Friday, January 9, 2004
Why would I ever consider Christianity? Look at how many different churches and denominations there are?" "Look how they disagree on so many teachings?" "It seems to me like a particular church can get the Bible to say pretty well what they want it to say. All this division tells me that Christianity is unreliable"
The statements made are a sampling of what I have heard both non-Christians and Christians say about the lack of unity in the church. Many inside and outside the church are puzzled that there are so many different churches that seem to present so many conflicting teachings.
They have a right to be puzzled. Jesus Christ never intended the churches that carry his name to be divided. When He founded the Christian church he envisioned complete unity. As Christ's work on earth came to a close, He prayed that His followers would be united in every way (see John 17:20-23). Jesus knew how confusing many churches could be.
Christian churches are divided in many ways that hurt people's ability to meet every church's true leader, Jesus Christ. Yet, there is much more that unites every Christian church than divides it.
Although each Christian denomination or independent Christian church has distinctive emphases, all these different churches agree unanimously on the essentials of Christianity. If you visit the Christian churches in our Valley, you will be surprised at how much agreement you will find in their teachings and their practices.
In these churches you will find basic agreement in their teachings. You will encounter the belief that there is One God who has always existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You will be taught that God the Father created this world and still takes care of this world. You will be taught that the Son of God became one of us in Jesus Christ so that he could save humanity from its core problem-disobedience to God - by dying on a cross, rising from the dead, and returning to heaven until it is time for Him to return as this earth's Judge. Further, you will discover that God the Holy Spirit makes unity possible in and between churches, that He makes forgiveness a reality for individuals, and that He will make it possible for believers in Christ to live joyfully forever.
Not only will you find these same basic teachings, you will also find basic practices. You will find each Christian church meeting together regularly to listen to Bible teaching, to pray, to sing, to give generously, and to serve others.
It is my hope and prayer that we as churches will make better use of every opportunity that comes our way to show both Christians and non-Christians our unity. After all, Jesus himself stated that our public expression of our unity in Him would give the world its GREATEST opportunity: to believe God sent Him as this world's Savior.
- Pastor Jelmer Groenewold of Sunnyside Christian Reformed Church