Military Salute from iStockAs we have said many times, some of the greatest hope for the church can be found in the Marketplace. This is perhaps most true in regards to the issue of sectarianism – one of the greatest blights of the church, all over the world. James Fenimore Cooper said it well in The American Democrat (1838):

“In America the taint of sectarianism lies broad upon the land. Not content with acknowledging the supremacy as the Diety, and with erecting temples in his honor, where all can bow down with reverence, the pride and vanity of human reason enter into and pollute our worship, and the houses that should be of God and for God, alone, where he is to be honored with submissive faith, are too often merely schools of metaphysical and useless distinctions. The nation is sectarian, rather than Christian.”

Wow! Is that a shot across the bow, or what?  Just what is this sectarianism, of which we are being accused?

Sectarianism: Bigotry, discrimination, or hatred arising from attaching importance to perceived differences between subdivisions within a group, such as between different denominations of a religion. http://www.wikepedia.org

Pretty strong language? Too strong? Let see what Paul had to say.

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 1Corinthians 3:1-3

For Paul, sectarianism was carnal – of the flesh. In other words, a sin; even a sin worth including with idolatry, sorcery and murder:

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

“…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” More strong language; language not easily dismissed.

Why did Paul speak so strongly again sectarianism? Because he knew – he even witnessed, as we do – the damage it can cause. He knew that the enemy would use it to thwart God’s purposes and plans. Paul knew that sectarianism could be deadly.

An Example

Paul recognized, as we should, that sectarianism fosters a disbelief in the full counsel of God, and a neglect of the Holy Scriptures. This occurs when someone will not consider – much less search out – passages of Scripture that challenge their strongly held perspectives. Let’s consider one of the more obvious examples: The connection of faith and work.

My experience has been that many will not discuss, nor are they interested in searching out, the importance of “work” and “works” in our journey of faith. They have been taught that “work” and “works” are, in fact, contrary to faith. Consequently, they take argumentative and divisive positions.

For them, it is either works or faith. Faith and works does not fit their paradigm. They prefer “or” over “and”. Others, fearing the conflict, take the “better leave that one alone” stance.

Both positions have tragic consequences. Here are just a few:

  1. Missing out on the work God is doing in us (Philippians 2:12-13).
  2. Becoming a foolish man whose house will fall in a great way (John 7:26-27).
  3. Receiving no reward from God (Hebrews 11:5).
  4. Forgetting what kind of man you are (James 1:22-23).
  5. Having a justification that is less than adequate (James 2:24).
  6. Failing to be useful and fruitful; and, therefore, missing out on an abundant entry into the everlasting kingdom (2Peter 1:3-11).
  7. Denying to do the good works that will glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Whether it is these passages, or those that challenge other theological paradigms, dismissing passages of Scripture (even subconsciously) can grow into a failure to love the truth. In fact, our dismissal of the truth in this way may actually be the proof of our lack of love for it. The result will be our destruction.

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 2Thessalonians 2:9-10

All this from sectarianism? I say, YES! Sectarianism is an insidious instrument, used intentionally by our worst enemies. Our flesh loves to be right and know something more than another. The world values competition – where the winner takes all. Satan avoids his inevitable defeat as long as the bride-to-be is dismembered; with each part attacking the other (get a hold of that sobering picture).

It is important to recognize all the fellowships in which God has connected us; including the ones He has created in the Marketplace – the place where we spend most of our waking hours. God has not given the Marketplace over to His enemies. His kingdom has come and must be established there. In fact, His Son is using the Marketplace to build His church – through leaders He has planted there.

Denominations, and other groups that form around the doctrines of man, are not necessarily evil in themselves. This is not a call for individuals to leave their current fellowships and create a type of “Marketplace Church”. This would only increase the problem. Local fellowships are critical to the disciple-making process for every believer.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood. However, it is time for us to become fierce in our fight against the spirit of divisiveness that has used our rebelliousness to interfere with God’s purposes – particularly His purpose in creating a habitation for Himself in His people.

The Call to Action

So what does this have to do with the Marketplace? How might Christ use the leaders there to overcome the pride and weakness of man, and create the church He has in mind?

Ministry in the Marketplace is simply an opportunity to find unity where the church is not so confined. God has positioned you to take the lead in restoring His habitation. Go and make disciples.

Let me suggest a few initial steps:

  1. Surrender to God’s purpose for His habitation wherever you have influence. This is a formal choice you must make before God.
  2. Begin agreeing, in your personal time of prayer, with Christ’s prayer for unity (John 17:21-23). Make yourself available as an agent of that prayer.
  3. Gather together like-minded believers in your spheres of influence and begin living in community – study, pray, break bread and fellowship in works of service.
  4. Be on your guard. The sectarianism that has infiltrated the organized church is threatening the Marketplace. Refuse to be divisive and contentious. Lovingly steer others toward unity.
  5. Approach matters of doctrine with an attitude of humility and love. Prefer “and” over “or”. God did not say, “Gather together and debate the truth.” He says, “Love one another and search out the truth together.”

Building the Kingdom is about cooperation, not competition. Interestingly, this is a fundamental marketplace principle. In the Marketplace, a follower of Jesus Christ can pursue fellowship with the brethren without the constraints of doctrine and denomination; and work in unity for the glory of the Father without engaging in divisive sectarianism. In the process, God will honor our agreement with His Son’s prayer for unity by showing up in the work; and others will be drawn to Him there.

Let me know how I can help you (rob@inlightconsulting.com).

 

Your servant and His forever,