Summary: Churches disagree because of dispersion, doctrine, depravity, division, disputes, disagreement and devotion.
Why Do Churches Disagree with One Another?
Rev. Brian Bill
June 8-9, 2019
A man came up to another man who was leaning on a rail overlooking a flooded river (sound familiar?) so he decided to ask him some questions.
“Are you a Christian or a non-Christian?”
He said, “I’m a Christian.”
“Me, too, small world…Protestant or Catholic?”
He answered, “Protestant.”
“Me, too, what denomination?”
He replied, “Baptist.”
“Me, too, Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
To which he said, “Northern Baptist.”
“Well, ME TOO! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He smiled and said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
“Well, that’s amazing! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist or Northern Conservative Reformed Baptist?”
He said confidently, “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist.”
“Remarkable! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Eastern Region?”
He eagerly answered, “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
“That’s a miracle! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
He boldly declared, “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
To which the first man replied, “DIE, HERETIC!” and pushed him over the rail.
As we continue in our “Glad You Asked” series, our question today is this: “Why do churches disagree with one another?”
If you were to read through the New Testament you’d discover a number of conflicts among the first Christians – disagreements about eating meat sacrificed to idols is detailed in Romans and 1 Corinthians. The Book of Colossians addresses the proper role of angels and New Moon celebrations and in Philippians the Apostle Paul makes a strong plea for unity between two women who weren’t getting along.
Please turn to John 17 where we see the longest recorded prayer of Jesus. This prayer is protracted in length and in scope. It covers a lot of verses and it covers a lot of time. In fact, it stretches across 20 centuries! After Jesus left the Upper Room He paused along His walk to the Mount of Olives and in John 17:1 we read, “He lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said...”
Three requests fill His heart.
• For Himself to be glorified (1-5)
• For His disciples to be protected and sanctified (6-19)
• For all of us to be unified (20-23)
Let’s listen to part of the prayer from John 17:20-23: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
The best advertisement is a witness of oneness to the world because when we’re unified we display the personality, purposes and power of God. We could say it like this: “No church can do everything but every church can do something and together God can do anything!”
I see four expectations about unity in this passage.
1. The parameters of oneness include all believers. Jesus doesn’t want us to just get along with a few people we happen to like, or only with those in this church, but “that they may all be one.” His prayer is much deeper than “us four and no more.” In verse 23, Jesus longs for us to “become perfectly one.” True believers in Christ share a common unity or community, with believers in the past, in the present, and in the future.
Let’s consider three cautions:
• Abandon extreme separatism. Some believers refuse to acknowledge there are true Christians in other churches. Here’s a news flash: We don’t have an exclusive lock on truth. I love being a Baptist but that doesn’t mean we’re spiritually superior to others. If someone is a born again follower of Jesus Christ, then he or she is my brother or sister.
Look at it this way. Even with our renovation and addition, Edgewood can’t reach everyone. It’s easy to think the Quad Cities is saturated with churches getting the gospel out. In a 2015 Barna study, our community was #27 on the list of America’s top churchless cities. According to these stats, there are about 200,000 people in the QCA who don’t go to church!
In a new Barna Study released just this week called, “The Most Post-Christian Cities in America in 2019,” the QCA is ranked #15 out of 100. This makes me sad on the one hand and mad on the other because this has happened on our watch! It says a lot when San Francisco is ranked lower than we are. We must redouble our efforts to live on mission in our mission field, reaching our neighbors and the nations for Christ!