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