Are you an Evangelical or a Christian?

Quite. Or am I being intentionally controversial again? I guess I am, but for good reason. The topic of Church Unity has been coming up again in conversation between people I work with, people I study with, and people who I hang around with. And it seems increasingly more important at the moment. Maybe the church is finally adhering to the doctrine of there being one Church? Or am I being too positive?

There was a time when I insisted that I knew every doctrinal position of a church before I bothered with them. Anyone who didn’t outwardly describe themselves as ‘Evangelical’ were automatically heretics. I think it is important that we are able to define our faith in some tangible way; we wouldn’t have creeds and statements of faith otherwise. I think it’s important to recognise the main doctrinal positions and to be wary of those who may go against them. It’s only since recognising this that I’ve found myself to be growing spiritually, and benefiting from the gifts of others that I wouldn’t perhaps find in my own church. And, I don’t stick my nose up at other churches any more; something which I believe grieves God in a heartbreaking way.

The thing is though is that most churches don’t divide upon main doctrinal positions (such as salvation by faith, Christ’s Godhead, the Trinity etc) but on other issues; style of worship, organ or piano, women in leadership, gifts of the Spirit, evangelism technique, types of songs sung, church government and the list goes on.

Sure, it is great that there are many churches. If there are some things that really don’t suit you personally, then find a church where you feel comfortable to worship. But there really is only ONE Church. And because of that, why aren’t you meeting and fellowshipping with other denominations for the sake of the Gospel? Please stop your using your ‘Heretic Brand’ on people who don’t agree with finer points of theology with you; because, truth be told, you are probably just as clueless as the person you think has secretly sold themselves to the Devil and is actively wallowing in sin and heresy.

It is these convictions that led 3 churches in Newport to come together on Good Friday for worship together; to celebrate the Gospel. One was Anglican, one was Independent and one was Assemblies of God (I think); each was different, yet united. Why? Because of the core Christian message of the Gospel.

I think in this day and age when everything is so uncertain, everything is so individualised and disconnected, people long for community and friendship. If it’s one place they should find that, then it’s the Church.

Remember; we’re all going to be in heaven one day – if you’re a cessationist, you’ll probably have a raving Pentecostal as your next door neighbour for eternity. If you’re a female pastor, you’ll probably have a traditionalist, conservative Pauline theologian in your midst every day. So start getting some practice in now!

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • Jack Mowll

    Psalm 133 How good it is to dwell together! Yay!

  • Miriam

    The Church is the people of God, not institutions or congregations.

    Also, how far would you extend that ‘unity’? Yes, individual Christians can and should have fellowship with believers in another congregation, or congregations with other gospel-teaching  gatherings. However, where the Churches do deny or add to the gospel then no unity can be had, ‘for what fellowhsip has light with darkness’?

    • Like I said, Miriam – the basis for unity is the core message of the Gospel.

      To some, speaking in tongues may be adding to the gospel. To others, restraining tongues may be taking away from it.

      Neither of these opinions are true. Maybe the question isn’t so much how much you extend unity, but how much you restrict it. Looking at it from that angle changes the situation entirely.

      If you start with the core gospel message then work from there – I think you’re on the right path. If you throw your catechisms and DB’s at people and force them to tick every box (especially referring to secondary theologies) then I think you’re creating a recipe for disaster.

      • Jack Mowll

        Good word! George Whitefield and the Wesley’s disagreed on almost everything except for the Gospel, and when it threatened to really tear the group apart Whitefield stepped down from leadership recognizing the importance of unity over his theological opinions.

      • Miriam

        Exactly

  • If we recognise that other christians around us share a common belief, is it right to criticize people for ‘church surfing’?  Is it being disloyal to your first choice congregation/denomination to regularly visit other congregations/denominations?  How far should our loyalty be to our chosen congregation / denomination and how much to the wider people of God? (I refrain from using the word Church there as it can cause confusion).  IMHO, the majority of Christians don’t talk to christians in other congregations enough, even within the same denomination.  We certainly don’t get out of our buildings enough.  I was not entirely comfortable with the Good Friday service, but probably that was true for most people there as it was not all ‘according to their traditions’.  I enjoyed it, though, and more importantly, I think God did too.

  • Andrew Flynn

    Good post agan Dean, I wholly agree.
    Since studying marketing I’ve come to view affinity towards one denomination or another as a form of market segmentation of church: without meaning to trivialise it, it’s much the same as choosing a breakfast cereal – it’s down to taste and preference, no choice being any better or worse than another, just different. Each has positive attributes which appeal to certain people at a certain stage of their life journey. In my adult life I’ve been a member of four different types of church, each quite different from the other, each with their strengths and weaknesses, but at some point in each one I have experienced spiritual growth. I think Paul’s imagery of one body made up of many parts is absolutely applicable to this idea of a segmented but united church. I pray we work together appreciatively and in collaboration to redeem the lost world.