My denomination is in a strange place right now. There is some division going on among us and it is really heart breaking. At the core of it all is an issue of consensus. We are constantly taking votes to see who is right, but there is a problem with that, the minority side refuses to back down from their position and so we have disunity and distraction. In a way I don’t blame them, they’re convinced they’re right. As a result of this conflict, we have been dragged away from what the church should really be doing for over 30 years because we can’t come to consensus.
Who said we had to?
Here’s the thing. In America we love democracy, and in government that is a good thing, but the church can never be a democracy. In case you don’t believe me, ask yourself this question: Has the majority ever really followed Jesus?
The church is not a democracy. The church is called to follow Jesus. He speaks we obey. He says, “Jump,” we say, “how high?” He commands and we say, “Yes, Lord?” It’s the only proper response, after all if we say not to the Lord is He really Lord (in our lives)? We don’t need consensus, we need obedience.
I know what you might be thinking, “Didn’t Jesus pray we’d be united? Isn’t consensus really about finding unity?” Looking at the results before me, I would have to say it isn’t working. A closer look at John 17:21-23 reveals the key to unity, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Does Jesus pray for complete unity in the Church? Yes, but there are terms to the unity. We may be one as He and the Father are one. Jesus and the Father are one because they Jesus was fully obedient to God (anything less and He could not be our Savior). If we are to be One like that, we need to be one IN CHRIST, in other words we need to be united in obedience to Jesus and His teachings. It’s not enough to be united. We need to be united in Christ. We need to be united in following the Word. Consensus is not enough. We need to follow Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul gives a chilling indictment of the Church he founded there. He says “17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.” I wonder if our meetings do the same as we fight over the issues of the day instead of saying, thus sayeth the Lord. If you move onto verse 18 you see he is displeased with their division. “In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.” Then he seems to show the one good grounds for division. “19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” In other words, sometimes there will be divisions because sometimes someone will be wrong and you can’t just unite with them for the sake of unity.
We need to be united in Christ. Consensus is not enough.