Last Sunday my church had a big rally for all of the volunteers. It was a really great night. Tons of fantastic food (they served a salmon dip that was absolutely spectacular and I wish I had a recipe!), some amazing music, and a great opportunity to catch up with some of the others who serve at CRC.
While we were all gathered, one of the pastors took time to share some of the vision of the church and to pass on the stories of those who have impacted by what is going on our church. These are always an encouragement to folks to know that what we do on a given weekend matters to other people.
The primary theme of the event was "Making 1 Great Impact." And the main bullet point that Bill drove home was, "The impact we make for Christ is directly related to the oneness we experience with one another."
But (you knew that was coming, right?).
I don't know that we always apply it as broadly as we should.
I totally agree that within a given church there needs to be oneness for grow and thrive. The more united in purpose a church is, the more the people can get behind it and support it.
I think it matters to the Church at large as well. For better or for worse, I have been a part of a number of Christian faith traditions in my 36 years. I really love that, because it has given me a broad appreciation for what different churches have to offer to the community of faith.
However, there has been some frustration along the way as well, because there seems to be this underlying competition going on within the Church. I don't know that I've ever been to a church where "other" churches aren't mentioned, frequently in negative terms. Too traditional. Too modern. Too liberal. Too legalistic. Too exuberant. Too dead. Too big. Too small. And what it seems to boil down to is too different from what makes me comfortable.
But, as my friend Matt Appling in his 8th Letter stated, "we are not in competition with one another."
I recognize that oneness across denominations and even just with other churches is difficult. I know that there are some genuine areas of disagreement that people have over biblical interpretation and in style or application. And that's okay. I do, however, think that we could at least start by dispensing with the negative painting of other churches in our own church. Maybe the next time we're considering saying something negative about a neighboring church, we can choose to highlight something positive that is going on in their community. Maybe the next time we want to bring up an area where a church is failing, we can instead bring up an area where that church is succeeding. Maybe instead of looking where our church outshines another church, we can see what we might be able to learn from them.
There is nothing wrong with differences in the Church. Paul is pretty clear that we don't all have the same function in the Body of Christ and that if we were, it wouldn't be attractive or effective. However, there are numerous passages that speak to unity and oneness within the Church and I think that we would do well to look at those. And in doing that, I think we genuinely can have a greater impact on our world.
What is something that your church does well? What is something that another church in your neighborhood does well?