Hi Beloved, recently a friend of our ministry made a request to a certain place to have a meeting with us. The response this friend got from this place really shocked me. If I were to do a direct translation into English of the response which was in Sinhala, it basically reads ‘we cannot give our place to an outsider of the faith.’ Outsider of the faith? Say what? How come? We both identify as Christians. We both believe in being saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. In short, all basic tenets of the faith are believed and followed by both of us. Yet this place considers us outsiders of the faith. How come? Why is that? Is it because of this little thing called ‘denomination’?
Christianity has split itself into so many denominations that it is now even hard to find out what exactly the differences are between them. Most denominations today actually share common doctrine but differ in order of worship and few other things that relate more to tradition and practice rather than foundational theology. Most denominations started off as missionary organizations and not as churches. However, over time after the passing away of the founder, these organizations moved away from their founder’s vision and became organized church denominations. Also, there are some denominations whose beliefs are totally contrary to the Word of God. Those kinds of denominations should not be considered as Christian. So, considering that a vast majority of denominations share the same foundational theology, why is that we consider each other ‘outsiders to the faith.’?
Beloved, Christianity’s biggest problem is not persecution nor is it the devil. Christianity’s biggest problem is the lack of unity amongst Christians. Satan has been very successful in splitting us apart and attacking us individually. The lack of unity has resulted in slow growth of Christianity in Sri Lanka. Many people don’t know a very true historical fact. Christianity has almost a 2000-year-old presence in Sri Lanka. There is credible evidence to show that the Apostle Thomas when he evangelised South India, visited the Northern Part of Sri Lanka in A.D 72 and preached the gospel. Despite such a longstanding presence, only 10% of the population is Christian. Why is that?
In Ephesians 4:3-7 Paul writing to the church says ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.’
This portion of scripture gives the church some very important points that we must always remember:
- Make every effort to keep the Unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – We are called to make every effort to maintain unity. What does this mean? Let me use a very small example for this to illustrate. Some of us like to praise and worship God with songs and choruses with the use of a keyboard, guitars and drums. Some of us like to praise and worship God with hymns with the use of an organ. Both forms are worship unto God and when worship is lifted up in the beauty of holiness, God is pleased with it and His presence will come. We must not think just because we have a full band playing and we close our eyes and lift our hands only, Holy Spirit will come. That is a wrong mentality beloved. Holy Spirit moves where true worshippers worship in Spirit and truth in the beauty of holiness. So even if I sing a hymn that is 500 years old, if I sing it in Spirit and truth in the beauty of holiness, Holy Spirit will come. So, we must never look down upon each other. This is just one small example I used to show how we divide ourselves on simple things. I love to worship with praise and worship choruses but I also love to worship with beautiful hymns written hundreds of years ago as well because they carry such wonderful lyrics and gospel messages in each line. I love both. So instead of dividing ourselves over matters like this we must learn to enjoy each other’s way of worshipping Jesus in Spirit and Truth in the beauty of holiness.
- There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – I think we often forget that we all read the same Bible, believe in the same God and are saved by the same Saviour. It is One JESUS. We just worship Him in different church buildings under different church names in different styles. However, the foundational doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ should unite us as one body.
- But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. – What does this mean? Well let me explain it to you this way. Say for example this year 10,000 students are sitting for their Advance Level examinations. If all 10,000 students decide they want to become lawyers or all 10,000 decide they want to become doctors, is that practical? Is that useful for the country? No right. We need people in different fields so that all people can have their individual needs met and the country can develop. Similarly, God Himself gives people different ministries, different ways of ministering, different gifts for ministering all for the benefit of His Kingdom. In fact, the word used in Ephesians 4:3-7 is ‘apportioned’ which means allocated. Christ has done it in that way so that His purposes might be fulfilled. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says ‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.’ Different gifts, different services/ministries, different kind of working but the same Spirit is at work. Beloved, there can be unity in diversity if we just make an effort to discern the fact that it is the Lord who is working in different ways to draw people to Himself. However anything that goes totally against God’s Word is not from Holy Spirit. That we must be careful of.
Sadly, none of the above is practiced today. I have been in full-time ministry for 3 years now. I have seen different denominations fighting each other. I have seen churches under the same denominations fighting each other. I have seen leadership within the same church fighting each other. I have seen leadership and congregation of the same church fighting each other. When I see all of this, I sometimes feel like going near a wall and banging my head again and again. Now in saying all of this I am not saying that I am innocent. I too have been guilty in spreading disunity through my words and actions. That is why from May of this year, I took a pledge before the Lord in His presence that I will never again preach or write anything that causes disunity or preach or write anything that attacks another or puts down another. I will only preach the truth of Your Word and preach the holiness that is stated in your Word.
In 2 Corinthians 12:20, Paul speaks of what he was afraid that he will find inside of the church. He says ‘For I am afraid that when I come, I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.’ I believe this verse finds its exact application in today’s context as well. My prayer is that the generation now and the next one to follow will work towards following the instructions given to us in Ephesians 4:3-7 so that we will learn to enjoy unity in diversity, focus on one common enemy which is the devil, focus on one common vision which is to prepare this nation for the 2nd coming of Christ and focus on one common mission which is to preach this Gospel of the Kingdom in every part of Sri Lanka before the end comes. May Grace be with us all to unite as Christians and not separate as denominations. Please do share this on your Facebook profile, via Whatsapp and email with your friends.