Ok, I know this seems counter intuitive, but stay with me here. Whenever we form groups or define ourselves by what we believe, or what doctrines we agree about, we’re actually defining everyone who doesn’t agree with us as “them” or marking them as outsiders.
I’ve seen this happen too many times. Especially in house church circles. [Not that this doesn’t also happen in every other form of church that’s out there, but my concern is mostly with those who attempt to gather in the New Testament model of ekklesia].
We tend to form friendships and create bonds with people who are just like us. That’s natural. Most of us form close friendships with people precisely because we discover a common bond of agreement on certain issues, or due to an shared affinity for art, music, sports, literature, etc.
This is common. But the Body of Christ is called to be uncommon. Our gatherings are meant to reflect Christ, and if everyone in the group is a carbon copy of everyone else, where is the variety, or the inclusiveness of the Kingdom that is intended to be made up of people from every tongue and tribe and nation?
Most house churches face two very real dangers: One is the danger of disagreement – where arguments are common and meetings feel like endless theological debates, and the other is the danger of agreement – where everyone high-fives one another and nods their heads at every theological statement because no one is allowed if they don’t already agree with everyone else.
There is another way: We learn to focus our meetings on Christ alone and not on agreement, or on disagreements, with any one specific theology or doctrine.
Sound far-fetched? Well, my wife and our family and dozens of others did exactly that for over 11 years. Our house church was filled with people who did not agree on almost anything other than our love for Christ and our desire to know and follow Christ in our daily lives. We also agreed on our devotion to one another and to relating to one another as members of God’s family.
But, we did not spend any time debating theology or arguing for agreement on doctrines. It was glorious!
Now that we are starting a new house church here in our new home town of Meridian, Idaho, we face another challenge: The challenge of agreement.
In this new community, many of us share very similar ideas about theology and embrace many similar ideas about God. But this is a challenge because the temptation is to make our agreement on these things the center of our gatherings, rather than simply Christ.
The tricky part is to share what we know of Christ in a way that honors the other person and allows them to hold slightly different ideas without feeling they are on the outside of the group, or less spiritual or discerning than the rest of the Body.
For example, when we share our personal convictions we can do so with grace and leave room for others to have other ideas. In humility, we can express our deepest heart and still admit the possibility that we just might be wrong about a few things.
Being right or being wrong should never be our ultimate goal. Honesty, is good. Love is better. Grace is essential. Humility is celebrated.
If we can do this, if we can come together admitting that we need Christ, and that we are longing to know Christ more intimately, and to embody Christ more deeply, and to experience Christ in an authentic way, then leaving all that other garbage at the door is a lot easier.
Once we become aware of Christ’s presence in our midst, and surrender to Christ’s leadership, everything else becomes “strangely dim” and we realize that all of our ideas are foolishly inadequate anyway.
All throughout Church history, every time we have sought to bring unity by crafting a doctrine or a statement of faith, we have instead always created more division.
Agreement does not create unity. Agreement creates division.
According to the New Testament, only one thing makes us one and that is Christ Jesus.
“For we are all one in Christ,” Paul says in Galatians 3:28.
If we can lay aside our desire to identify as Christians who are defined by our doctrines, then – and only then – is it possible for us to see one another as simply Children of God who are all in Christ, the one in whom we all live and move and have our being. [See Acts 17:28]
Can we do this? I know we can. I did it for 11 years in Orange, CA. I intend to do so again in Idaho.
Unity is found only in Christ. Let’s find one another in Christ and fulfill our calling to be one with one another even as Christ and the Father are one.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean.
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