In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, diversity; in all things, charity. St. Augustine
In the work we do as contemplative coaches, spiritual directors, and trainers in spiritual direction, Sandy and I work with a broad network of people representing a variety of denominational backgrounds. As a bridge-builder, working in agreement with the oneness Jesus prays for in John 17: 21-23 (see below), we believe that it’s always important to stay open and cordial to those in our midst who might hold to different doctrinal practices in their Christian faith. Thus in our coaching and spiritual direction sessions, we will never insist that you conform to or agree with any particular practices of Christianity that are foreign to you or are vastly different from your particular system of belief.
I like the way our good friend, Pastor Steve Sjogren, addresses the doctrinal differences found in the larger Body of Christ by separating them into three broad categories:
‘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, ‘Traditions’ 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.
In an effort to bring unity in the midst of our diversity, we offer five ‘essentials’ as the base from which we operate. Allow us to list them here 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. 2nd 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 all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, but because of our sin and selfishness, our lives become separated from Him and alienated from each other. It’s through abiding faith, trusting in Jesus of Nazareth alone for our redemption, where God’s grace and forgiveness can truly be found, and our lives restored and reconciled with both our Creator and His creation. Ephesians 2: 4-9
So there you have it. As we see it, five ‘essentials’ that can hopefully form the solid base on which many in the Body of Christ can gather around. It’s our belief here that by laying out these five basics, we can build a rock-solid foundation on which our Jesus-centered ministry will never stray. By holding to these Kingdom-truths while embracing the rich diversity of ‘traditions’ and ‘opinions’ in our midst, we believe that all of us can better discover the powerful ‘unity’ Jesus prayed for in John 17: 21-23 (MsgB)…
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, so they might be one heart and mind with Us. Then the world might believe that You, in fact, sent Me. The same glory You gave Me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as We are—I in them and You in Me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that You’ve sent Me and loved them in the same way You’ve loved Me.