Screw Christian Unity, Or Our Crazy Big Beautiful World

This post is my last minute contribution to the Rally To Restore Unity that’s rippled across the blogosphere. I figured I’d post now that you are sufficiently tired of the subject. 

As I mentioned recently, there are scores of churches here in Bend, Oregon, even though it’s a very progressive town (read: hippie) in a very progressive state. The churches are sometimes scattered around and sometimes they are smashed together (downtown there are three churches all within 100 feet of another. Not even Starbucks is that ambitious!)

Seeing so many churches makes me long for Christian unity. There has to be a better way than all of these Christians holed up in their sanctuary not interacting with all of the other Christians within a stone’s throw. However all of the Christians gathered in one building would make for a circus of a service as the pastor would try to hold the collective attention of 15,000 people. He’d have to enter the stage on a lion’s back holding a flame thrower. So I don’t have an answer.

The more I think about it – Christian unity doesn’t make sense. Sorry Rachel. The world is just too big, there are too many cultures at play, there is just too much, well, life. Because life isn’t unified. There is diversity everywhere. Ecosystems, the animal kingdom, primitive tribes, farming villages, and cutting edge cities – all are vastly different and contrasting, yet all belong. Trying to unify them would likely jeopardize the beauty inherent within each one and we’d lose something valuable.

My daughter Noelle shares a message we can all agree on.

So maybe unity isn’t a great goal. Not because it isn’t possible, but because it isn’t how our world is set up to be. Maybe it’s brotherhood* we’re after. Family practically implies diversity. I can’t think of many families that aren’t wildly diverse and maybe even at least semi-dysfunctional – yet they are families nonetheless. It’s their craziness that makes them beautiful.

And really that’s what we’ve lost in today’s Christian world – a sense that all of these other people are our brothers and our sisters. That we’re connected by blood. And that it just isn’t a family without them present. Sure, that guy wants you to send him a “faith” check, and sure that broseph is yelling about drums in worship, and yeah that dude’s got ugly tattoos and a wild imagination about salvation – yet brotherhood.

*for the record I’m not sexist, I would have called it siblinghood rather than brotherhood – but it just doesn’t work. I’ve got nothing against my sisters out there – y’all rock.

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21 Responses to Screw Christian Unity, Or Our Crazy Big Beautiful World

  1. Well, no doubt by now you’re catching onto my introvertedness, so the idea of a church of 15,000 makes me cringe! A few brothers and sisters at a time is how I function best, and honestly, I don’t really care what church they go to. I think unity is possible even among diverse denominations. It’s just a mater of interacting with individuals…not churches.
    Noelle is so cute and happy! You lucky Dad!

  2. Peter says:

    Actually, I feel like your brotherhood/siblinghood is mostly what Rachel has in mind when she calls for unity! Not that we should be united under one roof or belief or understanding of the Gospel – Lord knows that’ll never happen ’till the resurrection – but to be united as brothers as sisters in the Gospel. It seems she wants people to acknowledge that we all love and serve Jesus and are brothers and sisters through that, and even if we totally disagree with what that looks like, we can still accept each other as believers. Most of the signs I’ve seen posted on her blog seem to lean more towards embracing each other and our differences, rather than pretending that we’re all the same.

    At least that’s how I’ve been seeing her online rally.

    • I was obviously being provocative with the screw unity thing. I do think though unity is all well and good – but brotherhood takes it to the next step (for me). You are definitely right though, I was just taking it a bit further.

  3. Isaac says:

    Going to agree with Peter here, I think Unity is geared more towards focus on Christ, and less on assimilation of everyone…But I agree, we are all family-all joined together even we are not present in each other’s presence.

    • I’m all for unity, but I do think we try to fuse it with assimilation (good word by the way, I think I was searching for that while writing my post!)

      • Peter says:

        Assimilation is a great word for what you were describing! Assimilation would never be good for the church – there’s such variety and difference among humanity that it’s good and important for the church to reflect that. Down with the Borg!

  4. Su says:

    Ha ha, you already have comments about siblinghood and the Borg. How can I ever hope to add to this conversation?

    So I’ll just skip straight to oohing and aahing over Noelle. What a cutie! And she already has good taste in sports! Not to mention ice cream!

  5. Larry Hughes says:

    Unity it self is a combination of diverse backgrounds united in a single focus but yet able to remain diverse in their ideals and cultures. I think Paul had this in mind with the varied churches he visited.

    I experienced this happening recently when two different ( denominational) churches banded together to provide support and help in rehabing a donated home for a needy person that lost her home and job. Now that was unity and yet still retained their differences in culture although focused on the same goal..

    Still praying for you to succeed in finding your next job.

  6. Carly Jo says:

    Christian Unity, like Christianity, is more than meeting together on Sunday Morning and Wednesday nights.

  7. Otter says:

    I really like your idea of using ecosystems to talk about church diversity. Not treating other Christians like predators and prey probably isn’t anyone’s glorified vision of the Church presented without spot or wrinkle, but it’s a good start.

    • thanks Otter. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from simply traveling and seeing all of the many ecosystems at play – some very contrasting from the other (I live in an area that goes from rain forest to alpine to desert).

  8. Amy says:

    I agree with you, Charlie. Let’s be the Church, be we don’t have to ALL be together on everything and that’s OK. Noelle is precious–that we can all agree on!

    • haha thanks Amy – you may notice a theme of me trying to use photos of her as much as possible. I imagine if we were together on the same things then we’d actually end up neglecting a lot. The diversity helps us cover a lot of ground.

  9. Devin Rose says:

    Charlie,

    Catholic dude here. Diversity can still exist with visible unity. The Catholic Church in Africa, for instance, has allowed the adaptation of the Mass and liturgical services to include native languages/dress/celebrations/expressions. The idea is that there is much good in all cultures and these good things can be incorporated in a non-destructive way into the Church.

    So the idea is: Christ is for all people. His Church is for all people because it is His Mystical Body. Legitimate expressions of devotion and worship are welcomed while superstitious or otherwise wrong ideas are excluded.

    What do you think?

    • I like that understanding that other cultures aren’t inherently bad. Much of what we call a desire for unity is really a lack of maturity/cultural appreciation. I think our world is too big and bright and beautiful with its variety of ways of living. Of course I’m not saying whatever goes, but I’m with you we should welcome legitimate expressions of devotion, etc even if they aren’t what we are used to. As I say, we are all still family, but we all play in different sand boxes.

  10. David says:

    Here are 5 reasons why Christians don’t have unity.
    -1 Perceived Agreement: They think unity is agreeing, it’s not. The actual verse says “unity in the Spirit”. It is saying you are red, and I am blue, but because of God, we are purple! The Father, Son and Spirit have unity in the Spirit. The work together to accomplish the work of the Kingdom.
    -2 Religion: it is practicing to look like a Christian, tossing around the word of God like a text book, and never connecting with the power. Belief is not faith. A lot of people believe in God, but do not know him. There can’t be in unity without the Spirit.
    -3 Theology: It is supposed to help us understand God, not become a subject in cemetery.
    -4 Culture: Some how we transpose culture onto the church like the Corinthians did, and they made a lot of mistakes. A lot of Christians miss the supernatural side of things because they won’t seek it out and use discernment. They’ll read some blog or book or listen to a TV preacher, but won’t go and check it out in person. Sad.
    -5 People: The message is with us, that is why we need to know him! He doesn’t live in a book.

    I say go visit a dozen church where people claim that things are happening, you might be amazed. Our church held an event Expecting Miracles. 40+ people showed up, and 4 were instantly healed of of their symptoms. I wished that I had been one, but the testimonies were published on Facebook with names. Randy Clark sees a lot of healing – mostly overseas, and now has a doctor on staff working to medically verify them with x-rays and other test results.

    Jesus is deep, very deep, and we sit on the surface saying show me, but he said “go.”

    We do need to think for ourselves, but we need to be grounded in the truth. Books are not truth; they may be revelation, or they may just be modern day Pharisaical blather.

  11. Brian Durbin says:

    I’m not going to say that I believe that all the churches everywhere are going to come together, but I certainly believe that Christian unity is very possible, however, it’s only available through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is what connects believers to one another, which is what took place on the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts. I believe this unity can only be witnessed, however, when multiple believers are fully yielding themselves to the Spirit’s guidance. I used to work in a very busy place, a little while back. When I was yielded to God’s Spirit, it’s almost like I could see others who were yielding themselves to the Spirit. This was quite an experience that made a major impact in my life. It opened my eyes to see that our God is always at work, and not only that, but is ready and willing to use His people for His glory if we’ll allow it. The question is . . .are we willing to yield? God bless.

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