So with a foundation of agreement concerning who Jesus is and what His good news is, and with an understanding of what an “ekklesia” actually is, what should we, the Lord’s people in Bloomington, do about it? What we have in our city currently is obviously nothing close to what we see in the New Testament. We obviously are not fulfilling Christ’s prayer and command for us to be one. So what does He want us to do?
This page explores the answer to that question and is divided into the following sections:
- What stands in the way of us being one?
- Do we have to do anything? Is the current state really a problem?
- What can I as an individual do?
What stands in the way of us being one?
After meeting with a number of respected christian leaders in Bloomington to discuss the idea of the Lord’s people truly becoming one, the following practical considerations kept coming up:
- Many of the Lord’s people in Bloomington are timid about change and are very tied to the identity of their organizations and/or denominations.
- Many of the Lord’s people in Bloomington have some biases or unresolved issues between them that result in distance.
- Many of the Lord’s people in Bloomington have taken on financial debt and there are many assets, livelihoods, and projects that would have to be considered.
Along with these considerations these leaders also provided many ideas on long term strategies and solutions, but, interestingly, a long while before having those wonderful conversations, during a season of meditation on how the Lord’s people in Bloomington could become one, the following list of three practical prerequisites had come together:
- For the Lord’s people in Bloomington to be able to honestly welcome the ekklesia of Christ, they must abandon any name by which they distinguish themselves from one another.
- For the ekklesia of Christ to be established in Bloomington, there must be a physical gathering for all the Lord’s people.
- For the ekklesia of Christ in Bloomington to flourish and do what it was designed to do, the members of the ekklesia must love one another sincerely, willing to share all things – debt, time, work, concerns, decisions, joys, etc.
As you can see, the practical considerations which the leaders raised, although extremely helpful to have clarified, were no surprise. Each of the three practical considerations that continued to come up matched perfectly with one of the logical prerequisites that had been drafted beforehand. Each stumbling block that came up has a simple solution of the heart that no long term approach or activity can bring about (even though at first that would seem to be the wisest course of action).
The reason the long term approach isn’t the right approach is because although the major practical considerations are obstacles, they are only obstacles in that they themselves are the very things that must be surrendered to the Lord in order for us to see His prayer be fulfilled in our city. The practical prerequisites that had been written down beforehand turned out to be exactly that: prerequisites. We must first walk in the path of obedience towards the oneness the Lord commanded for us and desires for us, and then we will have the power to address the concerns. There will be resistance to a change of identity? His people must share only one identity! There will be discomfort in coming all together? His people must share a time all together to encourage and enable resolution! There will be difficulty in caring for one another? His people must share their hearts and possessions as each is able!
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, [are] in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)
Because the three practical prerequisites deal with the individual, there is no reason to wait or delay. These are obstacles of the heart that we can each overcome immediately with the power of His Spirit. And without that change of heart, the Lord’s will for our oneness will never be fulfilled. We cannot fulfill his desire for us of truly being one if we are not willing to change and let go of our traditions to the extent that we can call ourselves by the same name and stop distinguishing ourselves from one another. We cannot fulfill his desire for us of truly being one if we are not willing to forgive and humbly seek reconciliation to the extent that we physically come together. We cannot fulfill his desire for us of truly being one if we are not willing to trust the Lord with all the debts and possessions to the extent that we share all things with one another.
Our clinging to human traditions, our passive approach to reconciliation, and our material concerns are the very things that prevent us from fulfilling his desire for us. We don’t need wisdom to resolve those things before we can become one. We don’t need a clever way of slowly getting people’s feet wet to the idea of unity. We don’t need to have a rigid structure or extreme caution in order to form a unity that will last. We don’t need to consider everyone’s debts, financial needs, and assets before committing to unity. And we definitely don’t need everyone else to go first. What we need first is to abandon these concerns altogether, cling to the one name, come all together, and share all things, and then he will give us wisdom for dealing with the difficulties!
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
If we rely on putting it all together or figuring it all out before offering the hand of fellowship to one another, then the doubters will be proven correct and we’ll never be one like Jesus commanded until heaven. And if we rely on everyone else to go first, everyone will always be waiting… But if instead we turn it all over to the Lord and are willing to forsake everything to fulfill His will for us – His prayer for us – His command to us – then we can be sure it will happen, because it is what He wants!
“But Jesus looked at [them] and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ ” (Matthew 19:26)
Do we have to do anything? Is the current state really a problem?
If after reading the above you are left feeling unconvinced and wondering whether or not such drastic changes are really necessary, the answer is yes, they are. Jesus prayed that we would be one so that “the world may believe that [the Father] sent [Him]” (John 17:21). If the world is not believing enough to either join us or attack us, something is terribly wrong. Jesus promised persecution for His followers, so if we are His followers why hasn’t that promise been fulfilled? We aren’t separated away from the world. It is all around us in Bloomington, and yet there’s such little evidence that those practicing evil “hate the light” (John 3:20). Could it be that it is because we are dim embers separated by distance and coldness when instead we should be close together and warming each other to such a point that we produce light?
But if impacting the magnification of Christ and the salvation of the lost is also unconvincing, then consider how we obey Christ’s command to address sins against one another. Jesus commanded that if a brother refuses to hear one and then two brothers about his sin, they are to take the issue before the ekklesia (Matthew 18:17). He commanded His followers to take such issues before the ekklesia without even a mention of the possibility that we would go so far in our divisions to not even have an ekklesia. Paul instructed Timothy in a similar way saying, “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:20). Is the person’s small group or close friends good enough to be considered “all”? What about a congregation of a few hundred? No, “all” means all – all the believers in that city or town to whom the person could run to for inclusion. Taking the unresolved issue to any group less than the ekklesia is to do less than commanded.
If the Lord’s people are not truly one then any discipline among them is ultimately an empty measure, and the rebuked person will simply find another congregation that will accept his sin, or if all else fails he will form his own congregation in order to avoid the issue. But no matter what he does, how can any of the other congregations dismiss the one he finds (or founds)? The existence of those congregations is founded on the idea that Christ recognizes and accepts multiple ekklesias in the same place, each one governing itself. The only congregation with the ability to dismiss the authority of another congregation in the same place is a congregation founded upon the idea that more than one local and authoritative congregation is not possible – that the only options are to work things out and submit to one another or to stand on the sidelines – such a congregation is the ekklesia.
It’s not up to a single believer to establish the ekklesia in his or her city, but if we are not even willing to participate in the ekklesia or its formation, are we not rejecting a necessary component to obeying one of Christ’s commands? How can we ever say we’ve done our best to obey that command if we have not worked toward or even desired his ekklesia to be established in our city?
What can I as an individual do?
If after reading the main content of this page or the above, you are feeling convinced that something should be done but you don’t know what you can personally do, here are some ideas:
- Pray for the Lord’s desire for His people to be one to truly take form in your city.
- Confess any part you have had in the separation of the Lord’s people.
- Abandon any denominational or congregational names that you have used to identify yourself and/or any memberships you have placed yourself under. (Keep in mind that abandoning memberships does not always mean you need to abandon the associated people or ministries.)
- Ready yourself and your affairs for the potential of the ekklesia coming all together, which Christ Himself will build in his own good timing.
- Begin meeting with believers who are willing to meet only under the name of Christ, only under the auspice of being believers, and only under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The only thing a small group can do is to example the kind of love for one another and desire for obeying His commands that they hope to see exhibited by every other believer in their city.
- Ensure that you are continuing “steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and the sharing [of all things] and the breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42). If we begin by doing this from house to house, it will be much easier to also do it with one accord in one place when the Lord makes that happen.
- Start with yourself. You can’t control others’ willingness to obey, so you have to let that be in God’s hands. You can only choose for yourself to listen and obey. And that’s all your supposed to be doing. If we’re doing something that’s more than just listening or putting into practice what we’ve heard from the Lord, then it comes from us and we’re no longer being a follower. If we are first focused on simply following Him, being an extension of Him, then it will please Him to connect us with others who are doing the same, to form those connections into small groups of followers, to bring together those small groups as the ekklesia in Bloomington, and to use that ekklesia to change our city and world.
- Use the contact methods below to reach out for encouragement, clarification, or opportunities to connect.