If someone were to ask you what has caused more harm to the Church as a whole, how would you answer? Because I don’t what I would have said a few weeks ago, but then…
During a church meeting a few weeks ago, a member of my church family said: “The existence of denominations and factions within the church is the greatest deception Satan has ever committed against the church.”
I nodded my head in agreement.
I’ve felt that. I’ve known that. I had just never put it into words.
As my friend said this I was immediately reminded of the movie The Usual Suspects and that bastard Keyser Soze. Satan, the Great Illusionist and Perpetual Deceiver, always scheming.
And here I sit,–denomination-less for the first time in my walk with Jesus and I find it liberating. I find it life-giving actually. But, you should see the reactions of other “believers,” when they hear that I do not belong to a particular denomination. When they ask what church I attend and I say “organic church” you would think I said The Universal Church of Good Times and Happy Feelings.
And every once in a while, I have witnessed other believers become so defensive of the way they “do church” and so critical of organic church, that I am reminded of just how anti-God the practice of denominations really is…
The idea that man decided long ago to forgo the concept of unity and oneness and instead embrace a concept that literally creates and maintains fractions within the Church is astonishing to me. More than that, it is heartbreaking…tragic really.
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be NO DIVISIONS among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment…Is Christ divided?” 1Corinthians 1:1-13
“Unity” is certainly a word Christians throw around from time to time. Live in unity. Be unified. Pray for unity. I think, though that most in the church wrongly believe that unity is synonymous with “status quo” You know, that we are all getting along and keeping the peace. No one is fighting or bickering. No one is boat-rocking. We are all “Christians,” as it were.
Unity, however, is defined as “the state of being in full agreement.” Ouch. Or “the quality or state of NOT being multiple.” Ouch again. Or even still, “the quality or state of being made ONE.”
The Usual Suspects got it wrong (as Hollywood so often does). The greatest trick the devil ever pulled wasn’t convincing us he doesn’t exist, but rather telling us that we could never and should never be One.
Then the devil sat back and watched us tear apart the Body of Christ, limb by limb.
But Jesus said this:
“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23
It is our unity–complete unity–that is meant to be an outward display for the world to see and marker to prove to them that Jesus is God. What? I read this verse with new eyes and realized how much we have failed.
I’m not here to give some shpeal about how we can become unified and join together as One Church. I doubt that will ever happen in my lifetime and if it ever occurs, it will be a supernatural work of God. I’m also not here to shame or belittle the thousands of denominations that exist. (Most) are my brothers and sisters in Christ, whom I love as a result.
But I do think living in unity, in our individual church bodies and church families is an important place to start. And I mean true Oneness and unity, as can only be found in Jesus.
But more than anything, I simply want to remind us all of the heart of God. His heart desires, loves, and exalts unity. Oneness is God’s heartbeat–to see His children unified, to see us living “…in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-7
We cannot love the Lord Jesus Christ and simultaneously worship at the altar of division. Either we are One Church or we are not. United not by doctrine or theology, man-made traditions or rules, but held fast by the One who makes us family.
79 thoughts on “The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled”
Had to smile. Went to our charge conference last night. Final emphasis was on “adding more members”. I’m United Methodist. And yes, using the word “united” can be a bit hypocritical in itself. I’ve always figured the denominations probably came about originally just from followers following the “disciple” for whom most matched their personality or style. I never thought too much about it, until as an 8th grader, a friend of mine from a baptist church told me I was going to hell unless I went to her specific church. Wow! That was eye-opening. And didn’t convince me for one second! Oh, the time and effort we spend trying to “set ourselves apart” from denomination to denomination! The idea of an organic church is very interesting to me. Right now I have a solid church home that I would not want to part from. But, if God said so, I’d have to go.
Denominations formed out of the Reformation in 1517 led by Martin Luther. His desire to break away from the universal Catholic church was noble, but out of it factions grew. Then they simply continued.
I’m sorry that you were told that your denomination leads to salvation. I’m so glad that even as an 8th grader you didn’t fall for it!
So awesome and true! My church calls itself non-denominational but since we worship free in the spirit, dance, song, speaking in other tongues etc .. Ppl try to place a label on us .. But as my pastor says the ground at Calvary is equal to ALL and we are all made ONE by the blood of Jesus! When people get their eyes off that fact spiritual pride sets in.. And we know where pride leads! We may not all be in the same place on our journey as a brother or sister but that gives no right to judge or scorn their walk with Jesus :) it’s a personal walk that is to be shared but not made to fit into anyone’s box of religion :D
Well-said. Your pastor too sounds wise. I’m thankful you have such a church family to call home.
I deeply believe this there is a revolution underway, very Peace-filled, and gracious…but a revolution none the less.
the Reformation was ‘good’ but it left the foundation in place a built a new house over it. The Lords House is totally constructed by ‘Living Stones’. we are on the cusp the brink of seeing before our very eyes this paradigm shift. it will be a like an earthquake to the walls of mans religious system, often I think of Jericho.
I ‘see’ Love having His ‘way’ with His Bride…sooner than later…
“you may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”
Beautifully said. I’m dreaming with you friend and asking that your words here be noting less than prophetic.
Nicole, let me say first that I’ve really enjoyed following you for the past several months. I’m not sure how I found you. I think maybe a recommendation from Frank Viola. Anyway, good stuff girl. I would also like to make an observation of what I think I’ve come to in the area of whether denominations are good or bad.
I’m speaking from the vantage point of having been a pastor for 40+ years. I am now, and have been most of my ministry, non-denominational. My current church is a gathering of believers and currently “pre-believers” that meet together on Sundays in a coffee shop/cafe.
I have come to the personal conclusion that the problem isn’t denominations, themselves. Like the saying goes, “It’s not the steeple on the outside that’s the problem, it’s the dead heads on the inside.” I believe that denominations have the potential of expanding the life of Jesus. By that I mean that different strokes are for different folks. It’s probably more an issue of “style.” Some people receive better through one style of presentation and others are more open to another. The problem, in my opinion, is the Western mindset (or maybe it’s universal) of “us and them.” And “us and them” occurs just as strongly in the “non-denominational denominations.” It’s what Paul called, “The Party Spirit.” It’s the way the flesh looks at life. It’s also come from the “there’s one right scriptural/biblical understanding” of things. And, if you don’t understand it my way, “Katie bar the door” you’re on a fast track to hell…..or at least less blessings. So, that’s my 2 cents worth. All of us need to beware of allowing our living faith become ideological faith…regardless of the dress or coat we put on it. Thanks for listening. Looking forward to your next read.
I hear you. I think that the best part of being non-denominational is that I can be something of a “free agent” and go from church to church without it being a huge ordeal. Overseas, I was part of a Baptist church. Back in the states, I’ve been attending a Presbyterian church. Honestly, I see very little difference in the two (the style of communion is a tad different but still biblical). Both churches proclaimed Jesus. Both churches preached the gospel. I think what was very cool is that in the last communion service, the pastor invited all who confess Jesus as their savior – regardless of denomination – to partake. He gets it. The only good thing that does in fact come from a denominational label is that there tends to be more oversight over what is being taught. I’ve been in more than one situation where outright heresy came from the teacher’s mouth, and this was largely due to the fact that there was no central governing body of ministers ensuring that what was being taught was biblical, not just someone’s opinion. On the term “organic” itself, you have to realize that it’s a very loaded word in our current American culture. That in itself can actually be a positive if used in the right context. Don’t shy from it, own it and be ready to turn people’s expectations upside-down.
Well said, Nicole!
I really think you should eliminate the word (Most) from the post as it speaks to the root of the problem. Who are we to judge. It isn’t our role. God calls people to him not denominations there very well could be Christians in even the Muslim religious denomination. And guess what they are a part of the family of God….of the church. The Devil is in the details which often reveal our imperfect hearts.
I added the “most” because I cannot say that every person of every denomination is a fellow believer. That is truth. I do not like making blanket statements like that and avoid them when I can.
Beyond that, I understand your point, but I’d have to respectfully disagree. It actually IS our role to judge other Christians. https://modernreject.com/2012/08/should-christians-judge-others/
It is not our role to judge those outside the church. However, as brothers and sister in God’s family, we absolutely are called to call into question one another’s actions if they do not align with God’s word. In my understanding and reading of scripture, denominations do not, in any way, align with God’s word.
All that to say, however, I never called into question the fact that people of different denominations belong to God’s family. In fact, I say the opposite in calling them my fellow brethren whom I LOVE. The word “most” does not, in my opinion, detract from that.
Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts.
I think denominations can be a good thing but can also very easily be a bad thing. Different people enjoy different ways of worshipping & that’s OK so I understand if someone wants to attend a denomination that is more traditional or one that is more contemporary, etc. But I do agree that at this point in our history, they seem to encourage disunity.
I attend a Church of Christ but I don’t consider myself to belong to that denomination. I belong only to Jesus so when people ask, I say that I currently attend a church of Christ.
Churches should definitely be more unified. I know a pastor who really wanted to unify the churches in his community so he sent all the pastors in his area a letter once a month for six months to let them know about a meeting he was going to hold to talk about it. Those who were interested formed a sort of committee and they all work together to share Christ in their community which I think is very cool.
I agree and disagree. With unity and no division as the ideal, I agree. Like-minded and unity are absolutely a top priority for Christ, and should be for us. You know that’s my heart. But I would strongly disagree with the sentiment that denominations are (in and of themselves) “the greatest trick Satan ever pulled on the Church.” If that were the case, we could say that your “organic church” is a faction and a trick the devil pulled. In that, it is an organized group of Christians who hold particular beliefs but are “excluding” millions of other Christians. Obviously, that wouldn’t be an apt description. But I don’t see denominations as much different. Admittedly, man has used denominations to create factions, but there are plenty that desire unity among themselves and with ALL Christians. Denominations, like a local church body, can simply be organizational vehicles to INCREASE unity, not destroy it. For instance, the denomination I am part of has tens of thousands of like-minded believers who, because of the organization provided by the denomination, share in their faith, resources, and experiences together. And they seek to partner with other denominations to build partnerships and increase unity. Being part of a denomination is no more divisive than being part of a local church body. Even in the early church, the Corinthians were different and set apart from the Thesallonians, but that didn’t make them divided. They had different elders, different resources, and perhaps different practices.
What the early church had right (or at least what Paul and Jesus wanted them to get right) was that they were united in mind and spirit as one “body” of Christ.
The problem with denominations is not that they exist, but that people have used them to support disunity of mind and spirit, not of geography or collaboration. The same could be said of any one local church body. Organization and collaboration are good, but don’t have to be exclusive, as (admittedly) many have become.
Overall, I desire MUCH greater unity in the church. But I don’t think that needs to happen from a grouping or nomenclature perspective, but rather from a unity of spirit as all the denominations and “non” denominations come closer to the stature of Christ.
I agree – i posted right after Ben not knowing he said what i wanted to say
And I agreed with yours as well ;-)
I think you make some great points. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Firstly, I never said “organic church” wasn’t or isn’t a faction of the devil’s trick. In fact, if I were being honest, I would say it is because many people who leave traditional church do so in an attempt to return to the purity of the Ekklesia as modeled in the book of Acts. It is a desire, whether spoken or unspoken–known or unknown–to begin anew unhindered by denomination…which I am arguing was a deception from Satan.
Also, the term “organic church” is just a term. A phrase to attempt to describe an living organism. It is not a denomination, nor is it even a declaration of being non-denominational. It is neither and none. But, my post was in no way a defense of organic church or an underhanded way of saying that it is the best or only way to do church. You know me well enough that I wouldn’t even need to clarify this point, but still.
I agree with your point that denominations can be vehicles to organize resources, but I would not agree that denominations “increase unity.” Denominations increase unity, generally only within their own denomination. Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians are all more united under the umbrella of their specific denomination, but I would be reticent to say that this translates as unity in the whole Church. While I know some churches strive to be non-denominational or reach across denominational lines and work alongside other churches, this is sadly not the norm.
To your point, you equate being a part of a denomination as no different than being a part of a local church. Or the early church where different customs, elders, and resources existed. Here is where I see a huge distinction: denominations are man-made. Now, I certainly don’t subscribe to the belief that if it ain’t in the Bible, it’s sin. But denominations were not formed, nor are they maintained, as simply another means of spreading the Gospel or as another vehicle with which to share Jesus.
Denominations were formed and have continued to exist because they support man’s ideals, theologies, and doctrines. The Reformation began as a noble cause, but quickly men distorted its purpose. The Baptists, for example, were formed for a very specific theological purpose. So when we belong to a denomination we are saying that we doctrinally agree with said denomination. We are ultimately saying we agree with man. It’s not to say we are disagreeing with God, but sometimes it includes this was well.
Jonathan has said this and I intend to write a post about this idea very soon, but it is this: The church has become more concerned with uniformity than unity. This was a profound truth to me that I believe the Spirit revealed to Jonathan. Sadly, I very much see denominations as perpetuating this cycle–uniformity over unity.
All this to say, in no way do I discount the amounts of good that individual churches and denominations do to impact the Kingdom. I have personal feelings about the Catholic church as my family is Catholic and yet I cannot for one moment disvalue the good they have done in the world in the name of Jesus either. I know God can and DOES use every church body that is willing. Like you, I do not think unity it will come from nomenclatures either, but by a move of the Spirit over His Church. And like you, I too long to see greater unity within the Church, and not just in spirit but in practical, measurable action.
Thanks for the thoughtful and articulate response Ben. Love to you.
Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful response. I agree that the church, as a whole, desires uniformity over unity. Your husband is very insightful :-). But the main thrust of my point is this, denominational structure is no more harmful than local church structure. All have the capacity to be vehicles for unity or segregation. I’ll admit, in practice, most denominations have been formed and maintained out of separation from something else. But by your own admitting, isn’t that same “divisive” desire at the root of why people would leave their church to establish an organic gathering. And then, doesn’t the organic gathering end up being dis-unified from other churches? The point I’m trying to make is, unity needs to exist over the entire church, covering local church gatherings (however they look) as well as denominations and other groupings. Denominations may have perpetuated the problem, but they are not the problem, necessarily. See my reply to Donald’s comment.
That to say, my disagreement with you over this issue does not divide me from you. I can acknowledge a difference of opinion, but my value for unity supersedes that. So while I am involved in a “traditional” church and you an “organic” church, we are still (different) PARTS of “one Body”. And you know I love you, your family, and your ministry. I don’t tear down your model or structure, nor you mine; but we support each other as we acknowledge our love for God and others and our mutual desire to make disciples of all nations.
In my opinion, that is a great myopic view of how denominations and churches should work on a larger scale.
by being a group of believers who are slightly different from another group of believers you are a denomination- just a new kind — Webster says: a religious group, a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices – therefore you have simply created a new denomination.
I grew up baptist, went to a Free Methodist college, worked at a Nazarene camp , was a youth pastor for a Covenant church and currently attend and occasionally preach at an Assembly of God church–
so i am all for breaking down walls, but just saying we are not one, does not put you outside of the denomination problem —
I really love the idea of unity and catch glimpses of how your church runs from the posts u share- and i think your church sounds awesome – we should just start a new official denomination called “Matthew 22:37-40” LOVE is where its at God is Love therefore by sharing love we share God
Sorry another post that fits, just saw this from the Pope:
The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements… The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of [sic] the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. -Pope Francis
Also, I’m glad to be married to the one who offered that comment in OC! #reneeronika #genius
You should be proud and yes, she is a genius.
I would disagree Melissa. I think that by most Nicole is assuming that not every single person in every single denomination is a brother or sister in Christ. She is correct. She is not eliminating any sort of denomination or person.
Gary I agree for the most part and enjoyed your comment. It’s been my biggest passion that people go wherever they feel they grow closer to Christ…without scorn of another choice being “better” or the “ultimate” choice, this is not unity. Denominations, and different forms of worshipping him and his Church allow freedom of choice and places to grow in him and form community. It can be the people that change that as you mentioned by taking things out of context and falling to judgement or as you said an “us and them” philosophy. However “rules” people are sometimes taught that do not encourage them who the true head of their church (Jesus Christ) is can be a problem in forming their opinion. It makes it difficult to get moving him from their head (rules, laws and judgement, pharisee mentality) to the heart (salvation and freedom) so to speak. In the end it is up to the person and their personal relationship, however it makes it a lot easier when unity is focusing on Jesus and not what religion you “belong” to. I feel any misleading in this fashion is something that bears responsibility if a church or denomination is doing this. It of course still does not mean that a person that is any particular denomination or church is either in Christ or not… but I am referring to it not being the denomination in itself. I do agree they are the devil when this is the case and do cause disunity. I have learned to pray for the many people in my life that have fallen victim to this mentality by what they are taught, and yes, it is still their choice. A way of thinking I love that I wanted to mention, I live in Phoenix and we are the church of Phoenix. All denominations all church’s for Christ’s cause. And then the US and then the world. Etc. It just gets me so excited thinking of the Church in this manner. All here, united, loving one another in community and working together to grow his name. Wanting blessings for the Church’s intending to further the cause of Christ. For the right people to find them and become a part of God’s community. So exciting! Competition does NOT belong in Christ’s church. It is something I feel so strongly about! A message I just heard this weekend spoke of a Pastor that would bring new start up church’s etc in and tell people in his congregation, hey… if the Lord is leading you to help on this venture.. .here is the address and time. GO next Sunday. 25 families would leave and 50 would take their place. That is the mentality we should have to grow his kingdom! I know many do not think this way….. but I love the stories of brothers and sisters that do. One more, there is a new Church starting in a school soon. A bigger Church called the Pastor to be and he was wondering hmmm. I’m kind of moving in across the street, hope all is good. The Pastor’s of the church across the street wanted to help them in any way… and over the past few months have ended up providing much needed office space to help them in their mission and want to work together to help them in other ways. They are not involved in a denomination or come from the “same”. It’s just about growing Christ’s Kingdom. I just LOVE these stories. So not to get too off topic but had to share, so Cool!
p.s. I think my comment ended up being late because I had problems posting originally… sorry if it no longer makes sense.
I do respect your passion for what you’ve found in body relationship. I also believe that the fruit of the flesh is divisive. However, the work of flesh is nothing more and nothing less than that. The works of divisive flesh. To describe denominations as the “greatest trick the devil ever pulled” and that denominations do not align with the Word of God in any way are, in my opinion, are broad blanket statements that don’t end up really landing anywhere productive.
I appreciate your comments on this subject. But to your point, I think sitting here having to respond to numerous comments about people who want to defend denominations does not lead to anywhere productive either.
I find it telling that one of the questions I posed at the end of my post asked how we as a church can be more unified and yet no one has dared address it. Instead, people would rather tell me that I am wrong for questioning denominations. This isn’t a critique of you, but rather an observation of where the conversation surrounding this post has led.
Also, if I made a blanket statement and stated that denominations “do not align with God’s Word in any way,” please show me where so I can correct that statement because I am usually carefully to never use such language.
The problem I have with your assertion is that it forgets the fact that Christianity itself started as one faction among many, so your portrait paints a romanticized vision of unity that has never existed. Even within the Christian schema, theological diversity has always been a defining characteristic.
Christianity beginning as a faction (which I think definitionally is a stretch, but I’ll give it to you) does not mean that God intended for it then splinter into many more factions. And in the case of the first century church, a “faction” looked quite different than today and the concept of a denomination was non-existent.
I would argue, however, that Christianity began as a response, not a faction. It began as response to a Person and grew from there. Whether we debate that point or not, it does not in any way paint “a romanticized vision of unity that never exited.” Far from it!
When Gentiles were welcomed into the family of God as brothers and sisters, it was a revolution in unity. When women were considered fellow heirs with Christ, it was a revolution in unity. When Paul wrote some 2000 years ago in an ancient society, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus,” it was a radical, earth-shattering, and profound revolution in Oneness. I cannot speak for Paul, but I doubt very much that he wrote those words and simply forgot to add “but feel free to embrace factions within the Body when you feel like it.”
To your last point, I never suggested that theological diversity is unwelcome or unhealthy. Theological diversity, however, is neither the purpose or the aim of the Church. Nor should it be one of its defining characteristics , in my opinion. When Jesus said that it might be our “complete unity” which marks us, I do not see this translating into theological diversity. That is not to say that I believe God desires us to be a herd of mindless, homogenous sheep. Of course not. But as I mention to Ben in the comments, as well, the concept and practice of denominations seems to further elevate uniformity over unity. There is a distinction to be made between thinking the same and corporately having the mind of Christ. The former is often a result of denominations, the latter a byproduct of unity.
Name one “theological diversity” that has shown, proven, or cemented the unity of The Holy Spirit in The Bride of Christ.
Theology is man trying to figure God my Father out so they can encapsulate Him and put Him into clever boxes that they can manage on their own.
If not for theology, gosh, what would mega-church “pastors” have to rant on and on about to make sure the pews stayed full so they could keep their careers?
If not for theology, gosh, how many weeks would go by without the newest of the new flavor-of-the-week Christian “self-help book” written by armchair theologians with more degrees than days spent in the really real world of pain, suffering, death, and evil doing what needs to be done so Christ Jesus is truly glorified, pulling the orphans of the enemy into my Father’s Kingdom as adopted sons?
If not for theology, gosh, would any of us really, and I mean reeeeeeally know anything about The Holy Bible, since no one with a degree or certification could properly teach it to us?
Theology. Pfft. Nothing more than what happens when Christians have too much free time on their hands.
Fine, I’ll say it:
Denominations are the sharpest of bloody knives wielded by mere men and used to slice and carve The Body of Christ into comfortable and controllable portions, establishing religious segregation, delighting in their false sense of elitism, and claiming that they hold the true faith like it is a tamed dog.
I despise the machinations of dust given life through the breath of the very God who made them in the first place, as they vainly and arrogantly seek to establish for themselves their own “mini-kingdoms” here, this side of my Father’s Heaven, complete with spoken and unspoken rituals, demands, rites, and the filthy guile of desperation.
Yes. I said it. And I do feel better, thank you for asking.
Holy crap. I feel better too. Thank you for saying it. Someone had to. Truly.
How does this comment promote unity? Wouldn’t it be better to work to unify denominations rather than make a (incorrect) blanket accusation? Denominational structure is not the problem, the problem is a spirit of disunity among people in the church who let particular beliefs and practices divide. Yes, denominations have been largely responsible for this, but why not pick on the local church, too. If ten non-denominational churches are in a ten mile radius, I’ll bet no more than two of them work together. Does that make the local church model “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled?” Of course not. If ten organic church gatherings (which, by the way, I am a proponent of) are in a ten mile radius but only two consistently interact with each other, does that make them “the greatest trick…”? Of course not. It means that the local church, like denominations, are filled with people who (as Jonathan said) prefer uniformity over unity. The thing we need is to create a value for unity that will allow the healthy structure (and dare I say, organization) of local churches, denominations, and other groupings of believers, however they look, to overcome their differences of opinion to love one another as God desires.
very true – we tried starting a once a month open air (held in a down town plaza) worship service and invited musicians from any church in the area to send members to join the worship team – we rep’d 4 churchs the first time but by the end it was just our church leading every month – the other churches did not desire that same unity or they did desire it, just felt we were not going about it the right way – either way what eventually included 5 different churchs and a local college – ended with the one church that started it… Sadly many enjoy the uniformity that they find within their own walls too much and find it hard to go outside their norm to share the love of God
You’d like what PhoenixONE is doing here. It’s very much about unity among churches (regardless of denomination). They are seeing some great success. phx1.org
Who said I was here to promote unity?
The Bride has been infected by the whispers of the enemy in the shape of denominational division, taking root like a cancer, and even producing fruit to the naked eye, so that the ignorant claim, “Surely this must be of God, look at the good things happening!”
But that which immediately gratifies rarely ultimately satisfies. The denominational American churches reek of rotting theology and the tell-tale scent of religion, but since they are hip, trendy, cutting-edge, and cool, offering up a tailor-made Jesus who is a buddy, a pal, a homeboy, and no one speaks about their stench.
I, however, will. I have yet to see one American denominational church save anyone.And yes, Ben, when I say “denominational” I am also referring to the fringe “non-denominational” camps you want me to mention.
But I also bow before the Sovereignty of the Living God of Israel, and if He is indeed creating and controlling denominations for His glory, for His purposes, then how can I possibly stop them? Let God be true and every man proven to be a liar. Including me, if I am wrong.
Yes! Thank you.
Good article. It is an interesting contrast to the article written by Relevant magazine espousing the opposite side of the coin. The comments do seem to be a bit in similarity to the government shutdown with us arguing over if something is good or bad without addressing the problem. I feel there are benefits of the connected nature within certain denominations, but as a pastor at a large church in my denomination, I do sometimes feel a bit stifled by “party lines”. That said, one of my former interns now works for a large Presbyterian church down the road. Another friend of mine is the high school pastor at the Atlanta mega church, and another is a pastor at a more organically grown house church that meets in a gym. As a pastor I enjoy learning how each of these men and women reach people with the Gospel in a variety of ways. I think it is in this spirit where the balance lies. Denominations probably aren’t going away anytime soon (like our national debt situation), so rallying towards a common solution (seeing people come to know Christ through a variety of contexts) seems the best path forward.
Also, not be a troll, but the first church split was actually began in 1053 with the Roman church vs Eastern Orthodox although you could actually trace it back to Paul and Barnabas when they split ways over taking Mark with them on their journey (Acts 15).
Jesus prayed in the Garden that we “would be one” (John 17). This doesn’t mean we have to forfeit denominations; this only means that God desires we learn to regard each person’s belief in and love of Jesus first before we start nitpicking doctrinal issues.
What would happen if Christians gathered just to worship Jesus, to share how he’s changed us, what He might be saying to the corporate body? What if over here there was a preterist; over there, a neo-Calvinist? Would it make a difference to Jesus who has it “right,” or do you think He instead might be more interested in interceding on our behalf, on revealing Himself to the body through the Holy Spirit, pretty much how he operated while he walked this dusty earth?
I’m not sure how the “I’m right” mentality got shoved to the forefront of so much thinking, but I believe if we humbled ourselves and began to ask more questions–even admit that some of the answers aren’t *that* important–we may be able to find deeper intimacy with others because our freedom to just believe allows for a deeper revelation of/intimacy with Jesus.
I wrote this a while back for a unity synchroblog. I still stand by its tenets: http://prestonyancey.com/2012/02/atlt-that-we-may-be-one-renee-ronika-klug/
Love this response Renee. The Church needs a heart change, not (necessarily, but maybe, to facilitate heart-change) a structural change. If all the denominations went away tomorrow, I would argue that the church would be less unified. It’s like Social Security. No, it’s not working great, but imagine what would happen if it dissolved tomorrow?
It’s about placing a Person and people over opinions and postures.
Brilliantly said. I wish I had said it. This is the point I wanted people to land on, to get to, to consider. But what started happening instead was a debate on the good versus bad of denominations.
I don’t want to debate denominations. I want to cast vision for a greater unity within the Body. Your comment did it. Too bad my controversial, button-pushing, boat-rocking tendencies always get in the way of my agenda. When will I learn?
Why must you “learn”? Be that which our Father wants you to be, and He will put others in your life to balance you out as He sees fit. That’s why I know Jonathan, you see. I am all about fire, blood, war, and destroying every false thing that would exalt itself against the knowledge of God, and yet Jonathan is strong in love, peace, counsel, and having that uncanny ability to walk amongst thorns and not come away bleeding and scraped.
Our Father does have a peculiar sense of humor, doesn’t He? ;) It’s laughable (at first glance) that your husband and I even know one another, but there it is. Jonathan cannot change me, and I cannot change him, but we can easily flow as brothers in the Family of Christ, and complement one another because our Jesus is just that complex.
Nicole…Here is a cut and paste out of a response to Michelle, “In my understanding and reading of scripture, denominations do not, in any way, align with God’s word.”
You make a very good point about nobody responding to the subject of how might we promote unity. It’s a telling sign that human nature tends to like to wade into the controversies of “us and them” mentality. I will give to the point that denominationalism presents fertile ground for the development of us and them. However, I still believe the the real culprit is the tendencies of human nature, period and shows itself very easily in any environment religious or secular. A thought for consideration, “What did Paul mean by critiquing those who were saying, “I am of Christ” and lump them together with the other metaphors of the “party spirit.” So, anyway, I think that one reason people respond better to controversy is because it is faaaaar harder to personally work on unity. First of all it shines too many lights on our own skeletons that we prefer to justify rather than judge. Also the kinds of things that promote unity that’s not just another form of religious activity often takes us off the map of what might be acceptable to our “brethren.” I also believe that unity is best served up “one face at a time” Also…it’s just my opinion, of course, but I had a different take on the responses than you may have because I wasn’t in the position of people responding to something I just wrote. It seemed to me that most of the responses were not being defensive of denominations as it, “don’t attack my denomination. I like it and nobody is going to tell me different.” I read most of the responses as a comments to why they felt that “denominations are the greatest demonic trick” was an over statement or not address the actual cause that’s deeper in disunity. One, late on in the thread, took the idea to the extreme that leads me to believe they’ve been deeply hurt and offended by religious organizations. Let me end by re-stating that I really enjoy your writing. When I see it show up in my inbox, I typically put off reading other articles until after I’ve read Modern Reject. I know I would love fellowship with your church if I lived there. I understand “throwing hand grenades in the middle of the room.” My own blog style tends to be pretty edgy to make people think. It is just my opinion that the premise of this article is overstated. Blessings, Sister!
Yup. I said that and I stand by it. Based on what I find in scripture, there is no support for denominations–at least not in the traditional and modern way we understand them. If you have scriptural support for denominations, please share. I am always open to hearing another perspective of God’s words.
Your insights as to why unity is difficult to discuss let alone achieve are wise, to be sure. I appreciate your viewpoints on the subject. I suppose my viewpoint could be overstated, as you suggest, but then again I do not hear anyone offering an alternative. Perhaps that is a blog post follow-up to this one. Thank you also for the kind words. If you ever find yourself in Phoenix, you are invited to join us for a church gathering.
Blessings to you, brother, as well!
BTW, did I mention how cool it is that you’re blogging again? The blogosphere has missed you! :-)
Thanks for the encouragement on being back to the blogosphere. I’m already exhausted, but thankful.
I’ve been non-demoninational virtually my whole life. Can’t imagine it any other way. And I agree with you, I believe demoninations are a deception.
Great point. We cannot impact the world for Jesus as a un-unified Body. We simply cannot…at least not in the power and glory that God deserves. Tanks for stopping by and commenting!
…and how are we to truly change the world if we are not united as a Body?
Nicole….what a bold (and intimidating) topic on which to write, imho. the 1 Corinthians passage confounds me each time i come to it. i absolutely believe that we are and are meant to be “one body” but i am perplexed by certain doctrines and traditions. how, for instance, can i be in full agreement with a church that pickets funerals with “God hates …” signs? (not to be too specific, of course. :) ) (maybe that isn’t even the best example.) in (most) other cases, i may interpret Scripture a different way but (often) make a choice to believe that the hearts of those who interpret differently are sincere and striving for the same goal: to manifest God’s love, glory, and saving grace. i belong to a denominational church but, like you, i believe “(Most) [other denominations] [or non-denominational/organic bodies] are my brothers and sisters in Christ, whom I love as a result.” i gleefully anticipate the day when we’ll all be of like/one mind in all matters. thank you for this post!!
Thank you for sharing. You asked so many good questions. I wrote a couple of posts a few weeks back that I think addresses the heart of what you are asking. If you’re interested:
Beyond that, what I say in the posts I linked to, is that having the mind of Christ does not mean we all agree on doctrine or theology. It means we mutually and corporately submit to Jesus Christ as Head. It is not a perfect nor easy practice, but as we surrender our agendas to His will and His SPirit we can experience the power, beauty, and freedom that comes.
Nicole, I will agree with you that the scriptures don’t literally support organized religious groups we call “denominations.” However, I think you might also agree that there are things that all individuals and groups observe that aren’t specifically “supported” literally by scripture. But that’s a subject that can really open up a hornets nest of conflict. In fact, in my viewpoint that is often the argument used by many regarding their differing opinions of scriptural interpretation. Ie: This/that which you believe is not scriptural/biblical (supported by scripture. After all these years, where I stared proudly and often argumentatively as “Sola Scriptura” came to a position that a more “accurate” understanding of God’s message through the Scriptures is more narrative theology than propositional positions. I absolutely do not mean by that that we can’t take the scriptures literally when they are intended to be, and I definitely believe we need to understand the best we can what they do mean and did mean in their historical contexts and meanings. However, I know quite a few people who’ve left denominations (“because they aren’t scriptural) that begin taking on very divisive attitudes in their new “non denomination” denominations. I am not referring to you, or myself. I have been shepherding in a very non traditional non denominational group of people myself for many years. I have other brothers and sisters who are avid fundamental cessasionists that have thrown me under the bus because what I believe about the current working of the Holy Spirit in healing and other giftings is, to them, not supported by scripture and that I’ve been duped by the devil. They would say that current day pentecostal/charismatic theology is “the greatest deception the devil has ever pulled.” In fact John MacArthur just did a big conference called, “Strange Fire” where his entire foundation was based on the argument that pentecostal/charismania is not founded by scripture. I also have a friend who is part of a growing group called, Torah Pursuant, that very strongly believes that any “modern Christian” is duped by the devil if they don’t keep the O.T. Feasts, Sabbath, etc. because their position is supported by scripture and mine isn’t. Therefore, that is the very reason I have come to an extremely cautious position of attempting to enforce my views with the argument that “that view, or that interpretation, or that custom is not supported by scripture.” Again, there are probably quite a few things that we all think, do, or observe in our attempts to love and follow Jesus that aren’t supported by chapter and verse literality. I think our safest, most positive way of bringing about unity is living our lives, individually, as a unifier. Where there are weeds, let God pull them up lest we end up in our zeal pulling up good wheat along the way, unintentionally. Again…blessings to you!
You said you’ve gotten a lot of responses that were just “defending denominations” and not addressing the problem of disunity, and I think the reason most people have gotten so defensive is the way you distinguish organic church from “denominations.”
You start of by saying denominations are the greatest trick of the devil, and then describe your own church life as “denomination-less.” So you can imagine how someone could read that as saying, “you’ve been duped by Satan because you’re not doing church the way I am. The _____ Church you’re a part of is full of man-made traditions that tear the body of Christ, while we do church as God intended it.”
This may not be your intention, but it was my immediate impression of your post and, I imagine, the immediate impression of others as well. I won’t fault you for my impression of your writing, but I will say this: your claim that the organic church is “denomination-less” is devisive and false.
The organic church is a denomination: a distinctly Evangelical Protestant one at that. There is nothing wrong with this. There is nothing wrong with any denomination, but there is something seriously wrong with denying you are just a subset of the larger whole of christianity.
I realize that the organic church is remarkably inclusive for a protestant denomination. There can be calvinists and arminians and creationists and evolutionists and all variety of protestant ideas present in one organic church. But it is still protestant. It is defined by protestant ideas like sola fide and evangelical ideas like sola scriptura and biblical inerrancy.
You will not, cannot, find a Catholic or an Orthodox Christian in an organic church setting because it provides no access to the priest administered sacraments that are center to their faith and practice. You will not find a high church Anglican either, because of the lack of liturgy that brings them closest to God. Many church of christ members would find the idea that the organic church is “going back to the start of christianity” insulting, as their movement claims to do the same thing.
In short, I’m saying the organic church is a good thing. It is a healthy expression of Christ’s body, but it is in no way “denomination-less.”
How can we solve the disunity problem? By recognizing Christian tradition for what it is: a conversation. Our unity comes from our shared experience of the Lord Jesus Christ, the conversation, though varied and heated at times, is our response to that experience. The organic church is a relatively new voice in this conversation, and many of the older voices rail against it, but “let no one despise your youth.”
Also, I wanted to clarify: I wasn’t trying to insinuate that you specifically were young or new to the faith, just that the tradition you identify with (the organic church, with Jon Zens and Frank Viola being significant influences) is. I am actually younger than you (likely younger than most of you on this board), so I’m in no way appealing to age as authority. I was just trying to frame the Organic church in the grand 2000 year old narrative that is church history.
And, to add one more thought to this tediously long comment: The organic church is not alone in claiming to be “denomination-less”. Most young church movements made this claim. The Anabaptists and the Stone-Campbell movement come to mind immediately. The Stone-Campbell movement specifically claimed to be, like the organic church, a restoration of 1st century church practice. Such a thing is impossible, of course, because at no point in history has there been a completely unified christian church that shared beliefs and practices.
Not for nothing, but I honestly do not think Nicole is saying in any fashion that her local organic ekklesia is evangelical, and rightly so. I fail to see the “Evangelical Protestant” reference you made.
At no point is The Bride, The Church supposed to be evangelical in and of itself. The Church, as Christ is building it, is for those within The Kingdom, not meant to be an open invite with an altar call or two. We, as sons of God, gather with one another (ekklesia) and are edified, encouraged, challenged, rebuked, matured, loved, and empowered to go out of The Bride as individuals to bring Light into the darkness of The World. No one has been saved by The New Covenant because they attended a church service as a stand-alone event. People are saved by the Sovereign will of our Father, and it has always come down to meeting Christ Jesus. As I have said before, I refuse to invite people to attend “my church”. I prefer to invite them into my life. Because it is a truer than true fact that “church life”, as defined by denominations, is NOT Kingdom Life.
The Bride can save no one. The Groom is The Savior, The Bride is His. We cannot confuse evangelism with Kingdom Life, as they are NOT the same thing.
I’m in no way saying the organic church is evangelical in the sense that it stresses evangelism. Rather, I’m saying, the organic church shares beliefs and ideals with the Evangelical tradition.
Also… when you say that church life as defined by denominations is not kingdom life, do you mean to say that the generations of christians who came before the organic church movement did not experience kingdom life?
The organic ekklesia life came way before denominations did. And yes, I would bet dollars to donuts that before the creation of said “let us put God into our own boxes of comfort and controllability” denominations, The Bride was organic in nature. Since the creation of denominations, and you know what I mean by this – Institutionalized Christianity – there has been a huge quenching of The Spirit and His present-day ministry.
And truly, without The Spirit, what are the denominations of mere men but white-washed tombs of doctrine?
Evangelical (you use this word often, Matt…do you have a theological bone to pick with Evangelicalism?) tradition? Define, please. Give me examples, if you would be so obliging to do so. I am curious as to your theological acumen.
Donald, Some of what is happening here actually helps in the process of unification of the Bride…conversation. Follow-up conversations bring clarity to what a person is actually “saying” within the context of their words. I know you were responding to Matthew, but respectfully, I believe you misunderstood Matt. He did not say that Nicole considered the more “organic” style of church she attends as evangelical. He, himself, said that he believed that some of it’s beliefs would be common to evagelicalism. Of course, he was assuming that without knowing for sure without attending.
Along with my interjection, though. I do not believe this conversation is most helpful by “attacking or defending” Nicole’s understanding. It’s a very relevant conversation that is very much on the minds of alot of Jesus Followers that desire a closer walk with him. Maybe the Comment section of a blog post is not the best way, but it certainly offers the opportunity for a wide diversity in the conversation.
You’re right, I was making an assumption based off of what Nicole has written before as well as the writings of prominent figures in the organic church movement. It may have been unfair to generalize so broadly. Thanks for pointing that out.
Sorry, for whatever reason, the website won’t allow me to actually reply to your comment. Basically, the reason I use Evangelicalism so frequently is not because I have “a theological bone to pick”, but because the modern organic church movement came out of that tradition, as opposed to mainline protestantism, Catholicism, Orthodox or Coptic. Now, when I say Evangelicalism, I’m referring to a form of Christianity defined by low church (meaning limited liturgy) practice, sola scriptura (only the bible should influence our beliefs or practices), and crucicentrism (a significant focus on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross).
Judging from Nicole’s posts, your own comments, and the work of people like Jon Zens, Frank Viola (he would call himself “post-evangelical”, but his doctrines are still influenced by evangelicalism), Milt Rodriguez, Jamal Jivanjee and others, the Organic Church movement shares these ideals. At the risk of generalizing, there is also a distinct grass roots feel to evangelical movements, and Evangelical groups form most often to call out existing institutions for their (perceived) corruption and distortion of God’s truth. This is also true of the Organic church.
Again, I’m not calling the Organic Church Evangelical in order to dismiss it, I’m only trying to classify it, so we can understand how it interacts and compares to the other Christian faith traditions.
Now, onto your claim that organic ekklessia life existed prior to denominations: this is sort of true. House church practice was very common among many Pauline and non-Pauline christian communities in the 1st and 2nd centuries. It was in no way, however, the type of church in existence. Many church’s emulated synagogues, many christians continued to attend synagogues. The proto-orthodox, for example, quickly established a structure similar to the modern Catholic church.
I don’t have much time to get into the history of it all, because I have to go to marching band practice, but I can come back later and elaborate a little further. If you’re interested, there are plenty of histories of Christianity out there by fantastic scholars: Paul Johnson and Bart Ehrman come to mind immediately.
A very elaborate response. Yet, for someone who wasn’t there, you seem to presume and assume much.
Jesus. The disciples. Jerusalem. Pentecost. The Bride is born. Nothing about that has changed through the years and years. It is still very much the same.
Man has tried to put even that truth into a theological box, made more for a lecture than daily application.
Hope your marching band practice was good.
It was good. I’m in the UGA redcoat band, and the sheer size of it can make rehearsals stressful sometimes, but it was very relaxed yesterday.
I can see how the certainty of my language can come off as presumptuous, but I only assume we can trust the scholarly research on the early church. It is ridiculous to assume we can’t. The majority opinion is what we go on when we teach history, so that’s what I go on when I try to learn history. The early church is a historical entity; we can know about it just as much as we can know about the fall of Rome, or the settling of America. There are, of course, different theories concerning the interpretation of the evidence we have, but again, the majority opinion is almost always going to give you the clearest picture of what’s going on.
Anyway, I agree with you about Pentecost. Jesus was crucified, dead and buried, on the third day He rose again. He spends some time with the disciples, proves He’s alive, shares a meal ascends, etc. The disciples kind of feel their way through things until Pentecost (really interesting that this is the day when the Jews commemorate receiving the Torah) when the Spirit comes in full force and the Bride is born. Where we disagree slightly is what the Bride looks like, and whether “factions” in the church are against God’s will. I don’t think so. For one, the evidence points to the fact that there has never been a truly unified church in practice and belief, except perhaps the Jerusalem Church prior to the initial spread of Christianity, but that church we know from Acts was still holding to the Jewish dietary codes, and frequented the Jewish temple, so it doesn’t really look like anything we have today.
On a more spiritual level, I think the various denominations are necessary to express the Bride and Body of Christ fully. Jesus didn’t give us one illustration of the Kingdom; He gave us many. The denominations too can be seen as the different expressions of the Kingdom of God on Earth.
There is no problem, as I see it, with viewing denominations this way. The body is still one, she’s just expressed in ways that no one church practice could express her, and the truth of her nature and message (and thus, the nature and message of her Lord) are far grander and more nuanced than any one church tradition could have supposed.
The problem in the church that damages are unity, is the belief that the church should be unified in doctrine and practice. When you put this restriction on the body, you create an “us vs. them” mentality, and you divide the body into camps. Rather than having the Body expressed in Catholic or Orthodox Mass, or in a Protestant Congregation, or in a house group, you have each congregation declaring “This is what the Body looks like, the rest of you are wrong.”
Haha, i just butchered the first sentence in that last paragraph. Never type about the Church while texting about artificial gravity in Star Trek, you’ll screw up both. It should read “What damges the Church’s unity is not the existence of denominations, but the belief that the church should be unified in doctrine and practice.”
I believe that to achieve unity within the denominations, we MUST show grace and love to people in other denominations and agree to disagree on anything that does not involved the gospel. We all see through a glass darkly and, for example, no one TRULY understands how free will and God’s sovereignty really work because they seem to be opposing forces, so let’s stop pretending that we know authoritatively about this particular process of God. Let’s see the different denominations as different colors in a tapestry God is weaving and *trust God* that He is in control of *His Church* even if if we disagree with people of that particular denomination regarding miracles, speaking in tongues, prophesying, and other disputable matters. The Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed, written to keep the church both unified and free from corrupting God’s message of salvation would be a great way for all denominations, including the Catholic Church to agree with each other and let all other things be considered disputable matters. I am saying this as a reformed arguer over spiritual “truths” because one day, in the middle of a debate, God figuratively smacked me upside the head with his heavenly 2×4 and said, “Stop it! You’re not helping Me.”
I so agree! In no way do I ever wish to shame or judge any denomination or its members. Never. I think grace and love, as you stated, is critical. It should be without saying, however, since it is by our love for one another that we be known.
I appreciate your tapestry illustration, however, I tend to see it a bit differently. Because I see each member of God’s church as unique and beautiful enough in their own right. We, the people of God, make up the tapestry–not denominations. We do not need denominations to represent the complexity, richness, beauty, and uniqueness of the Church. Christ does that in us alone, I believe.
And I do not relish arguing over spiritual truths either. I wrote this post in the hopes of discussing the need for unity within the Body. Like the Lord told you, debating these issues is neither fruitful nor helpful–but bringing everything back to Jesus always is! Thanks for your thoughts and comment. Thank you too for the kind words about me being back to blogging!
By the way, it is good to have you back and reading your perspective, even if I don’t agree with everything you say :-D.
I’ve been pondering this article throughout the weekend and came up with one more aspect for your perusal and judgment:
As a son whose theology and “denomination” (eeek, yes I said denomination for lack of better word) is cemented in the adoption by the Holy Spirit through the New Covenant, denominations force me to modify my speech and behavior so as to understand where the other person is coming from, should they be entrenched in a denomination of man’s making.
Like if I am speaking to a Baptist, I know they aren’t too ken on the SPirit’s present-day ministry ala signs and wonders or prophecy because their doctrine eschews it.
Or if I am speaking to an Assemblies of God person, I know I can speak freely of The Spirit and they won’t flinch or think I am a freak.
Each denomination then creates a mindset and application that others must accommodate. Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans, etc., etc. None of them are the fullness of Christ Jesus, because each of them only takes from Him what they are comfortable with and throws the rest of Him down to the floor. It’s a shame, yes?
As a son I can only relate to other sons in Christ, because I have nothing in common with denominations when it comes to their chosen theologies or doctrines. Sonship is Salvation. Sonship is The New Covenant. The New Covenant is Salvation. It all fits together so perfectly.
Sorry, one more thing….!
Here’s an aspect that came to me this morning:
So we get together, we gather, in the name of Christ Jesus our King and Lord, and then someone says, “Well, sure, we’re all meeting together but someone needs to be the leader….someone needs to take charge!”
And then BOOM. This is when man decides he is better at running the things of God than God is. This is when man decides that surely the things of God need our interference, administration, and fussiness, although in all fairness man does this through the best of intentions at times. Yet that’s the rub, isn’t it? You see, our best intentions rarely, if EVER, line up with His purposes.
So we gather and someone decides one of us must become the Pastor and lead that particular body, and forgetting we already have The Great Shepherd who does His “job” perfectly.
Shame, that. If only all within The Bride would submit 100% to our Father, and throw their vain imaginations down to the floor. Shame, that.
I think you make an excellent point. Denominations exist, by definition, to group together like-minded individuals based upon theology and doctrine. We watch our brothers and sisters place themselves inside restrictive, binding “groups.”
My bigger issue, which I think you touch on, is that we are finding commonality through theology instead of through the Person of Jesus Christ. He binds. He is our denomination, as it were.
Thank you once agin for sharing your thoughts and engaging me here.
We watch them place themselves in binding and restrictive groups and they wonder why we get so peeved about it, when all we want is for them to cast aside the thoughts of mere men and cling to His Spirit.
Who else but Christ can speak perfectly of Christ? Exactly.
I wrote this over at BethelPatch, beginning the call to the believers in the area for organic ekklesia. I wanted to share it here with you because you and Jonathan are kinda my mentors in this endeavor. I will link it as well. http://bethel.patch.com/groups/bethel-organic-ekklesia/p/what-is-organic-ekklesia
The biggest question I face when speaking to people about organic ekklesia is, “Okay, what is it?”
No problem. I’m happy to explain it as best as I am able. ;)
In Christianity there are numerous denominations, ranging from Baptist to Assemblies of God, with countless denominations in between. Each denomination has their own feel, their own flavor, and are designed to give people a comfortable environment, based upon their own affectations and desires, to have church.
The thing is, each and every local or nationwide “chain church” is not The Church, The Bride of Christ. No matter how well-intentioned, denominations will inadvertently miss a piece of the big picture of Christ Jesus and The New Covenant, either through purposed doctrinal positions or theological misunderstandings. Consider that when any church puts forth a “Statement of Belief”, it is a mixture of Scripture and human interpretation.
These are bound to fail when compared to, and measured against, The New Covenant. Man simply does not have the capacity to understand the wholeness and totality of Christ Jesus. His wisdom is not ours, to be sure. And no matter how admirable the intentions, nor the collegiate degrees pointed to, man can only bastardize the purity and power of The New Covenant once man tries to put Jesus into a box of theological comfort. In simpler terms, man cannot grasp Christ Jesus of his own intellect; only The Spirit of Christ can fully reveal and explain Christ.
Since this is truer than true, why does man continue to vainly seek to put Jesus into a box at all? Why cannot mankind, redeemed mankind, simply be The Church, and submit themselves to the Great High Priest, The Good Shepherd Christ Jesus Himself, and let His Spirit control the local gatherings of said redeemed humanity?
That, right there, is organic ekklesia.
We submit to, bow to, and abdicate our own intellects and strengths to The Holy Spirit, asking Him to lead our ekklesia done in the name of Christ Jesus. We cling to His very words, knowing that He is in control, and He leads us. He is our Pastor, our Shepherd, our King and Master. Not one man, this side of Heaven, being merely animated dust given life through the breath of God, can ever take His place. Ever.
That, right there, is organic ekklesia.
1 Corinthians 14:26 nails it succinctly in saying:
“What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
If your local church is not doing these things, then who exactly is running your local church? Exactly.
The Holy Spirit is a spirit of order. He will not allow mere men to hijack His Bride for their own purposes and agendas. Yet each and every Sunday in America we see that very thing happening. This should not be so. There is a better way. His way. His purpose.
Organic ekklesia is organic in the sense of simply gathering together, in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, and looking to The Holy Spirit to control the ekklesia. No programs. No agendas. No scripting. Just Him and His leadership and guidance and counsel. As it should be. We are a family, not a social club.
This is a call to join me in organic ekklesia. Let us walk together under the power of The Spirit, ministering as He leads us to, and loving on one another as is fitting The Bride of Christ Jesus. It will be new to some of you. It might even be uncomfortable at first, and difficult to understand. Some of you will become frustrated and scared because you have left the mandated structure of the institutionalized American churches. But it’s okay. Jesus understands this. And through patience, submission, and a desire to walk in the fullness of Christ, we can see His Kingdom here and now, in Bethel, CT and beyond.
There are also a lot of “non-denominational” gatherings are really just another denomination, under the impression that everyone else has got it wrong, secretly (or openly) wanting everyone to leave their denominations and join theirs.
“Church life”, meaning the local, Sunday morning experience, is not the same as Kingdom Life.
One is a social club with secret passwords, secret handshakes, unspoken expectations, and a slew of prerequisites for membership therein. It is temporal and tenuous at best, and slavery at worst.
The other is a family, a citizenry, made up of priests, slaves, servants, and sons, broken but not in pieces, wounded and yet perfectly healed, whose membership is dependent not upon anything we do, but all based on what He did. In Kingdom there is no down-side, no caveats, no hidden pratfalls or traps.
We cannot build The Church. We can, however, advance The Kingdom.
Maaaaaybe one of my favorite things you’ve ever written, right here. A golden nugget of truth and wisdom. If believers could just catch a glimpse of this, just a taste…it would change things and people.
;) Thank you for that affirmation, my sister and friend.
Great thoughts Nicole!
Denominations can become clubs for like minded people, always looking in and never reaching across and working for unity, realizing the dream of the church being one, as Jesus prayed for in John 17.
But as a church planter who is planting an organic house church in Houston, I know that our church can also drift and become club-like. The organic is not a vaccine against the attacks of the devil.
Whether our churches are “organized” or “organic”, belong to a denomination or are non-denominational, we are all susceptible to ways of being, thinking, and doing that create disunity in the universal church.
The existence of denominations is a challenge, no doubt. But I do not see their existence as a grave spiritual threat to unity. I see the challenge, but also, the opportunity. In the body of Christ, we strive for unity, not uniformity. I know and have experienced first hand examples of churches celebrating denominational differences, while still uniting for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ going forth…unity, without uniformity.
For the past two years, I have been a part of a network of churches from Five different denominations (ethnically, theologically, socio-economically), who have come together to physically, emotionally, and spiritually transform a specific neighborhood with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is called the Old Town Spring Heights Task Force. Check out there website to see how God is working thorough OTSHTF
Denominations, church expressions, theological accents can point to diversity, not division. I am freaked out (in a good way) by the vastness of our God, and by the vastness of his church. A few years ago, I did an internship in Cairo Egypt, and we worshipped with a few Coptic Orthodox churches. My view of diversity within the church, and my view of God has exponentially been big since that day.
My hope is that all believers, organic churches and churches that are organized, catholic and protestant, non-denominational and denominationally strong churches, will see that our differences are to small to threaten the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because our message is strong, we can and must work together, love together, and proclaim Jesus together.
Yes, I think God wants us to be unified, but I think a relationship with Him is the most important thing to God. I don’t think we should be so focused on denominations and who is what and where, but instead focus on the Lord. I do believe that the most dangerous thing Satan did was convince people he is not real, or has never been real, or is no longer real. That is such a dangerous thing and I have seen the dangers that come about from believe those lies.
Using 1 Corinthians 1:1-13, I don’t see where Paul is saying there has to be complete unity or even same denominations. If you think in that time period and who he is speaking to, the people during that time were fighting with each other and arguing. I think he was trying to point out that the unity needed to come in Christ only; instead of following man like Paul, Cephas, Apollos, etc. God doesn’t want cookie cutter people and that’s why He created us all to be different. I think that’s also why He didn’t give us every single answer to every single question we may have within the Bible and about God.
“I’m also not here to shame or belittle the thousands of denominations that exist. (Most) are my brothers and sisters in Christ, whom I love as a result. But I do think living in unity, in our individual church bodies and church families is an important place to start. And I mean true Oneness and unity, as can only be found in Jesus.”
Exactly, well said! That is exactly what I am trying to say!
“His heart desires, loves, and exalts unity.”…with Him. I mean, I think God wants us to all get along and to love one another, but I don’t think He is so worried about us being unified. Maybe I am just not understanding what your definition of “unity” is. Or how you are trying to use it in this post. Are you saying that everyone believe the same thing?
One last thought to share.
So you ask someone about their church (denomination) and they say they are really just a Christian who loves Jesus but they choose to attend “X” denominational church. You ask them if their chosen denominational church is perfect, and they say, “No, it isn’t. But it’s where I go. I still like it.”
Now then, let’s just look at this. If a person says, “No, I’m not attending a perfect church, and I don’t fully agree with all of their doctrines, but I’m okay with that”, what the heck does that mean!? WHY aren’t you attending a church you can believe in? WHY aren’t you attending a body that you can agree with 100% across the board? Is Jesus somehow flawed and you’re simply content to find comfort in those flaws? Can a person relate to Christ and NOT believe 100% in ALL His teachings?
What a travesty, indeed. How many people here who have commented have simply resigned themselves to attending a flawed local church because it’s just how it is, *shrugs* and no big deal? YIKES.
Come to The Spirit of Christ. Come and taste His goodness, His perfect goodness, devoid of mistakes, disagreements, and church politics! Why settle for second-best? Stop deluding yourselves into becoming complacent and apathetic to His awesome Truth, and resigning yourselves to being happy with less than perfection. Again, YIKES.
If your denominational and institutional church is NOT perfect, and you don’t agree with their doctrines, then LEAVE THEM NOW, and run, (don’t walk) to Christ Jesus Resurrected, asking Him to gather you together with other believers for the sole purpose of BEING The Bride of Christ, under His authority and loving aegis.
Maybe I am missing something, so correct me if I am wrong. Your post seems to advocate that today, their is a church that follows all the teachings and models the life of Christ perfectly. I also gather from the comment that churches that affiliate with denominations are incapable of faithfully serving Christ.
I believe, that we are ALL working on our habitual disobedience to our Lord. NO LOCALIZED CHURCH EXPRESSION IS PERFECT! If we are perfect, then what need do we have for a Savior? Until he comes again and we are fully perfected, our communities WILL NOT be 100%. But because he gives us his Holy Spirit, our communities will continue to work towards perfection, seeing victory everyday.
People with denominational affiliations and people without are THE CHURCH. We must give witness to the truth that Jesus is our one foundation. He unites us. My heart breaks because I feel like Christians who belong to denominations are being attacked. It’s like we are saying to a whole group of Christians, “You faithfully follow Christ, but it can’t be real because you belong to a denomination.” Unity is the end game of this post…let us open our eyes and see that Christ IS at work in all our communities.
Denominations create a “cafeteria style Christianity”. You can attend a Baptist church for a while until they say something you don’t like. Then you go to a Methodist church until they say something you don’t like. Then you go to a Church of Christ church, until they in turn say something you don’t like. Moving from, as you say, “local expression” to local expression to local expression, because eventually the folly of man will disillusion you as to what The Church really is. So you wander, seeking to only have your ears tickled and to be comfortable in your understanding of Christ, never settling for too long in any one denominational and institutionalized “church” because they will inevitably offend you.
Unity cannot be achieved as long as mere men divide The Body up with bloody knives of doctrinal arrogance and elitism. Unity cannot ever come through the efforts of mere men, especially when it comes to them putting my Jesus into a box for their exploitation and abuse.
You wish to speak to me of unity? Excellent. Then leave all you know and think you have at any local expression of Christ and come into The Kingdom where Jesus is our Shepherd. Man’s theology is offensive to me. Man’s denominations are a slap in the face to Christ. The “cafeteria-style Christianity” is repugnant and wholly dangerous. How dare anyone decide they can pick and choose what parts of Jesus and His New Covenant that they agree with. It is the very definition of pride and arrogance.
In my world, this slice of life this side of Heaven, Jesus Christ is glorified, feared, loved, obeyed, and desired. No agenda. No programs. No churchey-church politics or weak-minded false and unspoken expectations. Jesus deserves our fealty, trust, adoration, obedience, and submission. He is building His Church. It belongs to Him. It is His. It is not ours, nor has He ever said we have any proprietary claims to Her.
Please, keep dividing The Body up into convenient bite-sized portions. Eventually you will choke on them. Please, continue to cling to false notions and man-made traditions that demand you do it their way since it has always been done their way. Look to The Book of Acts and find me one modern-day institutionalized church expression that actually is patterned after what Jesus first created. Find me one institutionalized church expression that does 1 Corinthians 14:26, relying upon The Spirit to lead them in worship, edification, teaching, and encouragement. Find me one institutionalized church expression that even knows what Ephesians 4:11 – 16 says apart from being a really tough question in their teen night Bible trivia games.
Find me one.
The modern-day institutionalized church template that depends upon the ignorance and blind fealty of the weak-minded are not The Church. NOT The Church. They are fraudulent.
You wish to speak to me of unity? Excellent. Then tell the money-changers, sorcerers, liars, manipulators, and opportunists who have hijacked the idea of a local ekklesia gathering in the Name of Jesus to repent and stand accountable.