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Conquering the Challenge of Biblical Unity

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor (via Unsplash)

Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is truth. (John 17:17)

Part of my ministry calling that I love is helping unite churches and youth ministries in a city or community for the common mission of “every teen, everywhere, hearing the Gospel from a friend.”

When youth leaders come together in a city to reach the teens of their community, that’s a huge win! We call these groups Gospel Advancing networks. They’re not meeting just to commiserate or even just to encourage one another. They’re meeting because of a common mission—the mission of Jesus as described in Luke 19:10: “to seek and to save the lost.

These networks “work the net” together to catch as many fish as possible (Matthew 4:18-22). Participating youth leaders work together to “steal” from the largest youth group in their cities (Satan’s) to make and multiply young disciples.

But, wherever two or more are gathered in Christ’s name, there’s bound to be conflict. Sometimes it’s a clash of personalities. Other times it’s unholy tension cloaked as competitiveness.

But often it’s theological differences.

At one extreme, many networks never even get off the ground because youth leaders are nervous about other participating churches’ doctrinal views. They preempt any potential awkwardness by just not showing up to the network meeting at all.

On the other side are doctrinally mushy ecumenical leaders who say pious-sounding things like: “Our doctrinal differences don’t matter. We just need to set them aside for the sake of unity.”

Unity matters. In John 17:21, Jesus himself prayed that: “all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” When believers unite, we’re the powerful answer to Christ’s high-priestly prayer!

Unity matters.

But doctrine matters too. As Paul admonished Timothy: “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:16) and “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3-4).

Doctrine matters. But not all doctrine is created equal.

There are many churches that have differing views of eschatology (future things), ecclesiology (church-doctrine things), and other “ologies,” but hold firmly to the core essentials of orthodox Christianity.

And there are those who, well, don’t.

For eight years of my life, I was in the construction business. I witnessed many new homes being built from the ground up and played my role in the process (I was a roofer). During that time, one of the sayings I coined was: “If your foundation is cracked, your house is jacked!”

You can build a beautiful home with amazing design (and, of course, an outstanding roof!), but if the foundation is cracked or compromised, then the whole house is in jeopardy.

Jesus put it this way in Matthew 7:24-27:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

In the same way, there are five foundational truths we must build our networks upon so they won’t fall “with a great crash.”

Theological Truth #1: God

This may sound like an obvious declaration, but it’s crucial to make sure everyone in your network actually believes in the God of the Bible. A statement such as: We believe in one God, eternally existing in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He is eternally self-existent, sovereign, righteous, compassionate, holy, loving, and so much more! can ensure someone who rejects the Trinity or believes God is a power, not a person, doesn’t sneak into the group.