When we had dinner the other night with our friends who just moved back from PA , we had a great discussion. I learned a lot about the church and myself through that discussion. They shared with us their desire to be involved in unifying the body of Christ. What a great desire, and what an area that truly needs dealing with inside the Western Church. I applaud their desire and hope and pray that they are able to help move things in that direction.
When we started talking about this issue, they explained that they intend to start a para-church ministry to fulfill this goal. At this point my mind immediately went negative, it was as though that one word threw a wall up in my mind and automatically set me against the idea. I realized after further reflection on the conversation how wrong it was for me to completely shut myself off from the idea simply because they want to go about it in a way that I have preconceived negative opinions on. Honestly who knows if I have negative opinions on their approach, all I know is I have an aversion to that one word, “para-church.”
A major reason that Stephanie and I seek to have more of an organic understanding of the church is because we want to see more unity among the broader body of Christ. We hope to see less of the idea of “your church” vs. “my church” in our interaction with other believers, but here I was dividing myself from these fellow believers because I didn’t like the terminology they used to describe what they felt led to be doing. This conversation helped me realize my unwillingness to work with people who don’t think like me, people who use terminology that I take issue with. How backward of me to shut myself off from these wonderful people because they used the term “para-church.” How contrary to everything I say I believe to simply write off their desires for unity because they want to pursue it in terms that I don’t like.
I really appreciate their willingness to share what they feel God is calling them to do. I really look forward to seeing how God will use them to help unify his body, and I really hope that He will break down my prejudices so that He can use me in the same way. I realize now how antagonistic I have become against my brothers and sisters in the more institutional arena of the church. I pray that God will break down those prejudices and help me to see all fellow believers as brothers and sisters, that I will see what God is using them for and how God is working in their lives, and that I can learn to look past our differences in thought to try and reach real unity with them.
It is not enough to say I seek unity with all fellow believers in Christ, but to only connect myself with those who see unity and see the church the way that I do. I can clearly see that I have much to learn about love, Christian fellowship, and unity from fellow believers, both inside and outside of my own understanding of the church.