I am not praying only for these men but for all those who will believe in me through their message, that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, live in me and I live in you, I am asking that they may live in us, that the world may believe that you did send me. I have given them the honor that you gave me, that they may be one, as we are one—I in them and you in me, that they may grow complete into one, so that the world may realize that you sent me and have loved them as you loved me. Father, I want those whom you have given me to be with me where I am; I want them to see that glory which you have made mine—for you loved me before the world began. Father of goodness and truth, the world has not known you, but I have known you and these men now know that you have sent me. I have made your self known to them and I will continue to do so that the love which you have had for me may be in their hearts—and that I may be there also.
This morning I met with a fellow teacher to talk about curriculum development. As is often the case, our discussion led in an unexpected direction that brought us to the topic of church. My friend is now with a Lutheran congregation and is in leadership there as the worship minister. Presently, the pastor and he are discussing the importance of the Eucharist and its place in worship. Wanting to be open to the Holy Spirit, one of their considerations for their worship services is that the Eucharist now be included as a part of every Sunday service rather than only being a monthly event. Being Episcopal and seeing the benefit of celebrating the Eucharist weekly, I was very supportive of their musings for the direction of the church. But as we continued to talk, we began to see the potential problems this might cause in the church, even the possibility that this change might cause church members to leave. We agreed that the decisions they are considering be done slowly, carefully, thoughtfully. If not done in this way, there is a likelihood that damage could be done to people in the congregation. But whatever decision is made, someone will not be happy.
As I read this week’s text, Global Evangelism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective, the one theme that kept surfacing for me was that of division in the Church. The Body of Evangelicals is very diverse and is hard to pin down. To say that the Evangelicals are “one as we are one” would not be true; in fact, it could even be argued that “unity” is not a value held by many evangelicals. Evangelicals have never been unified, and I doubt if they ever will any time soon. “Evangelicalism is not a religious movement like the Roman Catholic Church, and it has no ‘holy place’ such as Mecca. Rather, it represents an ever-diversifying series of local churches, parachurch agencies, national and international ministries, and interlocking networks of publications, preachers, and personal contacts.” There is no harm in being this way, except for the fact that these diverse networks all have different emphases, which leaves lots of room for divisions and individualism, thus the many faces of denominationalism.
It was interesting to read about the large Ecumenical Missionary Conference that was held in New York City in 1900, which included plenary sessions by J. Hudson Taylor and President William McKinley. The focus of the conference was to proclaim the Good News to the nations. Ironically, it was also at this time that the church was embroiled in divisions as to what was the most important work of the Church at this important time of history. Christians were divided. A struggle between modernists and fundamentalists was brewing into full-scale holy war. The text spells this out well:
Mainstream evangelicals found themselves overshadowed by the drama of the polarization between the social gospel of liberal Protestants and the evangelism-only rhetoric of the fundamentalists. Mainstream evangelicals never accepted either extreme and continued to follow a mission theory that William Carey would have approved. But the historic evangelical vision of a comprehensive gospel was obscured by the intense debate between the modernists and the fundamentalists until after 1945.
And these debates continue until this day – thus, the emergence of new groupings, new churches, and new agencies.
One man in particular, Billy Graham, stood up to take exception to these divisions. Thanks to Graham, several notable national and international evangelical missionary conferences convened after 1966. Billy Graham consistently promoted several concerns that included the following: 1. Encouraging world evangelization; 2. Fostering evangelical unity; and 3. Enabling non-Western evangelical leaders to contribute to world leadership. Billy Graham became, thankfully, a sane voice for Christian unity in the 20th century, not only in the United States but also in international circles. Graham welcomed all Christians to work together for the proclamation of the Gospel. Together with John Stott and others, Graham worked tirelessly on the Lausanne International Congress on World Evangelization. This work resulted in the Lausanne Covenant that committed evangelicals to sociopolitical involvement; this bridged the gap between evangelism and social work. And, the Covenant also emphasized transdenominational evangelical unity when it proclaimed, “Evangelism summons us to unity, because our oneness strengthens our witness.” I could not agree more. Finally, the work of Lausanne also emphasized the possibility of indigenization with its statement that “the Holy Spirit illumines the minds of God’s people in every culture to perceive truth freshly through their own eyes.” What a lovely concept!
Finally, because of Lausanne’s interaction with Roman Catholics, it made links with the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism of the World Council of Churches, which certainly upset many traditional American and European evangelicals. This work has contributed positively to the unification of vision for the evangelical work done outside of the United States and Europe. According to the text, “One of the striking characteristics of Christians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America was that they tended to support both evangelical and ecumenical initiatives, whereas in Europe and in North America there tended to be more division.” This also warmed my heart.
“That they might be one, as we are one.” This was Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane for Believers, for His Church. Has that prayer been answered through the history of the church? If not, what can we do to help to see that happen among us in the 21st century?
 J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English (HarperCollins, 1962)
 Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard, eds., Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective (Dowers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014)
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 55.
 Ibid., 57.
 Ibid., 268.
 Ibid., 269.