By Mark A. Taylor
What does Christian unity look like?
Sometimes it takes the form of two or three preachers getting together just to talk and share common experiences, dreams, and convictions.
Often this leads to joint ministry projects and worship services between congregations creating new associations where once there was only suspicion and separation.
And that can create an expression of unity in a large, public event attracting hundreds of separated brothers and sisters demonstrating their desire to say, “Our shared allegiance to Christ is what we want the world first and most to know about us.”
Such an event happened Sunday afternoon, May 15, in Lexington, Kentucky. Hundreds gathered on Courthouse Square for a unity service dubbed “Restoration 200,” to celebrate the bicentennial birthday of the first Restoration Movement congregation in Lexington, Main Street Christian Church (now Central Christian Church).
It’s difficult to guess the impact of such a gathering. That Sunday worship service, short of two hours long, was unique only because of its purpose and the diverse crowd it gathered—a wide age range of worshippers coming from area congregations in all three streams of the movement.
But what we experienced was much like most church services: welcome, singing, preaching, announcements. There were other elements noteworthy but not inspiring: a chilly breeze, food trucks serving pizza and ice cream, and prepackaged plastic Communion cup and thin wafer (I assume it was unleavened; it tasted like Styrofoam).
Such an experience isolated in time can mean only so much. But as part of a years-long process among leaders committed to unity—who can tell?
Two of those leaders, Brad Walden (formerly serving Tates Creek Christian Church) and William McDonald (retired from Crestwood Christian Church), described relationship-building roots they’ve been nurturing since they first met for coffee 16 years ago. And as I heard them talk in a debriefing meeting after the big event, I decided two things:
- An outsider like me can’t determine the value of a meeting like Restoration 200 by looking at it alone.
- All reconciliation begins slowly as two or a few people are willing just to meet, talk, listen, and learn.
Restoration 200 wasn’t the first step toward unity in Lexington, and many there are praying it won’t be the last. Meanwhile, any of us seeking to dismantle religious division need not wait for a big day, a mass worship service, or a huge event.
The first step toward unity can be as simple as finding a phone number and inviting a distant brother to breakfast. Without much thought, most leaders in most places can think of someone they ought to call this week.