Tribalism and sectarianism for apostolic unity
Fourth, she must reject her tribalism and sectarianism for apostolic unity. This is not to deny that God sets the solitary within families (Ps 68). God has ordained that his people dwell together as families, and as tribes, and as an entire holy nation. Nevertheless, where the more basic configurations degenerate into schisms and judgmentalism, dividing the house of God and the holy nation, there must be repentance and restitution. This is especially the case within local and citywide jurisdictions. This is not the place to teach it, but there is an apostolic blueprint and architecture for the spiritual and functional unity of God’s people.
It particularly applies to the Reformed and renewal streams of the church. As it was with the creation, so it is with the new creation. As the Spirit of God brooded over the waters, the heavenly hosts and the whole of history anticipated the Word of God to powerfully call forth cosmos from chaos (Gen 1).
Likewise the renewal of the 1960s-80s, the charismatic outpouring across all denominations and nations. The Spirit of God, brooding over the chaos of the renewal, was but the harbinger of a word from God. And this word came through several globally influential renewal teachers, who were also Reformed theologically (e.g., Ern Baxter and Bob Mumford).
They brought a corrective word proclaiming the government of God not only over his church but also society. Carrying a burden for the unity of the church, they promoted a vision of the corporate people of God, in divine order, as a demonstration and model of his wisdom to the world. In God’s providence they intersected with Rousas Rushdoony, an influential Reformed thinker and father of Christian reconstruction, and together (through publishing and conferences) seeded the renewal with a Kingdom vision and ethos, particularly for cultural reformation. As is too often the case with reformers, they were not received well by their own movements (i.e., the renewal and reformed movements). But as forerunners they modelled the future—the two major streams of God’s activity in history flowing together to become the mainstream: the Word and the Spirit. And this, for one purpose: to call cosmos out of chaos—God’s order out of the ecclesial and societal disarray of autonomous man.
For the Reformed stream, or the renewal, to see themselves as the mainstream is a delusion. The Word and the Spirit held in balanced tension is integral to the advance of the Kingdom of God. Neither expression is complete without the other. In a day of restoration both emphases will merge as the mainstream of God’s purpose in the world, releasing the full force of the Kingdom of God flowing to the healing of the nations (Ezek 47; Rev 22). In that day,
Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; For they shall see eye to eye, When the LORD brings back Zion.
The reconstruction of both church and society – in fact, the calling forth of the new creation – demands that the watchmen see eye to eye when the LORD brings back Zion. Where brothers dwell together in unity there the LORD “commands” a blessing— life forevermore (Ps 133). Only then will many peoples respond and say:
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
When the inhabitants of Zion dwell together in unity God will “command” and the nations will come. Human means – marketing and advertising, promotion and programs – will be obsolete. God’s Spirit will be outpoured in unusual measure and the nations will be taught of the LORD. Their political and civil leaders will come to learn of the ways and laws of God for human society.
The apostolic unity of the body of Christ demands that we not only dwell together as brothers but also strategize as co-labourers. It demands that as military allies we war with common goals and strategies. What is needed immediately is a global 20-year strategy of Christian reconstruction of church and society. This means relinquishing our sectarian independence to form alliances as one body of Christ within our regions and cities. To be not only of one mind but also to be one voice to the world.
Christ’s high priestly prayer will be answered: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). The spiritual and functional unity of the whole body of Christ is prophetic evangelism. The scandal of our division invites both the judgment of God and the derision of the world.
Crucially this oneness can only be found by returning to the “apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42)—to the historic orthodoxy of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Only in this way will the church again become the ground and pillar of truth to the world.
Part 1: Partisan politics for the politics of the Kingdom
Part 2: The myth of neutrality for a cultural gospel
Part 3: Experientialism and false prophecy for the Scriptures
Part 4: Tribalism and sectarianism for apostolic unity
Part 5: Eschatologies of defeat for Christ’s victory in history