Last weekend, my family went out for a family dinner. As I placed our food on the table, a Mennonite family caught my eye.
Now, seeing Mennonites isn’t a big deal. I see them regularly. What caught my eye was the father, who proceeded to pray for the whole family.
As I watched the father pray for his family, I thought to myself, “I am glad I am not a Mennonite. I feel bad for them, actually. I could teach them so much about Jesus and the Gospel.”
After this pseudo prayer to God and total exaltation of my elitist mentality, I felt God say to me, “No, your understanding of me is no greater than the man you are labeling as inferior. And unless you break down your elitist wall, your view of me will be skewed and narrow.”
You see, our culture conditions us to divide and throw up walls. But when we believe our knowledge, race, culture, generation or gender makes us better than someone else, we buy into a dangerous lie—and it’s a lie I think Satan is using to attack the Church’s work in the world.
In Revelation 12:10, Satan is called “the accuser.” Interestingly, the greek word for “accuser” is “kategoros,” which comes from the same root that gives us the English word “category.”
See what’s going on? Satan is the eternal “categorizer.” The eternal divider.
But God’s eternal plan is to unite. To bring together. To destroy walls. Unity is so interwoven into God’s nature He sends His son to the cross to reunite us. On the cross, Jesus destroys the barrier between man and God, and in the process, annihilates any barrier between man and his neighbor.
But there are still many divides in the Church today that diminish our ability to display the Gospel to the world. Here are four we need to bridge:
1. Generational Divides
Here’s what this typically looks like: A younger generation sees outreach, evangelism, etc. differently from previous generations. Older generations are skeptical of their practices. After all, they remember the “sins of their youth” and the lack of wisdom that led to many dead end roads. So, instead of getting to know the younger generation, older generations transpose their past experiences onto the younger generation.
The younger generation notices. But instead of listening to the wisdom of older generations, they create a wider gap by allowing frustration and anger to drive them. They see older generations as “out of touch,” and they toss aside any resemblance of the way previous generations operated.
Both of these mentalities contain layers of truth. Youthful naivety is a legitimate concern for the Church. On the other hand, the church must constantly reform worship styles and seek to live missionally in an ever-changing culture. This requires knowing the culture and speaking the culture’s language.
But we mess up when these truths become more important than the Gospel.
We can’t just stick to our age group-specific ministries in our churches, we must seek to live out the Gospel in communities with people of all ages, taking into account the wisdom that comes from every generation.
2. Racial Divides
I am not a racial reconciliation expert. In fact, as a white man, I have been oblivious to this divide most of my life. I represent the most privileged group on earth (not privileged meaning “I am better than you.” Privileged meaning “Doors are open for me that aren’t open for others.”). And in many ways, I have refused to jump off my pedestal and get to know my brothers and sisters of other races.
For this, I repent. First to God, but also to those of other ethnicities.
There is no place for racism in the Church. Racial segregation (intentionally or not) throws salt on the cross. When we refuse to get to know people of other backgrounds, we essentially tell Jesus, “You did a great job on the Cross. But some walls not even God can destroy.”
Even worse, huddling in our groups by race robs us of seeing God’s fullness. When I sit down and listen to my friends of different ethnicities, a new layer of God’s nature is revealed to me because of the different ways we see and express the image of God.
3. Denominational Divides
Denominations aren’t inherently evil. Names are just names. It is the labeling, judging, grouping and separating accompanying these names that build the wall of division.
Baptists associate with Baptists. When they travel, they worship at Baptist churches. They have Baptist friends. They send their children to Baptist schools. Pentecostals are the same. Methodists. Episcopalians. Church of Christ. Catholics.
But doing this has a devastating effect on us over time. The longer we huddle in denominational groups, the more likely we are to believe our group is alone has the right knowledge. We alone have the correct doctrines.
Instead of pulling up a chair at the table of fellowship for people of other denominations, we pull up a chair at the table of intervention, because we think those who don’t think like our group need to be straightened out.
I dream of the day when the Gospel overrides personal theological preferences or convictions. I dream of the day when names on the outside of buildings don’t cause us to label, categorize and divide. And I dream of the day when God’s people don’t see salvation through the lens of their denomination, but instead that salvation is a work of Christ’s grace alone.
4. Socio-Economic Divides
Let’s be real: This is a wall the Church has accepted as normal. Sure, the rich and poor may show up on Sunday and worship together, but that’s the extent of the interaction. Those in each group feel like they understand each other’s struggles and have more common interests. So, they group together. It’s easier that way.
But this misses the point of the Gospel. There are no groups for those in Christ. The world should look at God’s people and say, “Why are those people hanging out together?” A CEO and a burger flipper? A wealthy stay-at-home mom and a mom who works three jobs to feed the kids? That’s weird.
Yes, it is. But this is the Gospel. It transcends socio-economic walls. No, it destroys them.
Stepping through walls isn’t easy. But believe this. When we reject Satan’s plan to divide and work to usher in God’s plan to unite, we aren’t doing this alone. God is with us. He is fighting for us. He is working in us. And when God works, Satan has no chance. Because, as Jesus said, “Greater is the power in us than the power in the world.”
This article was originally posted on frankpowell.me