Over the past months, I have either read of or heard someone commenting that we live in a fractured, disunified, country. If the presidential election cycle of last year, as well as the months since the election, has shown anything, it has shown that fissures exist in this country, deep and wide and potentially unfixable fissures.
This is not something that would be a shock to many people.
Additionally, I have also heard people who are followers of Jesus, both leaders in churches and laity, who have said that the answer to the presence of these fissures within the country is what the church has to offer to the world. Theoretically, I would agree, but unfortunately, in practice, the church, in its present form, is not the answer to the disunity present in this country.
And that may be something that does shock you, if you are a follower of Jesus. The church truly does not have the answer.
Why do I say that?
I say it because the answer to the presence of disunity is to do things that unite, that unify people together. And the church just does not possess that.
The church in its current form, and a form that has been in existence for a very long time, is one of the most, if not the most, divided organizations in existence. If you are a Christian and disagree with what I just asserted, I would ask you to do a three-part experiment.
Step one, find out the population of your community. You can do that by googling your community’s name together with “population.”
Step two, determine how many different churches exist within your community.
Step three, through asking around, find out how often separate congregations collaborate in some fashion for some kingdom purpose.
Unless your community is very unique, here is what you most likely will find. The number of separate churches within your community is quite high for population of your community. For example, Fort Dodge, IA (the community in which I currently reside) has a population of 25,000 – 26,000. There are at least 40 separate churches listed as existing in Fort Dodge. 40! And within the ecumenical community of Fort Dodge, you would also find what I call a “silo” mentality and a “fiefdom” mentality. That means that there is very little real collaboration between congregations to impact the community with the kingdom of God (silo – “We do our own thing”) and an intense desire to protect our “turf” in the community for our continued existence (fiefdom – “We want to be in control”).
Through that experiment, you will find that the church is a very fractured entity.
And you cannot give what you do not already possess or don’t have the authority to grant. For example, I cannot give you $1,000,000 unless my bank account has at least 7 digits to the left of the decimal or I have authority over someone else’s account that have over $1,000,000. It is impossible to do so otherwise. The reason Jesus can free us is because he already possesses freedom. The reason Jesus can give us peace is because he already possesses peace. The reason Jesus can give us true life is because he already possesses true life. The reason Jesus can give us love is because he already possesses love. You get the point.
So, when people point to the church as being the answer to the fissures present in this country, I believe it to be an answer with no foundation in reality because the church itself does not have unity. And even the church cannot give what it does not possess. And, honestly, it is far too often the case where the people of God are actually the ones causing the fissures in this country.
What people do not realize is what the disunity in the church proclaims to the world. It proclaims, loud and clear, that God did not send Jesus into the world.
Why do I say that? Jesus was quite clear on this. In his prayer that is found in John 17, Jesus says, “I do not ask on behalf of these only, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their word, so that they all should be one, just as you, Father are in me and I in you, so that they should be in us, SO THAT THE WORLD SHOULD BE BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE SENT ME.”
The unity of believers is what will cause the world to believe that God sent Jesus. If the unity isn’t present, which it truly isn’t, what the church is actually proclaiming is that God did not send Jesus. You may not like that statement, but it is the reality.
In order to be the answer for the disunity, the fissures, present in this country, the church must first identify, address, and change what causes disunity in itself. Honestly, there shouldn’t be Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, etc, churches in a community. It should be the church of Fort Dodge, unity as one, or the church of whatever the name of the community is – unified in the mission, interaction, and practice of the kingdom of God.
And based on a prophetic word I was given last summer, I believe it is time for me to begin to explore the next steps of starting a fledgling ministry, a ministry of the Word spoken and the Word in music, which would have as its focus, its purpose, and its mission to call Christians to truly come together in unity as the Father and the Son are unified, so that the world will believe that God has sent the Son and the church, the people of God, truly possess and give the answer to the fissures present in this country.