The Power of Unity

We don’t focus enough on unity.  It’s hard work.

Believers through the centuries have been skilled at declaring, accusing, judging, or condemning those who embrace differing biblical convictions—or who have experienced personal failings—as corrupted, deceitful, or heretical. Over the millennia, Christians have burned such folk at the stake. Today, we simply fire up a blog or magazine article to scorch those we wish to condemn.

To be clear, I believe in the authority of Scripture, core values, and the essential nature of the kerygmatic core of the Gospel: the death, burial, resurrection, and return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those are ideas to live and to die for. But when we get much beyond that core, we find ourselves in a dreadful morass that inhibits the great commission.

The world is watching.

The behavior of the greater body of Christ is being observed each moment by an ever-intently watching world. While we invest massive energy in attempts to perfect each other, the world around us often sees a divisive, mean-spirited rabble of perfectionists. It may seem to them that we invest little time in loving our neighbors or reaching out to the billions who are searching, lonely, and hurting.

Where am I going with this?

From the beginning of my work as a publisher, my mission has been to bring differing convictions to the marketplace of ideas, where those ideas can be discussed calmly and respectfully, though passionately. I’ve been honored to publish people with widely different points of view, and have seen that dialog produce spiritual growth, real life change, and greater theological unity between widely varying traditions.

That affirmed, I commonly hear authors and writers take off after those they perceive as heretical—often people they’ve never met, much less talked with in depth. All this over matters of opinion I’m not at all sure qualify as being at the core of the Gospel.

As Jesus’s ministry drew to a close, as reflected in John 17, one of His great passions was that the unity of his body would reflect the beauty and power of the Good News.  Whether you’re writing a book, drafting a blog, speaking to a friend or someone in your community – seek first the path to harmony and unity.

Faith In America

Pop culture would have us believe that faith in God among Americans is all but exhausted. Recently, the press, politicians, and pundits pounced on a quote at The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life under the title “The Decline of Institutional Religion.” It said the Crumbled Church 2fastest-growing “religious” group in America is those who say they have “no religion.” They went on to suggest that those who say they have no religion have grown from 8% in 1990 to 20% in 2012.

Such nonsense information can easily confirm any bias. Not unlike the secularization of Western Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many are rooting for America to loose its “naivety” about God, creation, and absolute truth. There is, they say, no creator God who provides guidance to His creation. Using liberal reasoning, all laws, morals or mores are brought about by popular vote—think same sex marriage, banned public prayer, and abortion. If you can get enough people to vote for it, anything is fair game. There is no absolute truth; truth is what we want it to be.

In my view, not only is faith in America not dead, it’s on the verge of an enormous renewal.  Christians have been naïve about surrendering the debate over faith as the founding genius of America. Even so, world events of the last year are awakening faith in the heart of America.

What Pew misses about faith in America is this: National surveys will tell you that over the past few years church membership has been stable at about 70%. Those who interpret surveys as saying more Americans have “no religion” miss the point. The truth is that the American church scene has become dramatically less sectarian–millions of Americans move freely from one denomination to another. They are far less likely to label themselves as a Methodist, Presbyterian, or Baptist. Many evangelicals have come to see the word “religion” as an almost pagan word and hate the idea of being labeled as religious. They are far more likely to say they are “unaffiliated,” simply “Christian,” or “a person of faith.” Pew neglected to clarify this vital point. As a result, when you ask an evangelical Christian if he or she is religious or tied to a specific denomination, they are likely to say no.

Ironically, Gallup first asked about belief in God in 1944, and 4% said they did not believe in God. In 2012, the number of self-labeled atheists was still about 4%.

As a publisher, it occurs to me that 70% of American consumers—most of those who walk through Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble, or Kroger and Walgreens, are church-going Americans of great faith. They’re everywhere—and have a vibrant voice!