“Christians are one of the most divided groups I know.”
I’ve heard this statement and others like it spoken numerous times by disillusioned individuals. Usually, they are commenting on the sheer number of Protestant denominations, the vast array of different theological stances on secondary issues, and the hostility of outspoken pastors who put other ministry leaders on blast.
While I do notice the same phenomenon, I disagree with this statement for two main reasons. First, I see religious, political, and interest groups who are far more divided than Christians. Second, this statement undermines the overwhelming amount of common ground shared amongst Protestant Christians.
Although I don’t think Christians are the most divided group out there, this statement reveals one of the greatest needs in the church today - unity.
This need is discussed throughout Scripture. David describes how good it is for the people of God to live in unity in Psalm 133:1-3. Paul calls believers to eagerly strive for unity in Ephesians 4:1-32. Jesus, himself, prays that the church would be one in John 15:1-27. And we all know that if Jesus prays for something, it’s important.
The church needs more unity. Christians need to care more about unity. And we all need to do our part.
Unity Is Not
Often times, the best way to understand something is to first know what it isn’t. The Trinity isn’t the states of matter, ube is not taro, and Chris Rock is not Chris Tucker. In the same way, let me share a few thoughts on what unity is not.
1. Unity is not blindness
We won’t become unified by overlooking the differences that exist in the church. We need to openly acknowledge these.
Differences exist within Protestantism, within denominations, and even within churches. There are theological differences, philosophy of ministry differences, and cultural differences. Some Christians prefer hymns and others Hillsong. Some prefer expository preaching and others topical. Some love John Piper and others Judah Smith.
It’s okay to identify the differences that exist within and among churches. But it’s of crucial importance that we remember we are still united by our love for the gospel.
2. Unity is not compromise
It’s sometimes thought that compromise will lead to greater unity, as if changing our beliefs will make us more like-minded.
I believe our primary goal should be the opposite. Instead of aiming for compromise, we should aim for stronger convictions regarding the essentials of our faith.
While it’s okay to believe strongly in complementarianism, the stronger conviction should lie in the fact that men and women both reflect the image of God to a broken world. While it’s okay to conclude that baptism should involve full-body immersion, the greater belief should be in the power of the gospel to transform lives.
It’s this deepened conviction to prioritize main Christian beliefs over secondary issues that will bring us together as one.
3. Unity is not uniformity
While every Christian group should carry the same values of loving God and making Him known, the expression of this pursuit can take on many different forms.
I’m so thankful for the great diversity of ministries we have. I love the way Hillsong innovates and shows that Christians are relevant. I admire the way Redeemer Presbyterian Church reaches the unchurched in a secularized metropolitan city. I appreciate the way Gospel Coalition calls believers to remain faithful to God’s Word.
None of these ministries look the same. Yet, each one holds fast to the same pursuit of revealing Jesus to a broken world.
While this clears up some misconceptions of unity, it still leaves us with a big question - what is unity?
1. Unity is a proper prioritization of convictions
Our pursuit of unity shouldn’t require us to throw out our convictions. Convictions are good when they are derived from God’s Word. And we should hold onto the convictions that we searched long and hard to arrive at.
However, convictions also need to be properly categorized. Some convictions involve primary issues. Others involve secondary issues. And still others involve tertiary issues.
There is a big problem when a believer mixes these categories. Defending the continuation or cessation of spiritual gifts should never carry the same weight as believing in the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Discussing whether Christ died for the entire world or only for the elect should never overshadow our deep appreciation that Jesus’ death is more than enough to cleanse us from the effects of sin.
Primary matters must remain primary. All other matters must be categorized rightfully.
2. Unity is a reflection of God to a divided world
Have you ever wondered why God exists in a Triune form? While I am far from having all the answers, I do believe God uses His nature to reveal perfect harmony and agreement to a segregated world.
Perhaps we’re called to do the same.
Imagine the look of awe on a first-time church visitor as he steps into a room and sees people of different ethnicities, ages, and socio-economic statuses clasping hands and praying in one voice. Imagine his sense of wonder over what could bring such unity to an otherwise divided group of people. Imagine the jaw-dropping moment when he finds out that the only unifying factor is their faith in someone named Jesus.
Only God can bring about true unity. And He wants the entire world to know this.
3. Unity is a commitment to expand God’s Kingdom
We live in a time that is not favorable for Christians. Our values are ridiculed. Our beliefs are tested. And our numbers aren’t keeping up with other religious groups’.
These desperate times call for unified measures. We need to set aside trivial differences and rally behind essential truths. We need to set aside our tribal boundaries and take up our national cause.
It’s time for the church to come together as one. It’s time for us to link arms and raise voices to cry out for a revival in our land.
Our ultimate goal is to see more souls saved. Unity is our first step.
Dustin Lang is the Founder and Vision Caster of Revival LA. He also serves as the Education Pastor of Young Nak Celebration Church’s Jefferson Campus.