Pastor Frank Reid wrote in an article for Christianity Today, “We’ve made a sport of pointing out racism, when what we should be doing is focusing our prayers and actions toward creating congregations that proclaim Christ’s lordship over his entire church.”
Racial division is perhaps the easiest division to take shots at because it can be so obvious and pervasive. But it’s not the only division among Christians – some are more subtle but just as destructive. As Reid wrote, proclaiming “Christ’s lordship over his entire church” is our work that needs to be done – destroying all divisions that are contrary to the gospel.
That’s a good summary of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:11-13: Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Here’s the point, or the net effect of the truth that Paul communicates: Our work is to proclaim Christ’s lordship, destroying all divisions that are contrary to the gospel.
From there we should ask two questions for the sake of clarity:
1. What divisions between people are torn down in Christ?
Some examples would include: Race, age, gender, nationality, denomination, political, financial, class, and others (Colossians 3:11; Galatians 3:28). Distinctions are not completely erased but because of the gospel there is no longer any separation of value or inheritance among those who are in Christ.
2. What are some divisions that we face which are contrary to the gospel?
This answer will be covered in the next two posts. This post covers a few of those that apply to us, the corporate body of the visible church.
Applications to the Visible Church
Denomination – CrossLife Church is intentionally non-denominational but we are not “independent.” Biblically there is no such thing an “independent Christian.” We are all in Christ and therefore in community with other Christians.
We are non-denominational because we try to express a unity beyond denominational distinctives. Samuel Davies a pastor during the first Great Awakening in America wrote, “A narrow party spirit cannot coexist with a larger giving of the Spirit whose communion extends to the whole body of Christ. Exclusive attention to denominational interests may prevail among Christians in a period of spiritual decline; it never does so in days of enlarged blessing” (Revival and Revivalism by Ian Murray, p. 26). That is the spirit which we try to embody.
Clergy and Laity – In Christ there is no division between clergy and laity. This division is most exaggerated in the Roman church but also exists in the small backwoods churches which claim that “the man of God should never be questioned.” Yes, there are functional differences in calling or office but no divisions.
Not only is there no division between clergy and laity but we believe that a plurality of elders and leaders demonstrates that there is not “one special person” that rules the church, except Jesus. Mark Driscoll writes, “Elders are nearly always spoken of in plurality because God intends for more than one man to lead and rule over the church, as a safeguard for both the church and the man” (On Church Leadership, p. 14). Leading as a team doesn’t mean the disaster of so-called “co-managers” where everyone’s in charge, no one has a vision and no one follows anyone’s leadership. We function as leaders who will give an account to God for how we care for the sheep and how we serve one another in the way of Christ (see CrossLife Elder Covenant here).
Worship Warfare – What started as an attempt to please particular musical tastes (a huge mistake to begin with) has evolved into full-blown division over age, class and race. We refuse to separate worship services based on musical style. As John Stott appropriately says, “How dare we build walls of partition in the one and only human community in which [Christ] has destroyed them (God’s new society: The message of Ephesians, p. 111)? We must be able to express the unity we enjoy in Christ. If we can’t unite on something as insignificant as musical style, then larger issues are already lost.
Our work is to proclaim Christ’s lordship, destroying all divisions that are contrary to the gospel.
The next post will cover more personal applications.