By Jerry Harris
It’s foolish to want all Christians to be in unity if we can’t be unified in our own brotherhood.
We need to fight for relationship in all the issues that could potentially divide us. Otherwise, no one should take this Restoration Movement seriously. The first-century church had more difficult challenges that threatened deeper divisions than we do now. We must learn the same lessons of living out the fruit of the Spirit that they did. We can’t allow ourselves the prideful position of proving ourselves right over the greater need of loving each other. If we can agree on the unwavering truth of Scripture and the authority of our Savior, we can be one people, not defined by our differences but by our love.
This is a 21st-century way of saying what Isaac Errett said almost 150 years ago in a Christian Standard editorial from 1869 (p. 213).
Some might say that seeking unity in our movement is foolish. We have no denominational hierarchy, no common creed, no ecclesiastical authority outside the local church . . . yet these things are precisely what have made us—a desire to find unity that isn’t forced or enforced, but fueled by a desire to fulfill Jesus’ prayer in John 17, and through it, to change the world.
It won’t be easy. Unity never is. There are so many things to divide us . . . so many points of debate and potential division that can gnaw on our instincts of pride or fear. It’s a flaw in our fallen nature reflected in 10 of the 17 sins recorded in Galatians 5 that define our sinful default. Satan exploits this because he knows that Christian unity can quickly become an unstoppable force for God’s greater good in this world. Only in keeping the coals divided can he extinguish the flame. We struggle to resist the temptation to divide. The sword is lighter than the plow, after all, and easier to lift, but we easily forget that only one of these items produces a harvest.
Our movement was forged out of diversity—of Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian iron. It found its unity in the furnace of God’s Word, the anvil of divine authority, and the hammer held in a nail-scarred hand. It has been tempered through the years, resisting the relentless bending and twisting, always springing back to its original shape. It’s worth fighting for.
Have we forgotten that the raw material of the Cane Ridge Revival was a common Communion service attended by different spiritual tribes in the woods of central Kentucky? Have we forgotten the passion of men on horseback spreading the gospel? Have we forgotten the incredible sacrifice of comfort, the daily risks, the countless tragedies and losses, and the unending investment of these brave pioneers?
Barton Stone said, “Let Christian unity be our polar star!” We stand on the shoulders of the shoulders of the shoulders of these men and women. We owe them! We have inherited their hopes and dreams that were dreamed in tiny, six-windowed, white clapboard church buildings that dotted the American countryside.
Look at what we’ve inherited—1.3 million members, 5,300 churches, 18,000 ministry professionals, 20,000 students in undergrad and grad schools, 900 missionaries, 48 colleges and universities, $1.3 billion invested and put to work in our extension funds, and the largest gathering of church planters in the world. The relationships we have with a cappella churches of Christ could double that influence. Think of what God can do with all these resources! Then think of how these resources would strike a harder blow at the darkness if they were wielded in unity!
Christian Standard has been our witness of this great movement of God from the beginning. The first issue on April 7, 1866, bore witness of the passing of Alexander Campbell. The first editor, Isaac Errett, had been Campbell’s co-editor of the Millennial Harbinger and he was a close friend of Walter Scott. For 151 years, the gray lady has born witness to all the triumphs, the turmoil, and the tragedies of this movement, and through all of that, this magazine has labored to hold us together, to keep us on the straight and narrow path, and to do its part to build this great kingdom.
God has done his part to keep our great treasure from being consigned to history by providing for its future. We are doing our part to make it the best and the most practical and useful it has ever been. Now it’s time for you, the children of God and this movement, to do your part and make Christian Standard your own again, embracing the incredible power of unity that it brings all of us, reminding us that we are bigger and stronger than what we see in our immediate surroundings, and that we are so much more!
Jerry Harris is the new publisher of the Christian Standard. He is the senior pastor at The Crossing, a multisite church located in three states across the Midwest. Connect with him at twitter.com/@_jerryharris and facebook.com/jerrydharris.