Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Practical Necessity of Unity in Action

Below is another passage from Confronting Kingdom Challenges focusing on Christian unity in mission. The author powerfully presents the dangers of neglecting unity as well as the benefits of seeking this unity in action. May God grant that the Reformed stream of His church may seek, treasure and defend unity as strongly as it does doctrinal truth.

“Working together in missions, by limiting attention to the core gospel itself, may well refresh our own theology and piety. Too often that core gospel is taken for granted by orthodox churches, while disproportionate attention is given to the denomination’s own distinctives. Especially the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation have suffered neglect in the many evangelical/Reformed circles, while even the atonement and justification have been studied more in relation to the inadequate views of other Christians than to the need to proclaim them meaningfully to a non-Christian population. When churches do missions on their own, there is a constant danger that a desire to replicate themselves in every detail may overshadow the centrality of the gospel. Cooperative missions ought to bring key doctrines back to center stage.

It can be a healthy exercise, also, to operate outside the familiar patterns that our own churches believe and practice. Our distinctive practices and beliefs may seem to be of less importance than we imagined. But they may also be seen as more valuable than we had previously appreciated when seen from the perspective of other churches and Christians who may never have encountered them before.

Working with other Christians from other backgrounds may enrich our piety and worship by introducing us to new concepts in prayer and sung praise, new styles of preaching, and new examples of profound piety and ministry. Of course, such influence can be harmful, but those of the Reformed faith should be the last to be instinctively negative, remembering the sovereignty of a God who can reveal his truth, or parts of it, in the most unlikely places.

Finally, working with other Christians frequently enriches our whole faith and assurance through a very real experience of active fellowship within the body of Christ- a body that, we now realize, is much larger and more strongly united than we had previously known. In this, cooperation satisfies a very real and profound Christian instinct.”

John Nicholls “Sharing the Opportunity of Missions” in Confronting Kingdom Challenge: A Call to Global Christians to Carry the Burden Together edited by Samuel T. Logan, 2007.