Commitment to Christ is commitment to Christ’s body. When we make a commitment to Christ we make a commitment to his purpose in the world, which is to have a healthy, unified body, the people of God. A few years ago God showed me that I had sinned many times against the body of Christ. I had become judgmental of the larger body of Christ. I publicly repented of my judgmental and divisive attitude. God spoke to me about loving the things that he loves: he loves his church. He loves the whole church — Protestant and Catholic, Orthodox and Anabaptist. Now by this I do not mean that he loves all the things different Christians believe and do. But in his heart Jesus deeply loves his body, those people who are born again of the Spirit of God and who know the Father. We have been called to love the things that Jesus loves, so we have no choice but to love the whole church – even denominations whose beliefs we may not agree with or those parts we do not understand. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON UNITY.
It is one thing to say that I love the whole church of Jesus Christ, but quite another to actually find myself doing it.
Let’s face it. There are so many areas of doctrine and practice where others are doing and saying things that rub us the wrong way. Gosh, I don’t even have to step foot outside my own church to find folks who are believing things that I might believe to be near-heresy!
So what’s a Bible-believing, God-worshipping, Jesus-following Christian to do?
As we discussed in an earlier blog on unity, we noted that Christy Wimber suggests that we stop insisting on agreement in all of our relationships and focus more on unity instead. That’s a great start! Kind of reminds me of the quote from St. Augustine, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things, charity.”
Here’s another little secret I’ve found over the years, as I’ve worked with various parachurch ministries that were called to minister with pastors and leaders representing a wide variety of church denominations and theological beliefs.
First of all, when attempting to gather a broad network of pastors and leaders from a variety of backgrounds, it’s always important to realize that there will be a cornucopia of doctrinal systems represented in our midst. As bridge-builders, working to build the oneness Jesus prays for in John 17: 20-23, I believe it’s important to stay open and cordial to those in our midst who might hold to different doctrinal practices in their Christian faith than us.
I like the way my friend, Steve Sjogren, in his book The Perfectly Imperfect Church, addresses these doctrinal differences by separating them into three broad categories: 1) Essentials, 2) Traditions, and 3) Opinions. Let me take the essence of what Steve says in his book on this subject and summarize it for you here.
“Essentials” are a very small circle of vital, life-giving kingdom-basics, rock-bottom biblical truths that we bridge-builders must never compromise on as we work hard to stretch our lives and faith toward others from a variety of backgrounds. “Traditions” compose a much larger circle of beliefs. Generally, they are the many practices we Christians have determined are important as we live out our faith in Christ. It’s in this circle we find the rich diversity that makes up the denominational differences found in the larger church of Jesus Christ. Finally, “Opinions” are just that. And since they compose the largest circle of thought by far, “Opinions” will be abundant at every turn in church life. Unfortunately, the church becomes quite divided and often weakened, when we confuse Traditions with Essentials. Worse yet, Christians often take Opinions and allow them to divide us from other brothers and sisters in Christ, leaving us to go it alone in our faith journey in life.
FIVE ESSENTIALS OF CHRISTIANITY
To bring unity in the midst of our diversity, the ministries my wife and I now oversee, offer these five “essentials” as the base from which we operate. We list them in the form of five basic questions, which if left unanswered, will leave all of us floating in a world of doctrinal confusion and uncertainty.
- Who is God?
We believe that there is one God and Creator, eternally existing in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 6:3-4).
- What about the Bible?
We believe that the Bible is God’s inspired and authoritative written revelation to us, containing his kingdom message of hope, love, and redemption to a lost and dying world (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, death on the cross to provide for our redemption, bodily resurrection and ascension into heaven, present day ministry of intercession for us, and his second coming to earth in power and glory (Acts 4:10-12).
- Who is the Holy Spirit?
We believe in the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit, that he performs the miracle of new birth, and indwells, equips and empowers us to walk with God, accomplishing the works of his kingdom through our humble service to him (John 14: 16-17).
- What does all this mean for us?
We believe that we are created in the image of God, but because of our sin and selfishness, we become alienated from God. Only through abiding faith, trusting in Jesus Christ alone for our redemption, which is made possible by his atoning death on the cross and his resurrection, can true forgiveness of our sins be found and our lives be restored back with God (Ephesians 2:4-9).
So there you have it. The five essentials that can hopefully form the solid base on which many in the body of Christ can gather around. It’s our belief that by laying out these five essentials, we can build a rock-solid foundation on which our Jesus-centered ministries will never stray. By holding to these kingdom-truths, while embracing the rich diversity of “traditions” and “opinions” in our midst, I believe that all of us can better discover the powerful “unity” Jesus prayed for in John 17.
Father, forgive me when I take my traditions, or worse yet, my opinions, and shape them into non-negotiable essentials, thus building walls that serve to unnecessarily separate me from my brothers and sisters in Christ. Give us unity in our essentials, so that we might better appreciate the diversity in our non-essentials. And most of all, Father, give us charity in all things. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- Which pet opinions and rich traditions have I allowed to become non-negotiable essentials in my faith, thus making them something that I insist all other Christians must agree with before I will reach out in love?
- Am I truly willing, in the interest of fulfilling Jesus’ prayer in John 17, to reduce my long list of essentials so that true Christ-centered unity might be found within the broader body of Christ?
So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Wisdom of Wimber?
Between Easter 2016 and the end of August, we are sharing with you a blog series we call The Wisdom of Wimber: As I See It. In order to keep all 64 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Wisdom of Wimber page for ease of use. Might we also suggest that you order a copy or two of our book by the same title! It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats…and will soon be available in Spanish! Click here for more info. ENJOY!
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!