While I have not been as captivated by the political process this election cycle as it seems much of the country is, I have been watching sporadically. What I have noticed is that one specific interest group is being courted by several of the candidates. Political pundits often group evangelicals together as a voting powerhouse. Two things about this line of thinking strike me as profound. One, do those who don’t consider themselves a part of this evangelical community really believe we ever unite for anything except in times of crisis? We spend more time knit-picking one another than we do uniting our voices. Second, it is also clear that they do not lump evangelicals in with Christianity at large or the church. We are seen as that fringe element of Christianity where our faith actually has some influence on how we live and how we vote. While that should be a fairly accurate evaluation of most evangelicals, it also sends up a red flag. Once we are identified as outside the norm for Christianity it is not too far a stretch for us to be labeled extremists. The next step is to lump us all together with those who bomb abortion clinics or hijack airplanes.
This spotlight from those outside the evangelical community has caused me to consider who we really are. From my perspective I think the political strategists give us more credit than credit is due. I don’t think we are as united as they assume. However, I think we were at one time, but not today. When I read of the early church I see a powerful influence in society. I see a group of people who are united for the cause of Christ and the expansion of the gospel. Yes there were some early divisions within the church. In her formative years some members of the church brought their former prejudices with them. These needed to be reminded that there were neither Jews nor Greeks, men or women, slave-owners or slaves in the fellowship. When they came together they were all equals. (Galatians 3:28) Some who were wealthy and were accustomed to having priority over others found that this type of behavior was not to be tolerated in the church. (I Corinthians 11:33) Even widows who were from outside Israel, by necessity were beggars before becoming believers. However, they were not to be ignored in God’s new economy. (Acts 6:1) These issues, and several others, were dealt with head on by the leadership of the early church. They knew their influence on the world would be amplified if they remained together (John 17:21)
So early on believers would unite under the banner of Christ in a city and become a powerful influence to change lives where they lived. Churches were known by the city in which they were united. There was the Church at Pergamos, the Church at Smyrna, the Church at Sardis and other churches in other cities in Asia Minor. In Europe you had the great Church in Rome. In Israel you had the Church in Jerusalem. Each of these churches had elders and deacons. Internally, they shared within their ranks so that no one would suffer need. Externally, they infiltrated and influenced their cities with the good news and were prepared to give a response for the hope that resided within them. (I Peter 3:15) United, they were the single most influential segment of society. (Acts 17:6)
Prophetically, Jesus warned His disciples about the human propensity to elevate self and separate over minor differences. 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. Mark 3:24-25 (NKJV) No wonder he prayed just before He was betrayed,
11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. John 17:11 (NKJV) I wonder if Jesus looked down through the centuries and saw the church become splintered into numerous denominations and divisions within those denominations? Did He anticipate hundreds of churches within the same city speaking with different voices in favor of different agendas? Was He praying for churches He knew would choose to divide over the color of their skin, their rituals, or their emphasis of one Scripture above another or one spiritual gift as greater than the rest? While we have become many we have also become weak. When a volume of water is narrowed into a single powerful stream it can spin turbines that can light entire cities. But when that same amount of water is diverted into thousands of shallow streams, its force is diminished so that any obstacle in its path can halt its flow. The result is a puddle that eventually stagnates and evaporates into thin air.
Sadly, outside of another crisis I see no evidence that the church will be united until we do so in heaven. I don’t want to sound like an eternal pessimist. I think I am a realist. I truly hope I am proven wrong. I would like nothing better than to see churches working together until the Lord returns. Personally, I want to do my part in joining the forces of Dallas Bay with other great churches to influence the world for the cause of Christ. Wouldn’t it be great to be more than just a political interest group to be won at election time and become a force for good every day of the year. We should influence the political process with our participation by the Spirit that dwells within us while never forgetting that we serve a King Whose Kingdom has no end and the government shall be upon His shoulder. Somebody say AMEN!