I almost lost someone a few weeks ago.
I was working with her on a writing project and as we approached the editing stage, we realized our different beliefs within our denominations would lead us to an impasse. My heart started to race with the shift in the conversation, but it wasn’t out of anger. It was out of fear. This was a dear friend, someone I valued and cherished. And now would I lose her? I’d seen the effective work of the enemy among my sisters. He slithered his way into tight-knit communities and tore close relationships apart. My fears told me we were next.
But we prayed.
We spoke to our God, the same One who had made us and called us by name. Over the following days, we came back to the collective table and created something lovely for the hearts of women. We were purposeful. We were patient. We let God take the lead. But outcomes like ours seem to be fading in the church.
With three decades of Christianity under my belt, I can say this next statement frankly. People are the main reason others come to church, and people are the main reason others leave the church. Within Christ’s Body, division has taken hold. Disagreements between denominations have left countless brothers and sisters scarred and hurting, some choosing to leave their faith behind.
But if we believe God is our Restorer, then no rift is too wide, and no road is too long if reconciliation is the goal. Jesus came to bring peace to God’s children. His cross became our bridge. He ended separation between God and man, Jew and Gentile, Catholic and Protestant, conventional and contemporary. This was His intentional plan, and it started with His earliest followers.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jenny Marvin
A Reality Check for the Early Church
When we look back on the early church, it was a hot and holy mess. A mixture of races, ethnicities, social rankings, and previous religions cultivated something brand new. Past beliefs and life experiences collided and yet, “the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul…” (Acts 4:32 NASB). They were united. They were committed to Jesus and to each other. With the pressure from Roman rule to conform to their way of worship, our early brothers and sisters stood side-by-side, regardless of their differences. Their Savior bound them together. And He wants to bind us together today.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Four Ways to Bridge the Denominational Gap
Repeat after me: All things are possible with God. If he can heal the blind and bring the dead back to life, He can usher His children back into His original plan. Here are a few ways we can be proactive in bridging denominational gaps.
1.) Focus on Jesus
It has always been about the gospel first. When the early church began to surface, Paul made an important announcement. “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 NIV). Jesus was the foundation of their faith. He was the cornerstone that held everything in place. The moment we take our eyes off the Savior, we begin to sink.
We look at them. We look at ourselves. We point fingers, compare, and make accusations. We decide to step back and judge from afar. Meanwhile, our good God wishes we didn’t make the trade, exchanging the primary for secondary subjects. The gospel may be simple but keeping it at the center is not easy. And yet, grace covers all. Even if we stumble, Christ remains our solid ground. He is the glue. Nothing else can bring us together and keep us connected like He can.
2.) Make Diverse Unity Your Plan
One of the most spectacular aspects of God’s Kingdom is that we are all unique. God did not make clones. He made distinct creations. Diversity has been given to us as a gift, foreshadowing the beauty of heaven, where every tribe and tongue will declare the splendor of our King. Often people can look at differences in a negative light. But with eternity in mind, we can move toward one another in confidence. Our various giftings, personalities, and preferences reflect the spectrum of our Creator in community. But we are also still ONE. We are different but the same. Ephesians 4:4 says, “For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future” (NLT). All of our bodies are filled with the same Spirit. All of our futures are filled with the same hope. If we are believers in Jesus, we will spend forever side-by-side in the presence of God. It’s up to us whether we want to start worshiping Him together now.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
3.) Recognize the Need for Each Other
There are enough outside forces trying to break God’s Kingdom down. Like I said earlier, we have a real enemy who wants nothing more than to kill, steal and destroy. God saw what was coming and didn’t want us to do it alone. He gave us to each other. But a dismembered Body cannot function the way it is supposed to. When our denominations keep us from unifying as the true Church, our fire, as well as our witness, is weakened. God’s children were made to fight for each other. We were born to empower and lift one another up. When we stay focused on our mission and work together as one, then we become a force to be reckoned with. We become a threat to the darkness and a light for the lost.
4.) Embrace Your Listening Ears
We can listen and not agree. We can acknowledge and not accept another’s opinion as our own. It is possible to have friendships and fellowship with people who do not think the way we do. And within the Body of Christ, it is crucial we treat each other with kindness and understanding. Ironically, when Jesus walked the earth, He did not go after those who were clueless about the law. Instead, he corrected and rebuked the Pharisees, the hyper-religious folk who put compliance over compassion. It angered God because He didn’t send His Son into the world for the sake of religion. He wanted relationship. He wanted us.
God doesn’t have prerequisites that must be met before we approach Him. We don’t have to be perfect and know every answer before we can know our perfect God. Instead, He invites us into His throne room of grace and gives our souls what they truly need. Forgiveness. Freedom. Redemption. He offers us a safe space where our minds are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. He hears our thoughts, pays attention to our questions and answers our prayers. Our God is a loving and listening God.
The truth is, we can’t have a relationship with someone who doesn’t listen to us. If our feelings, thoughts, or opinions are brushed aside, connection isn’t possible. We need to imitate our Maker and treat others the way He treats us. We need to extend respect and lay aside our offenses. We may not agree on every matter within Scripture, but we do agree on the character of Jesus and His gospel. When we treat others with Christ’s compassion and care, we show them they matter. All of our stories are significant to God.
Sticking with God’s Plan
Dear Reader, let’s choose to be something special in this divided culture. Let’s decide, here and now, to make reconciliation our goal—to see others through God’s eyes and treat them as such. We weren’t made to be against each other. We were made for each other. We are God’s family. We are co-heirs in His Kingdom. Together we stand firm, connected by the Cross. It’s always been His glorious plan. Let’s give the world a taste of heaven and close the gap for good.
Becky Beresford lives in Huntley, IL and is happily outnumbered by her husband and three wild boys. She is a writer, dreamer, certified life coach and speaker with a Master’s Certificate in Discipleship from Moody Theological Seminary. Becky loves encouraging God’s Daughters to embrace their holy worth and live life fully loved. When she isn’t at the keyboard, you can find her dreaming of sandy beaches, serving mamas in church and hanging with her people. She would love to connect with you online at www.BeckyBeresford.com, where you can grab a FREE copy of the Brave Woman Manifesto: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Feel free to follow her and the weekly Brave Women Series on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter.