Jesus prayed for his followers to be one, “that the world may believe." Denominational division in “Christendom” and strife and factions in Christ's church hinder evangelism and missions.
At the World Missionary Conference in 1910, a delegate from the Far East said, “You have sent us your missionaries, who have introduced us to Jesus Christ, and for that we are grateful. But you have also brought us your distinctions and divisions: some preach Methodism, others Lutheranism, Congregationalism or Episcopalianism. We ask you to preach the gospel to us, and let Jesus Christ himself raise from among our peoples ... a Church conforming to his requirements. This Church will be the Church of Christ in Japan, the Church of Christ in China, the Church of Christ in India; it will free us from all the isms with which you colour the preaching of the gospel among us.”
The Ecumenical movement growing out of that conference did not produce unity. Some were too tied to denominational creeds and some too willing to give up any scriptural teaching for a “least common denominator” that grew smaller and smaller until it had no biblical content.
It is still true that if we “preach the gospel” the Lord himself will raise from among our hearers his church, conforming to his requirements.
Our plea is for unity based on restoration. Much heated argument centers around what our primary emphasis should be, unity or restoration, but neither can stand alone.
Ananias and Sapphira “agreed together” to lie to God (Acts 5:9). Unity based merely on human agreement is not Christian unity.
Others think unity requires that their particular vision of restoration be agreed to down to the last detail. The Bible allows for time to mature, for tolerance of conscientious scruples, and urges reasoning in love about honest differences in doctrine.
Both unity and restoration are important. We must love one another so that all will know we are Christ's disciples; and we must practice the principles of Scripture because most Christians will not agree to be bound by human opinions.
Cecil May, Jr.