Developing a 2020 Vision for the Church:
The Unity of the Church

by Dr. Bob Young
Thanksgiving 2017

Note: On the first Sunday of January 2000, I presented in a combined adult Bible class a list of items to be thoughtfully addressed if the church were to be a viable voice in the new millennium. I was asked to expand the list from that Bible class presentation into a series of bulletin articles. Those articles are still available on this website: Foundations Series.
Almost 20 years later, it is definitely time for a rewrite. The question is still valid: how can the church be a viable voice in the contemporary world? What questions must we address? What understandings are essential for Christianity to survive and thrive in the world we know today? This new series is again being written as articles, but it is expected that the articles will also be useful as outlines for sermon series or seminar presentations.
In this new series, I write to set forth a 20/20 vision, so that we might see more clearly, and to set a goal to be accomplished by the year 2020. The next two years will fly by quickly. Will the church learn anything from what it has experienced? Can the apparent decline in Christianity be reversed? Will the church find renewed strength and resolve to present God's truth with boldness, daring, and sensitivity so that a new generations of Christians learn to live in the world without becoming worldly, to understand the call to unity and diversity, to renew the mission so the primary message is always one of eternal hope? Now is the time to begin working toward the reality God desires for his people.

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| Introduction | #1: Truth | #2: Bible Inspiration | #3: Bible Interpretation | #4: Church | #5: Unity | #6: Worldliness | #7: Christian Experience | #8: Mission | #9: Hope | #10: Human Nature | #11: Christian Living |

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What is the nature of Christian unity? Is unity a reality or only theoretical? What level of cooperation and interaction is necessary to affirm that unity exists? Is unity primarily doctrinal? Is unity primarily practical? What is a proper attitude toward ecumenical or cooperative movements or efforts?
How should one understand the relationship between individual local congregations? Are they to be autonomous, independent, interdependent? Or a combination? How do relationships of dependency or codependency encourage or hinder unity?

Historically, the conservative element of the churches has generally issued a blanket, uncritical, even vociferous rejection of ecumenicism. Is ecumenicism as it is generally practiced in our contemporary world merely "agreeing to disagree"? How can we, if at all, be discerning, affirming the biblical foundations of genuine ecumenism? After all, we must recall that one of the foundational pillars of our American Restoration Movement was unity. Can we affirm the good in an effort while continuing to claim the freedom to reject what is not within the scope of biblical authority? Such has been most difficult in our heritage, especially so in the waning days of the twentieth century and the first decades of the twenty-first century. One can only hope that we will creatively rethink what the faith requires in this area as we forge a future.

While they are two separate issues, to raise questions about ecumenicism also raises questions concerning cooperation within the Christian community. How, if at all, shall we be involved in moral and ethical issues such as abortion, pornography, etc. What of involvement in loose alliances of ministers in a community who in coming together infrequently at least bring the possibility of dialogue? What about involvement in various activities with others who do not share the specific parameters of our faith, e.g. "Meet at the Pole," abortion rallies, or combined efforts to oppose pornography or other immorality?

The Restoration Movement had as its two great pillars in its early days a dream for the return for Scripture and a dream for the unity of believers. Some say that history suggests that the two may be mutually exclusive. Do we in the church still believe these are simultaneously possible? Have we given up on the dream? Must a Christian choose one or the other? Can we have allegiance and loyalty to God and his word and to God's plan for the unity of his people at the same time?

Simplistic answers are easy and abound on every front. Who will think seriously about our dilemma and help us find our way through the jungle of contemporary religion, so we can fulfill Jesus' prayer in John 17? Will we? Can we?


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Last updated November 23, 2017