It sounds so Godly, so ecumenical. Unity – Let’s just get along.
The call for unity, in its seminary form, has become the plague of the modern Christian church.
The Spirit has forewarned that many wolves and false teachers will enter the church and with smooth talk and educated prowess will deceive many with their humanistic ideas. The push for unity between denominations is one of those poisoned dishes at the church potluck.
Let’s be clear here. Unity is very biblical, even commanded, but the popular methods for achieving such agreement have derailed from a scriptural track and are careening down the mountainside with cars full of unsuspecting passengers. It is both good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity–but that like-mindedness must be grasped in godly ways and not through worldly philosophies.
That will be the aim here, to unveil the foundation to the current cry for unity in many parts of the church and to demonstrate why the Spirit of God is building a separate body for Christ through biblical means.
The subject here has been triggered from two recent exposures. One came via a suggested seminary course being made available to chaplains serving in correctional institutions, which intended to instruct on how to share the gospel without proselytizing. The second came from official statements made by the World Council of Churches, whose signatory church affiliations come from nearly every conceivable Christian denomination around the world.
The call for unity is right and good, but the manner in which it is being attained rebels against Scripture and will develop into a false identity that echoes the prophecy that many in the end times will say peace, peace, when there is no godly peace. Unity must be sought on God’s terms, not mans. To show that difference, we must look at the basis for such terms.
Regarding the seminary professor’s promo-sheet, teaching the gospel without proselytizing means we should share our ideas about Jesus, but not push our expectation that they become a believer. To proselytize simply means to convert, or attempt to convert. If you have noticed my scriptural motto for this blog, it speaks of a basis that insists on proselytizing: “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men…for Christ’s love compels us.”
When I go into prisons, or share with business associates, or interact through written media, I have a biblical mandate to persuade others toward faith and follow-through in Christ. I do so, however, with grace and consideration for their backgrounds, needs, abilities, and limitations, knowing that my efforts never cause belief, they only present reasons for it. God alone makes believers faithful.
For this reason, and because of specific commands in Scripture, I never force faith, coerce a response, ridicule confusion, or disrespect authority–including both civil leaders as well as denominational systems. Although I approach others with respect, confronting sin in the rebellious will always be rejected as un-loving. Identifying offense will most often be interpreted as offensive–that is part of bearing the Cross. To profess the Cross is to point to the reason for that Cross: human rebellion. I don’t push, but I always persuade, and for that I am very much a proselytizer.
In the last century, however, groups have begun to attach more of a twist to the word proselytize that has gained a strong foothold in many seminaries (Christian ministerial training colleges). It has become a dirty word. Pretty much anyone who shares Jesus in a manner that makes someone else awkward is often labeled a proselytizer. In particular, it is often associated with the idea of converting from one church to another, rather than from unbelief to faith in Jesus. In other words, it is trying to stop that divisive practice of member-stealing. The intent is that no one should ever share the gospel in a manner that puts pressure on a decision that might cause someone to change their affiliations.
Here is the definition for Proselytism presented by the World Council of Churches (WCC):
“Proselytism” is now used to mean the encouragement of Christians who belong to a church to change their denominational allegiance, through ways and means that “contradict the spirit of Christian love, violate the freedom of the human person and diminish trust in the Christian witness of the church”.
It sounds good, but what do you see about it that is specifically biblical? Have you ever read in the Bible a command about not sharing Jesus in ways that might “contradict the spirit of Christian love”? If we are to rightly interpret this extra-biblical phrase, we must accept these leaders’ ideas on what that means. In order to be scriptural, it must uphold all that Jesus taught. It is godless and satanic to quote a Bible verse while using it in a way that conflicts with others passages. Thus if you “treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector”, which Jesus commanded, then you likely violate the subjective “spirit of Christian love”. Something has to give way because the above definition cannot uphold scriptural commands, as will be shown below.
When the apostle Paul stated that he only shares Jesus with the intent of pleasing God and not pleasing men, even to the point that if his purpose was to please others, then he could no longer be a servant of Christ, how might that alter the god-sounding words in the above definition? The “spirit of Christian love” sounds holy, but its meaning remains entirely dependent upon what others think contradicts that spirit, and thus is entirely subjective to opinions and not truth.
I read through the entire article by the WCC on proselytism and was disappointed that not a single reference could be found about addressing sin. What the Bible calls “the offense of the Cross” has been removed from the modern gospel to provide a basis for unity-without-repentance. Confronting sin and expecting that professing believers repent and change their ways is commanded repeatedly in God’s word. However, protecting membership lists has superseded that brothers-keeper priority and has become the new sin. In fact, the only reference for repentance by the WCC is that proselytizers repent of their proselytizing.
The modern church is calling for a form of unity that maintains the divisions of denominations, avoids pointing out the rebellious traditions (that in Revelation Jesus says he hates within his Church), and gives the world the impression that everyone is getting along, that everyone loves each other. But, God calls for a different way of seeking unity.
He says to leave your gift at the altar and go seek to be reconciled with those with whom you have disagreements. In Mt 18, he prescribes a method of going to your brother that ends in dis-unity, if they refuse to “hear you”. Yes, that is Jesus command — break off such unity or you will find yourself contaminated. Do not maintain your church affiliations, if they are shown to persist in rebellion against the word of God.
In the letter to Corinth, the apostle calls for unity, but listen carefully to what he says. The disunity he is correcting was the result of their attempt to maintain their denominational differences: I’m of Paul, I’m of Apollos, I’m of Peter, etc. That is the very thing the WCC and their half-billion members are trying to sustain. The author then proceeds to correct the errors and confront their sin with a call for coming back to the truth. That is where true unity is found–in Christ, not in maintaining our church affiliations.
If anyone understood the spirit of Christian love, surely the apostle John would. Hear what the apostle says about proselytizing and seminary-promoted-unity:
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.”
Peter denounces those false ministers who “promise them freedom” while they insist on disobeying Scripture. “They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you”. These kind of church leaders fit in at church potlucks and celebrate unity because no one confronts sin and instead choose a form of affiliation that has been developed by ignoring the differences. Their idea is: You’re ok, I’m ok, so don’t suggest that I ought to change, either myself or my fellowship.
The Lord himself confronted the different religious groups that claimed to represent the same witness of God, as being “children of the Devil”. Many times he denounced the error of others with very harsh words. Even when he confronted his own disciples with the teaching about eating his flesh, he intentionally drove away the vast majority of his own members. The Lord has never built his family or his church upon the basis of ignoring differences or in tolerating sin–it has only ever been through submission to that one and only way to God found in Christ, and that according to how he defines it, not through platitudes of human engineering, like presented by the WCC leaders.
Shocking as it may be to well-meaning church leaders, Jesus was a proselytizer, both in its traditional sense of persuading others to come to faith in God, but also in the current shift in definition. This is what he had to say regarding maintaining membership with religious groups that claim to worship God but significantly deny his scriptural word: “Leave them. They are blind guides.”
Regarding the kind of unity that Jesus is developing, here is the command of God:
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us…if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.”
If you attend seminary, you will be indoctrinated into this humanistic and godless effort at developing a scripturally defiant form of unity.
If you attend a denomination or non-denomination church, you will likely be taught that yours is the best, and that unity is found in your keeping your affiliation rather than in submitting to the word of Christ in all your relationships.
If you go on mission trips, or live as a missionary, you probably have bought off on the idea of “one common witness”, and of “indigenous belief”, and of “first on the ground” rights. There are many twisted cords that form the rope that holds this desceptive form of unity together. Learning to work together with those of different traditions is an enormous challenge, but ignoring sin and biblical rebellion for the sake of respecting others is contrary to biblical Christianity. We give respect “where due”, not as a right that should be allowed to persist against the truth.
If you consider yourself mainstream or orthodox in your faith, then you likely have already been exposed to the virus of just-get-along and don’t-make-waves and identify-what-we-have-in-common-while-ignoring-differences forms of unity. This is what is meant by being ecumenical: promote unity by ignoring scriptural differences.
However, if you are humble, and willing to accept the burden of your cross, you will turn aside from the popular method and seek the biblical call to speak truth rather than speak selectively nice words. You will strive to confront sin with grace and persistence rather than condone or ignore it for the sake of getting along. You will understand that such an approach will cost you friends, family and comfort, but will demonstrate your unity with the Holy Spirit rather than with organized religion.
When I preach, I strive to bring others to Jesus as instructed within holy Scripture. Although I attend a church that is within a denomination (and strongly encourage others to stay connected to and submissive under the greater church), I never attempt to draw others to my tradition, only to the word of God. If a person already professes faith, and even attends a different church, I make no distinction between their background or mine, only that we both attempt to submit to the truth found in Jesus and defined in Scripture.
If they are caught in sin, I will point it out, with all the grace and love that flows within. If they move toward God’s word, we remain in fellowship, if not, we begin to separate. If they adhere to denominational traditions that conflict with God’s word, then I carefully point them out; if they make effort to respond, then we walk together, otherwise we move apart. If they come to recognize that their church teaches falsely in some important area, then I encourage them to reconsider their affiliation, because we will be judged not only per our own choices, but also according to our associations; if they appear to take God’s expectations on this kind of separation seriously, then we shoulder each others burdens and fellowship in the Spirit, but if they ignore it and prefer to stay as they are and with whom they are comfortable, then I must stand aside.
“We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.”
The above quote was stated in the context of churches that were mixing errors into the message of Christ and actually deceiving believers with “no gospel at all”. False brothers have infiltrated the church and want to convince you that they have the same common witness. However, the word of God requires that faithful believers seek to gently restore those who are caught in sin, rather than accept their traditions. Unity must come through obedience to God’s word, or not at all.
There is only one unity that I desire, that of being in Jesus my Lord, with those who humbly seek the same, on his terms and not mans.
Hear the Lord: “Do not think that I came to bring peace, but a sword”; he has come to separate natural forms of unity and instead create an entirely new oneness that cannot be discovered through human we-are-all-good philosophies.
Are you willing to proselytize to him in spite of the ridicule of many church leaders? Is your affiliation in Christ alone, or in your church organization?