The Glaring Possibility

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Jesus, John 17:20-21

One of the keys towards unity in the Church, indeed, one of the most oft missed even glaring possibilities, is found here in Jesus’ priestly prayer for unity. I know, I keep coming back to this verse. Maybe because it is so powerful, so compelling, I hope this prayer comes true.

Jesus prays that we would be one just as he and his Father are one. The oneness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the model of oneness Jesus prays we have. This oneness goes deeper than our facades, our creeds, and our steeples. It goes to the heart of what it means to be in fellowship and community.

It means there is intentional diversity in unity.

The Athanasian Creed gives us an idea of the diversity yet unity within the Trinity. The Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit. Yet, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. In the same vein, it could be said, The Lutheran is not the Presbyterian is not the Pentecostal is not the Baptist…ect. Yet, the Lutheran is the Church, the Presbyterian is the Church, the Pentecostal is the Church, the Baptist is the Church…ect.

The Church is not God, yet, the Church is made in the image of Christ, the image of God. The Trinity becomes the model in which our lives in the Church should model.

Henri Blocher says, “If the pattern is trinitarian, the unity is not obtained to the detriment of the diversity… [it is ] a unity “harmoniously differentiated… The divine trinity is not only a pattern, but a foundation of that marriage of unity and diversity which holds under suspicion all enterprise of bureaucratic uniformity.”

In other words, the unity the Church receives by the Spirit of God will not transform us into churches that all look the same, feel the same, and worship the same style. Rather, the unity that God gives keeps our diversity intact. This means bringing each church and tradition under one head, one managing organization, is not only foolish practically, but, is not the work of God. The work of God is many members, one body. Just as the Trinity is three persons yet one God.

One Body… One Spirit


Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen, Fleckelteppich NIK

My blog’s headline, “One Body, One Faith, One Baptism,” comes from the book of Ephesians 4:4-6.

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Ephesians 4:4-6

Paul is talking about unity in these passages. He wants all Christians in Ephesus, even Christians today, to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (v. 3).

A recent article from Lausanne Movement points out how that unity is achieved. Henri Blocher says, “…the unification of all believers belongs to the real mission of the Holy Spirit. ‘One body’ first depends on ‘one Spirit.’ He goes not to say this is the main point of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21. There Jesus prays, “…for those who believe through me… may all be one… so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

In John 13-17 we get much of our insight into the person and the work of the Holy Spirit. In this context Jesus tells his disciples to love one another (13:34). Then Jesus says he will send a Helper (14:16) in order to help us follow his commandments to love one another, and to love Jesus and the Father. He will teach us all things and bring to remembrance all that Jesus taught (14:26). He will speak all truth and glorify Jesus in his people (16:12ff). Then Jesus prays that those who believe in him will be one in the same love that flows between the Father and the Son (17:20-21).

The fulfillment of Jesus’ promise came 10 days after his Ascension. While the disciples were in the upper room the Holy Spirit came upon them like a rushing wind and fire. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer unifying them in a unique way not seen outside the Church. Blocher says, “This order of events [in John 13-17 and then Acts 2] invites us to understand that the unification which will follow the fulfillment of the word of Christ and the coming of the Spirit are one single event.”

Jesus prays for unity among his people. And then he sent the Holy Spirit in order to answer his own prayer. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the key to unity among the churches.

Is Unity in Evangelism Possible?

Carol was the new pastor in the area. He was young, energetic, and had big dreams. The dreams he had for his church went beyond the four wall. He wanted to reach out to his community and see the lost saved, the broken healed, and people come to know Jesus as their king. With such big ambitions he knew he could not do it alone. What was needed was all the churches uniting together in seeing their communities changed and transformed for the good.

Carol sought out the different ecumenical groups in his area. One was a ministers association. But it was strictly for the pastors and ministry leaders of the area. Other groups were devoted to mercy ministries: homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, and thrift stores. These are all good organizations that the churches should be involved in. But, there was minimal interaction between the churches as a whole. During the holidays there were many ecumenical services. But even then, the various churches only partnered with others churches that had the same worship style and familiar beliefs.

These ecumenical groups, organizations, and services are not wrong. They are good and are much needed. However, when it comes to unity in reaching the lost these are only touching the surface. Carol was frustrated and almost gave up.

When the churches practice ecumenicism it tends to be exclusive to the leadership. “These [leaders] come to enjoy a professional camaraderie that is warm because of what they endured together…” [1]. Hardly ever do you see ecumenism working on a large scale among the laity. Why is that?

Many conferences in the past has brought together people from various backgrounds and traditions for a single purpose. Consider the Promise Keepers movement, marriage retreats, and even musical concerts. These single purpose events brought together many different people from different churches and denominations in order to worship together and be encouraged together. But again, this approach has its downfalls. Rarely are these events evangelistic.

Perhaps a large scale ecumenism service is impossible. However, I believe ecumenism can work in order to reach our communities for Jesus Christ. The first step is coming together intentionally with that purpose in mind. Carol needs to pray, network, and slowly build in the minds of the people in his community what is possible when they all work together.

[1] Rene De Visme Williamson, “Negative Thoughts About Ecumenism.” Christianity Today XX (August 30, 1968) p. 1131

Why I Deleted Social Media Apps From My Phone

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

I pulled the plug from social media. I deleted all my social media apps from my phone. The moment I did it I felt an ease come over me. I didn’t want to feel the constant pull to check the feed. I didn’t want to be bombarded with the constant up and down each post forced upon me. Maybe you should do the same.

I couldn’t totally delete my accounts though. Because I manage The Refuge Homeless Shelter I also manage the social media accounts for this ministry. Facebook is a huge tool when it comes to communicating with our volunteers. So I can’t totally unplug. But, I can limit my access.

Why would I limit my access? Isn’t everybody on Facebook? I too look at people weird when they tell me they are not on Facebook. But, I kind of envy them too. It seems social media is constantly screaming, “Look at me!!!”

After I deleted my apps I stumbled upon a podcast describing how social media works and how it preys upon our worst emotions. What you see in your feed, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and even your search results on Google, are determined by an algorithm. The algorithm is designed to give you content that is catered to you and your interests. It seems like a perfect model to give you what you want. However, the down side is every post you see, every advertisement you see, is made to elicit an emotion in you. When you respond to posts you tell the algorithm you want to see more of this same content. So it feeds you more of the same content to your feed.

The problem with this is the most easiest emotion to elicit is the fight or flight response. In social media it turns into anxiety and rage. The end result is you see many things that you’ve responded to with anxiety. You respond, which changes the algorithm to give you more of the same, you respond again, which changes the algorithm to give you more of the same, rinse and repeat. Soon you find yourself anxious all day due to the constant barrage of anxiety ladened posts from people and advertising. Social Media Anxiety Disorder is a real disorder. The number of people diagnosed rises daily, and many more go undiagnosed.

Perhaps I had the disorder and didn’t know it. I do feel less anxious just in the three days I’ve deleted the apps from my phone. I have resolved only to go on social media once a day from my computer. I also resolve to only be on social media for ten minutes at the most.

If you are feeling anxious, distracted, and have that constant feeling to always be checking your feeds, perhaps you need to think about unplugging for a while.