Wednesday, April 6, 2011

1 Corinthians 3: Denominationalism & Division

ODB: "Spiritual Superstars" (6 April, 1 Cor 3:1-15)

1 Cor 3:4-6 For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 

Whenever we are focused on following men, the church is divided. In Paul's time, man-worship was built around the apostles: Paul, Apollos & Peter. Modern equivalent of this man-worshipping is denominationalism. Denominationalism divides churches when every denomination focuses on their doctrinal "disctinctives" advocated by their founders at the expense of our unity in Christ. For the Methodists, it is John Wesley; for the Lutherans, it is Martin Luther; for the Anglicans, it is Thomas Cranmer; for the Presbyterians it is John Calvin. And of course, for the Roman Catholic church, it claims its allegiance to the Apostle Peter. 

Contemporary Singapore examples of such man-worship may be found in mega-churches when their loyalty is first to their senior pastors (be it a Lawrence Khong, Kong Hee, Rony Tan, Naomi Dowdy or Joseph Prince). Such man-focused Christianity displaces Christ and is carnal and worldly. One way to know if we are into man-worship is how we explain biblical truths: if we are always quoting "Pastor So & So," rather than Scriptures, we know we are pretty close to man-worship which will ultimately divides the Body of Christ. The only path to cross-denominational unity is our focus on Christ - His life, teaching, work & ministry. 

When we are Christ-focused in our ministry, we don't care for denominational labels. Not that we don't respect our heritage but we will not focus on our differences from ("distinctives") but our commonality with other churches. We will focus on what C.S. Lewis calls "mere" Christianity. When we do that, churches can come together again, no matter their denominational labels. 

Father, I thank You that You've called us to unity. Make us one that the world might believe that You have sent Your Son Jesus Christ into the world. Amen.