Two boys stood neck to neck in the school yard, screaming at the top
of their lungs. Their faces were red, their fists were raised, and the
entire neighborhood could hear their argument:
"This school is the best because we have the best band!"
"No! It's the best in the neighborhood because we have a new building!"
A young mom stood at the fence to this school, gripping the hands of her two children. She was new to this town and had heard of the school's excellent reputation. But she shook her head sadly as she turned away. How could this be the best school for her children, when its students couldn't get along?
As I read this story, I am saddened, for I see this same scenario happening in the Christian church. People are not turned away because of Jesus, they are turned away because of us, because we, as Christians, can't get along.
It is the season of Pentecost. The time when we remember the days that passed between Jesus' death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
I don't know about you, but I would have loved to have been there, to have seen those 3000 people coming to the Lord as a result of one sermon, to have witnessed the miracles that resulted, and how the church of Jesus Christ grew in leaps and bounds.
Why don't we see this type of church growth in our day and age?
I'm sure there are many important reasons why the early church grew so rapidly, vital things like faith and love and prayer, and it could be argued that our churches today lack all three of these things. But I would like to suggest there might be something more . . .
Let's consider for a moment how the earliest believers spent their time between the Resurrection and Pentecost: "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication . . ." (Acts 1:14 NKJV)
The key operative here, friends is "one accord". These believers were in unity with one another! We are also told these early believers sold their belongings and pooled their resources, and it wasn't uncommon for them to spend hours, even days in prayer together (Acts 4:23-31, Acts 12, etc).
But is unity really what made the difference here?
Let's consider Jesus' final address to His disciples (John 13-17). In Chapter 17 of John alone, Jesus asks the Father that we would be "One". Not once. Not twice. But FIVE times!
Have a look:
"that they may be ONE as We are." (John 17:11 NKJV)
"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be ONE, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You …" (John 17:20 NKJV)
"…that they also may be ONE in Us …" (John 17:21 NKJV)
"And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are ONE …" (John 17:22 NKJV)
"I in them, and You in Me; THAT THEY MAY BE MADE PERFECT IN ONE, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." (John 17:23 NKJV)
It's said that when God repeats Himself, He is really trying to get our attention. What about when He repeats Himself FIVE times? Shouldn't that be a real "a-ha" moment?
But wait. Am I being too harsh here? Are Christians really all that disunited?
I must say that I have been increasingly frustrated of late. People often complain to this ministry that the "proper" version of the Bible was not referenced, a certain word was not capitalized, or an interpretation of prophecy that was different than their own was presented.
But isn't this to be expected? This is, after all, not a denominationally-specific ministry. Rather it is set up to help everyone, no matter what church we attend. But when we nit-pick over such things, aren't we missing the more important point God is trying to teach us?
It is true that there will be differences among us. We are not all carbon copies of one another. But do we have to let our doctrinal differences divide us? Are our individual doctrines really all that important?
Over the course of time between now and Pentecost Sunday, we will be looking at the Biblical definition of doctrine, and we will see that despite the different things emphasized in each of our denominations, it is possible, by focussing on the "true doctrine" outlined in the Bible, to stand as one, in unity.
I challenge each of you today, as you go through these next four studies, to commit with me to put aside our differences and to focus instead on true doctrine. I challenge you to stand as one in prayer, for only then will the world see that Jesus has sent us. Only then will it be drawn to the Gospel message. Only then will we see the miracles of church growth happen again!
Please join us next Saturday for TRUE DOCTRINE, Part 2: Is Doctrine Important?
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Speech-Language Pathologist, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org, with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org.
(To access the entire "True Doctrine: A Pentacost Message" mini-series, please click here.)