Friday I posted about why the church should be working toward greater unity. Saturday I posted about John Armstrong’s understanding of how to deal with issues of truth, individualism and how God works in history. Today I am looking at how Your Church Is Too Small addresses steps to move forward.
In the end I think the question that must be asked for people that do not value (or are very marginal on the value) of drawing the church together is “Who is a Christian?” or “What is part of the real Church?”
Armstrong starts with scripture. According to Acts 2:21, “Everyone who calls upon the name of Christ shall be saved.” Almost no one that I talk to really think we should (or can) start here. The most clear example of how this runs into immediate problems is with Mormons. Many Mormons want to call themselves Christians, but almost no Christians accept Mormons because Mormons reject the divinity of Christ. So we move onto the second part. Armstrong, based on a longer discussion of historical understanding and scripture, suggests another simple definition, “A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and follows his teachings.” I think this really deals with almost all questions that I have had people bring up to me in particular. If you acknowledge the divinity of Christ, acknowledge Christ as savior and follow his teachings (as passed down both through scripture and tradition) there is very little additional that needs to be added without being divisive.
From this point, Armstrong makes some clear recommendations. First, he suggests that we avoid speaking ill of other Christians, and when we disagree, to make every effort to deal with the ideas and never question their Christianity. Armstrong asserts this is not being soft on heresy but actually following the rules set up by scripture for dealing with controversy. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master they stand or fall (Romans 14:4).
The second recommendation is to focus on Mission. In Armstrong’s words:
“Barth was likely the first theologian to see that mission was an aspect of God’s nature. He saw mission as a movement from God to the world. The church was the instrument of God’s mission. I suggest that our categories for mission are simply too small, just as our categories for church are too small. The two go hand in hand. We must begin to teach leaders and churches to grasp “the comprehensive nature of God’s mission.”
“As counterintuitive as it seems, we love the world best when we love one another first. It seems that if our love for one another is real, it cannot help but impact the world.”
The rest of the book gives examples of how drawing the church together is happening and how that affects the work of the church.
Overall I think this is an important book that all Christian leaders need to wrestle with. In my few years, I have seen many instances where sectarian divides and internal struggles have put the kingdom back years. I hope that this is an example of the tide turning and the focus of the church move from the little issues to the issues of the Kingdom, and the King, Christ.
Disclosure: This book was provided free for purposes of review. For more information about the book you can also go to the book’s website.