|“We don’t need a different name, we need a different reputation,” was how one member assessed the situation. This response came after someone at the church suggested their new sign have a different biblical name other than “Church of Christ.” Prior to planting a new church in a rapid growth section of the city, the team conducted a neighborhood survey. They only asked their questions of people who said they were not involved in a church. One question asked, “What kind of church would you be unwilling to attend?” Overwhelmingly two groups were identified—Baptist and Church of Christ. While the reasons for feeling this way are likely quite diverse, one stood out—too often people in these fellowships are sectarian.
Sectarian isn’t the word the respondents would use, but it encapsulates their feelings: Exclusive. Narrow. Factious. Can’t tolerate honest people who disagree with them. Judgmental. Non-believers found such attitudes to be a real turn-off toward organized religion.
Jesus knew that unity among believers would present a winsome quality to those in the world who have not yet come to faith. He said, “I pray also for those who will believe in me…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you….May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them” (John 17:20-23). Are the divisive, exclusive actions of believers hampering conversions?
How do you treat believers who attend other churches? Do you exert great effort to question their motives? Challenge their orthodoxy? Reject the reality of their faith? Please realize you can disagree on significant matters of doctrine without doing any of the things just mentioned.
May 12th will give us an opportunity to contribute to a new reputation. We can acknowledge that a shared faith in Jesus is grounds enough to gather with other believers for a Unity service. We can show the world around us that His Lordship is more important than any other issue. We have a chance to celebrate Jesus with others who’ve confessed His name as we fill the Floyd Stadium.
John Kenneth King