad enough our individual church molds might be broken, allowing for the incorporation of this desperately needed dimension into the church DNA. The good news, I guess, is that our society and world might soon be getting bad enough to make that happen.

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