”May they be one” My wife and I came to Florida with a dream and a mission—some say an impossible one. But it’s not ours at all. It’s the one Jesus stressed in his high priestly prayer for his church, then and now. When he repeated something once, we know how important it was. This request he repeats six (6) times. Count ‘em: 21 that they all may be one; as you and I are one, that they also may be one in us that the world may believe 22 …that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 may they be made perfect in oneness that the world may know you sent me. (John 17:21-23)
What Legitimizes Our Witness? Jesus never taught his believers to attract unbelievers to church by clever promotions and signs, sound doctrines, great preaching and music in worship or outreach programs. It isn’t even the love we show unbelieving neighbors. It’s the unity and love we demonstrate to the world among ourselves. How are you doing with that?
The Church’s PR Problem We began our mission by asking unbelievers how they viewed the church? It’s very clear that folks out there have a declining interest in what the church down the street is doing or saying. They tend to either ignore us or ridicule us. Experts tell us the church has a huge PR problem.
Our Shameful Divisions. A major cause is our disregard for Jesus plea to the Father for his people to be strive for unity. Upon witnessing a doctrinal debate between two Christians, an unbeliever interrupted by asking, “Tell me, why is it you church folks have so much trouble getting along?” How can we sing “we are one in the Spirit” anymore with a straight face? Consider these realities:
- Neighboring churches pretty much ignore each other
- We are at ease arguing doctrine with each other but struggle to witness to the lost.
- We have embarrassing “denominationalism” on one hand
- And churches that brag, “we are independent,” on the other.
- Congregations in trouble are unwilling to pool resources with other churches.
Crisis of Leadership? When things aren’t going well in government, politicians may not take responsibility themselves, but they never blame the electorate. Yet when we talked with church leaders, the few who admitted Christianity in the U.S. is in trouble, tended to blame the sheep. One pastor confided that “today it’s all about the Christian and little about the Christ.” Another was frustrated his flock didn’t invite folks to church. One said, “my people are happy in their comfort zone.” Some saw the lack of unity in the body of Christ as a problem, but only a few were doing anything about it.
“Every congregation for itself?” We’ve seen evidence that committed Christians in the pews are ready for change. They are willing to put aside the quarrels that divide us, competition for members and lack of cooperation with other churches. Pastors, on the other hand, are caught in the struggle to keep their church afloat, retaining the members they have and gaining new ones. They tend to resist change and rarely reach out to other congregations facing similar problems. It comes down to “every congregation for itself.”
What about in your congregation? Are you all doing anything to see Christ’s prayer answered?