LIE #7 "SUNDAY Disunity"
-by Andrew Strom.
Let me ask a simply question here: Doesn't the fact that we all meet at the same time every Sunday create COMPETITION and DIVISION in the church?
Before you answer that, let us analyze what actually happens all over the world on Sunday mornings.
In the West on Sunday, most Christians get up and drive perhaps five or ten miles (maybe more) to get to their favorite church. Some attend locally but many do not. And even the 'local' attendees have to chose between several different denominations in their area.
Now, all of these buildings that we attend have different "labels" on them, and we have to choose ONE of them because they all meet at the same time. So we become "labeled" by the group that we attend. We become a "Baptist" or 'Assembly of God' or "Vineyard" or "Pentecostal Holiness", etc, etc. Most of the time we never really get to know the local Christians on our street at all, because they are all going off to their own groups - and so we never really get to fellowship together. We meet with "OUR" group - and we hardly even know the Christians in our own neighborhood.
Now, does any of this sound "right" to you? Does any of this sound like the Book of Acts?
The fact is, Sunday morning has turned into a time of DIVISION, where we all have to choose which 'sect' or denomination of the church we are going to attend. It is the time when we all separate ourselves into "categories". Which church do you go to? - This becomes an important question. i.e.. "Which DIVISION do you belong to?" 'Which hierarchy do you come under?' "Who is your covering?" 'What box can we put you in?'
The attempts at so-called "unity" in the church today are often very feeble. They usually amount to one-off 'events', where we all gather together for a day, but afterwards go straight back to our "divided" lifestyles again. Or there may be a regular meeting of the local pastors - which is seen as a kind of "unity".
But when that meeting is over, the fact is that all of these groups are basically in COMPETITION with one another (especially the Charismatic and Pentecostal ones). They all meet at the same time each week - hoping for more members to join "THEIR" group. And they all have their own hierarchies, their own 'label', their own "stream" that they are a part of (-even the so-called "Non-denominational" churches - which are just as 'systemized' in reality).
Some have likened this situation to "fast-food" chains, because the set-up is quite similar. Let us suppose that Burger King sets up a restaurant just down the street from a McDonalds. Now, the two managers may be quite friendly on the surface. They may even attend local meetings of the "Fast-Food Togetherness" club. But the fact is, they are SELLING THE SAME PRODUCT just down the street from one another. They need more customers and they are in TOTAL COMPETITION with each other. Can anybody conceive of true "unity" between Burger King and McDonalds? Not in a million years! (-Not unless they buy each other out). There is NO UNITY to be had in that scenario. It is designed for COMPETITION. And the structure of the church today is virtually identical. We are all 'down the street' from our main competition - EACH OTHER. The system itself does not allow for unity. It was built out of competing 'streams', denominations and divisions. While we keep this system, there is about as much chance for TRUE unity as McDonalds becoming "one" with Burger King tomorrow.
Jesus prayed concerning His followers "that they all may be ONE...that the world may BELIEVE." This disunity and division that is so obvious to all, is one of the huge reasons why the world does not BELIEVE what we say today. They point to our divisions and (quite rightly) disdain our words.
As we have discussed before, in the Book of Acts there was ONE church - united under the leadership of the apostles. They had huge citywide gatherings and smaller house-fellowships, but they were all ONE BODY. When they met together "from house to house" it was basically ALL the local Christians from that neighborhood. They lived and fellowshipped with one another from street to street. THAT is what "local church" really means!
But today we cannot just be part of the "whole Body", can we? We have to choose a 'division' to belong to - otherwise we are seen as 'heretics'. I believe the original apostles would be rolling in their graves if they could see the way the church is set up today.
If only we could see ourselves through their eyes. Every Sunday we dress up and go to our Division's "cathedral", where we sit down, stand up, sing our "five fast songs and five slow songs", listen to the sermon, place our money in the offering bag, hear the notices and go home. Week-in and week-out, it is almost always the same. And we think this is "church life"!
As the early Pentecostal pioneer Frank Bartleman wrote: "We drift back continually into the old, backslidden, ecclesiastical conceptions, forms and ceremonies. Thus history sadly ever repeats itself. Now we must work up an annual revival. We go to church on Sundays, etc, etc, just 'like the nations (churches) round about us.' But in the beginning it was not so."
So HOW do we find true UNITY?
The answer to this question is that we have GOT to get out from under all these "LABELS". We have to abandon a system that simply does not allow us to BE THE CHURCH as she is meant to be. I know this sounds 'drastic', but I have been pondering this subject for years and it is very clear to me that there is NO WAY BACK to the simple unity of the early church unless we abandon our current system. Today's structure CANNOT be reformed. It is a disaster area - and 'division' is at the very heart of it.
As the renowned Christian writer John Bunyan declared: "Since you desire to know by what name I wish to be called, I desire, if God should count me worthy, to be called a Christian, a believer, or any other name sanctioned by the Holy Ghost. But as for those factious titles, such as Anabaptists, etc, I believe they came neither from Jerusalem nor Antioch, but rather from hell and Babylon, for they naturally tend to divisions, and ye may know
them by their fruits."
But HOW do we get the whole church back to the type of unity they had in the Book of Acts? How on earth do we get people to abandon these DIVISIONS?
I am convinced that it will take a full-blown AWAKENING to do this. And I am convinced that this Awakening must begin OUTDOORS - outside the "4 walls" - just like Acts. Why is it so important to get people out of their religious environments and walls? -Because of all the "learnt behavior" and DIVISIONS that go with those surroundings. People have to leave it all behind to even see how sick it is. And also, it is only outside that we can
actually experience "one church" as a reality. When people truly experience the love and unity of gathering with fellow believers OUTSIDE THE WALLS - then they will realize what we have been missing all these years. -And how simple it is. God wants us to LIVE THIS WAY all the time - not just on special occasions.
Once people have experienced what true unity is like, I believe this will naturally lead to "house to house" fellowship in their own neighborhoods. -It is just a continuation of the same concept.
Now, just to be clear here: I do not believe in "dumbing down" our Christianity to achieve unity. I do not believe in uniting around the "lowest common denominator". Instead, I believe we need to RAISE our standards and unite around that. -So that nothing less than a glorious, Spirit-imbued church will do - pure and holy, filled with the glory of God. It is not "unity at all costs" that I am preaching here. It is uniting around the TRUTH and the outpouring of the Spirit of God.
By the way, I think we need to AVOID SUNDAY MORNINGS for our meeting times! Otherwise we are simply in "competition" with the churches. Let's break away from this destructive pattern this time, shall we?
In closing this article, I believe it is important for us to remember what occurred at the start of Acts:
(1) There was a gathering of 120 'pioneers' - cleansed and humbled by God.
(2) These pioneers cried out to God for 10 days.
(3) There was a great "OUTPOURING" of the Holy Spirit upon these pioneers.
(4) The pioneers went outdoors and preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, and led thousands of others into the same mighty experience of cleansing and infilling that they had just been through.
(5) This Revival began with huge outdoor gatherings and spread "from house to house". The fire was unstoppable!
-Thus a true "Revival Church" was born, totally imbued with the glory of God.
This is the same path that we need to travel down today, I believe.
God bless you, my friends!
Kindest regards in Christ,