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Friday: Further Thought – Church Organization and Unity — 3 Comments

  1. If there is one thing that should be abundantly clear; you cannot legislate unity. If unity is a significant goal it must come from the hearts of the individuals, not from the chief executive officer or the public relations and spin doctor's personnel. Too much emphasis in recent years of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been placed on uniformity, to the extent we are confusing it with unity.

    The Church provides us with a good framework and infrastructure for spreading the Gospel, but it cannot and should not dictate our spiritual experience. That is something between God and us. When we become focused on trying to achieve unity we often forget that it is our relationship with God that should be powering that unity. Unity is something that grows out of shared experiences, rather than something that is achieved by conformity committees.

    Acts 2:1 speaks about the believers being "with one accord". I read that as being there with one purpose in mind. They were a diverse bunch, some of them were even Greek and I am sure that there were differences in belief even then. But they had one purpose in mind. They knew that the good news of salvation should be spread to others. That powered their purpose and put their differences into perspective.

    • I have not seen this emphasis on uniformity, rather, I have seen a great emphasis on everyone doing/believing what is right in their own eyes.

      What example of the church dictating the individual's spiritual experience could you share to illustrate your concern Maurice?

      " I am sure that there were differences in belief even then".

      Isn't this conjecture? What does Acts 2:42, 1 Cor 1:10, or Paul's central issue in Galatians tell us about these supposed differences of belief? Can there be singleness of purpose while we cannot agree on Truth? What was Acts 15 all about? If our beliefs are negotiable, what power will the "truth" have when that truth depends on who is teaching it at the moment. I have faced opposing views of the gospel proclaimed from the same pulpit. How is this good? Why does Jesus warn against false teachings from those who come in His name?

  2. “Christ is the Head of the church, and church leaders are to follow His example as they lead the people of God.“

    In these lessons about unity, it has frequently been stated that one of the church’s roles is to “preserve unity”. And yet the recent attempts to do so are resulting in greater division. I would propose that this is because Christ’s example is not in fact being followed.

    Jesus utters some stunning statements in Matt 10:34-36. Jesus states that He has not come to bring peace, but a sword. The use of the word ‘sword’ indicates the intentional creation of division (see also Heb 4:12). Jesus did not set the creation of unity as a goal. Why?

    I would propose that Jesus knew the paradoxical nature of the process of fostering unity. If you set out to create and preserve unity as your goal, you will guarantee that you will not achieve genuine unity. The best you will get (on a good day) is some degree of uniformity - a superficial form of ‘unity’.

    Genuine unity cannot be directly created because it is a byproduct. That is its inherent nature. It can never be anything other than a byproduct. What is it a byproduct of? Jesus continues in Matt 10:37-39 to answer precisely this question. Genuine unity is a byproduct of self-renouncing love to God and to others.

    Sound familiar? It should. Jesus said this same thing when questioned regarding what was the greatest commandment in Matt 22:36-40. In verse 40 Jesus states that all the law and the prophets hang on this two-fold principle.

    That is not surprising because all of life within the Kingdom of God hangs on this. Everything is a byproduct of self-renouncing love to God first and foremost, followed by consequential self-renouncing love to others. Remember, self renouncing love is the foundation of God’s nature and character (1 Jn 4:8) and is also the foundation of life throughout the entirety of all God’s creations.

    Self-renouncing love is no mere sentimental feeling - it is a principle of living. In fact, it is THE foundational principle for all life and living. That is why Jesus could say it is the greatest commandment and that everything else hangs upon it - or arises as a byproduct out of its foundation.

    So, if the church and it’s leaders really want to follow Jesus example because they really want to see genuine unity, it/they/we will need to let go of trying to pursue unity and instead pursue and foster self-renouncing love through unconditional surrender to God that He might take away our ‘natural’ heart of stone (self-centeredness) and recreate within us a heart of flesh (self-renouncing compassion/love).

    What I am outlining is nothing new. The following quote is from one of today’s recommended readings and was written by one of the founding pioneers of the Adventist church:

    “In loving sympathy and confidence God's workers are to unite with one another. He who says or does anything that tends to separate the members of Christ's church, is counterworking the Lord's purpose. Wrangling and dissension in the church, the encouragement of suspicion and unbelief, are dishonoring to Christ. God desires His servants to cultivate Christian affection for one another. True religion unites hearts, not only with Christ, but with one another, in a most tender union. When we know what it means to be thus united with Christ, and with our brethren, a fragrant influence will attend our work wherever we go.” (Gospel Workers pg 484).


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