Congregational Division: An Ancient Reality
Unity Is Not Uniformity
God Makes Us One
The Role Model of Congregational Division
Unity in Diversity
Unity and the Individual's Conscience
Ungodliness and Christian Unity
Destroying Unity by Perverting Christianity
False Teachers and Congregational Unity
Dangerous Bible Teachers
Dangerous Members: The Intimidator
Other Dangerous Members
The author clearly remembers an incident occurring in 1962 during his senior year at David Libscomb College. A fellow student, also preaching, initiated a discussion about unity with a denominational minister. After the student made a plea for the unity of all believers, the denominational minister quietly replied, "Son, the church of Christ is the most divided religious group I know."
The churches of Christ cannot preach unity credibly to the denominational world without being committed to congregational unity. In unperceived blindness, many congregations never realize that pleading for denominational neighbors to seek unity while they themselves struggle with internal division has the substance of a dry desert wind. While they may be blind to the contradiction of pleading for unity as they exist in division, their denominational neighbors see that contradiction clearly.
Many congregations and preachers never grasp the significance of the indisputable fact that there was no denominationalism in the first century. The meaning of that fact is this: in context, all teachings concerning unity in the epistles are discussions of congregational unity. Incredibly, in gospel meetings, weekly sermons, and class discussions, many congregations exclusively apply those passages to the problem of denominational division, and rarely (if ever) to congregational division. Many consistently teach those passages as if they were penned to address denominationalism while ignoring the fact that the passages originally addressed congregational division.
A few years ago the author listened to a brother preach who believes congregational cooperation is a sinful violation of congregational autonomy. He presented a fine lesson on unity. He used the passages on unity correctly, and he made an excellent presentation of the ills of division. However, he made exclusive application to denominationalism. There was a strange irony in the fact that he would not have applied the same understandings to congregational division. It was evident that he had never realized the passages he presented, in context, addressed the importance of congregation unity, and not the problem of denominational division.
The following lessons are presented to challenge the reader to take a fresh look at the teachings of the New Testament on unity and to apply them to congregational unity. The author claims neither special inspiration from God nor a knowledge and wisdom superior to all his brethren. He asks only for a serious, open-minded review of the text.
Special thanks is given to Reese Bryant. A brief, chance conversation with him prompted the author's reexamination of oneness in Christ.
It is impossible to adequately express the author's gratitude to Dr. Richard Oster. He is deeply indebted to brother Oster for his careful reading of the manuscript and for his invaluable insights and evaluations.
He wishes to express his gratitude to Glenda Hendrix. Her superb proofreading skills and excellent knowledge of grammar are an invaluable resource. He is equally grateful for Tommie Waters who so willingly and cheerfully checks minute details which others would find boredom's laborious task.
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