For the church to be effective in carrying out the task of making disciples, it must come to some common ground, or we will not be unified.
In the first century there were Jewish and Gentile believers. Even those two distinct groups were divided into followers of the different apostles. There were those that followed Paul and those that followed Apollos. It almost seems division was inevitable.
1 Corinthians 1:12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas (Peter)"; still another, "I follow Christ." 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
Paul certainly understood the problem with immature believers that would follow a man, not Christ himself. What about you? Are you following Christ or a man? How do you know?
You can usually separate these folks out when a pastor leaves and a new one comes. Some try to follow the pastor to his new position, and others leave because they don't like the new one. It may be human nature, but is sure ain't God. You are either in the church that He wants you in, or not. I am not buying that "God connected me with a man" argument. It is possible that one will be sent out to plant another church as a teammate, but that is not what I am talking about.
This morning I heard a speaker as he told a story about the revival that came to Seattle in the mid to late '90s. It was powerful enough to bring together, in one service, a Foursquare, a Pentecostal and an Independent church under one roof for shared meetings. You see the manifest presence of God is greater then all the theologians you can fit on a turnip wagon.
If you research revival at all, you'll find that just about every denomination has had a Charismatic/Pentecostal revival. These revivals included signs and wonders along with the use of the spiritual gifts -- you know -- tongues, prophecy and healing to name a few. These outpourings of God come for a season, and for some reason seem to fade away until the next one. Seasons, God's sovereignty, the flesh-- who knows exactly why they seem to end. Amazingly, when the next one comes along, it is a little different, and little bit the same as the last.
In revivals, from the earliest recorded ones around the time of St. Patrick, to the most recent ones in Lakeville, Toronto and Brownsville (Pensacola) Florida- the person of the Holy Spirit manifests in a mighty way to point to the truths of Jesus resurrected. Each time we get a deeper understanding of God, His character, and His utter inability to be kept in one denomination.
It is these times of revival that seem to unify the global church. I think that it is amazing, and little funny to see Charismatics in the Catholic and Episcopalian churches along with a truck load of other protestant and liturgical denominations. Doctrines other than the ones of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ don't make a lot of headlines during these times. Oh sure, the dispensationalists come out in force like a corporate team of lawyers for Jesus-- and the spirit of the Pharisees lives on. [A reader pointed out this fact - Revivals cause division-- separating those that are hungriest for God from those that are not. That is what I meant to say.]
So how is it that we will become unified? Some think that it will take a major move of the Holy Spirit with pulpit splitting power and weeping repentance (Read the God Chasers). That might happen. It is not going to be because we are more tolerant and flexible in our interpretation of the Word of God; He never changes. It is doubtful intellectuals ever brought revival by sheer brain power - in fact they may have staved if off a few times. :o) [A reader brought to my attention that John Edwards attended Yale at age 13 and was Valedictorian at 17.]
I think it is going to be more like a Field of Dreams. If we build it, He will come. I am not talking about a building-- but a temple-- a spiritual organism that can breath with the Holy Spirit as He blows where He wills.
What are we to build that will unify us as a true religion- for lack of a better word? First we are going to need a fresh revelation, then become equipped for the work of the kingdom, and then, maybe then, God will come in a mighty way sending us to the harvest fields, not as infants, but as mighty men and woman of God complete with a diversity of spiritual gifts and weapons which are not carnal; the warrior bride. [The seeds of revival being humility and repentance 2 Chronicles 7:14 - also pointed out by a reader. Although I am quite aware of these dimensions-- I assumed that you, the reader already understood that pride is not a vehicle for anything in the church but disaster.]
Ephesians 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.