I must make a confession. There are certain words that when I hear them they send up red flags in my mind. They are words that usually are misused and used in a self serving manner. One such word is the word “legalism.” When I hear it I usually can predict what is coming next. The person is making their case against “standards” or more often defending their lesser ones. They have them, but they are usually not as strong as they use the word legalist to JUDGE another’s motive or heart. The word “preferences”is another. I always find it interesting that people can decide what are my preferences over my convictions. However, neither of those words are the ones I want to address.
“Unity” is the word I would like to discuss. It is a word that absolutely sets off sirens in my mind, but it is especially disconcerting when I read an article by a stalwart in the independent Baptist world lauding it. I recently read such an article and when I was finished I was very concerned. I read the article very slowly, carefully, and prayerfully to make certain I was NOT reacting. I waited a few days before responding wondering…hoping that I had read it wrong. Then another man I respect sheepishly asked me if I had read the article. I confirmed I had. All he said was, “It concerns me.”
The author is a good man. He is in no danger of being a heretic or falling off the fundamental ledge. He is sincere and a man I greatly love and admire. I would not separate with him over this article for he has stood faithful for too long for me to doubt him. I do not write this even as a rebuke towards him. This is more of a mild warning…a nudge so to speak. I will not call him out and I will not attack him. Allow me to speak in principled terms.
1. UNITY IS ALMOST ALWAYS A MISUNDERSTOOD CONCEPT. Satan loves the world “unity,” but that does not make it a bad word. Unity appeals to the flesh of people basically. If you want a loud chorus of “AMENS” just speak of unity. The weak will love you for it. The women will praise you when you speak of it. Unfortunately the word is far too often a cry for compromise rather than a plea for oneness.
Unity comes from the word union. It is a sister word to unify. Therefore, I must be careful with whom I want to have unity with. Satan loves unions. He promotes them. If he can get us to form unions he has a better chance to pervade us. He takes independent men and brings them into unify and destroys the very thing that made them strong. We don’t need his kind of unity, but he is very graft in making it look and sound so appealing.
2. UNITY IS MOST OFTEN A WORD TO DESCRIBE AN ORDAINED RELATIONSHIP. We should be in unity with God. We should have unity in the home as well as in the local church. However, that is where most unity should end. To have unity anywhere else means I must be in a union with you. Forgive me, but outside my relationship with God, my family, and my church I am not much interested in forming unions or having unity.
3. UNITY NECESSITATES SAMENESS. If I unite I am typically agreeing to accept you and your beliefs or you mine. Unions are typically political and require some control. That is not what God wants for me. My independence requires that I avoid unity. My beliefs and principles do as well.
4. SATAN LOVES TO MAKE US THINK WE HAVE LOST SOMETHING WE ONCE HAD. One statement that greatly concerned me in the article I read was that we were once unified more than we are today. Now, I don’t know what history book that man has been reading, but in my study I have seldom seen much unity between independents. Don’t buy into that! Study the unity between the great Christian leaders of the past and you will find that they fought over many issues and some of them were even minor. They were not unified. Paul and Barnabas weren’t. Paul and Peter weren’t. I could follow that all the way throughout church history.
5. I THINK THIS MAN MISTOOK UNITY FOR HARMONY. I love to be in harmony because then I can be what I am and you can be what you are and we can be harmonious about it. I do not want unity in the Republican Party because that will mean compromise and I do not want it in fundamentalism. We can have harmony however. We can be in harmony over doctrines of the faith. Harmony allows me to write this article. Unity would not. I seek to be in harmony with fellow fundamentalists, but that does not mean we will not separate over certain things. I can separate with you and still be in harmony with you. Dr. Jack Hyles used to call it “agreeing to disagree.” Dr. Hyles stopped preaching with a certain man who he still supported financially for he could not be in unity, but he could be in harmony.
6. WHO ARE YOU TO SAY WHAT MY PREFERENCES ARE? Dr. Hyles strongly believed in women not wearing pants. That was a belief or a conviction. You can call it a preference, if it is not your belief, but it was his belief. He did not separate over it, but he did try to be consistent about it. He invited a couple to Pastors’ School to teach. Later he discovered that she openly wore pants. He wrote them a sweet and loving letter and explained his position. He did not condemn her and in face spoke highly of their ministry. He included a more than generous love offering check that was far more than he would have given normally. Now you can say it was a preference, but who are you to tell him what his “preference” was? That is prideful and arrogant. These dear folks were gracious and understanding because of the kind way Brother Hyles handled the situation.
Some men call things preferences because they changed. Some of the things you call preferences I call a conviction. You are certainly not practicing what you preach when you attempt to define MY BELIEFS. That said, not all of my convictions are based upon what I expect you to believe. Therefore, I want harmony, but not unity. I would not have some people speak for me who I would support. A conviction is something I have been convinced or convicted of for my life and my ministry. It is high time we threw out the word preference in assuming on another what we think. That is wrong!
7. UNITY REQUIRES ME TO ACCEPT FRIENDS THAT I REFUSE TO ACCEPT BECAUSE OF WHERE I THINK THEY MAY LEAD. Let me give you an example. I have strong feelings against calling the Sunday morning preaching service a “worship service.” I think it is unscriptural and I believe it is going the wrong direction. I am not a proponent of one who uses a “worship team” to replace the old fashioned adult church choir. I will not condemn you for it. I will not call you out personally, but you can be guaranteed I will not form a union with you. Some make fun of positions like this because they do not see the bigness I see and the dangerous destination I see. We are following a hazardous trend. Unity says, some of it really doesn’t matter. I beg to differ. It does matter because of WHERE the trend started and WHERE it will lead too.
Do not miss this statement. I do not want to have unity with someone who has unity with someone I deem to be spiritually menacing. If you are getting your ideas from someone I think is unpredictable spiritually then I do not want to even get close to you. If you are willing to be influenced by someone I do not want to be influenced by then it may be best for me to stay away. I do not hate you. I do not want to fight you, but I do not want to catch what you are exposing yourself too.
8. DO NOT TALK TO ME ABOUT FELLOWSHIP. Some will tell you that we need unity so we can fellowship. Why? I don’t get it! There are certain good men I don’t plan on having fellowship with. Quite frankly, I am scared of them. They are hanging out with and reading from the wrong people and I do not want to like them too much or I may be attracted to them and follow them off the cliff. Let me explain something Dr. Hyles often spoke of, he said I do not fellowship with a man based upon where he is, but on which direction he is going.
Let me illustrate. I do not plan on having fellowship with a man who attends Rick Warren’s conferences or has his staff meet with the staff of the Crystal Cathedral in order to glean something to use. I refuse to allow Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, or Robert Schuler influence me either directly or indirectly. Therefore, I plan to have no unity with those who allow these men to influence them even in the slightest manner. Admiration leads to influence and influence leads to compromise and direction. I will be in harmony, but not unity. I will be kind to them, but I am not going to fellowship with them. As Dr. Hyles used to say, “I may like them too much and I don’t want to like them too much because they may affect me.”
9. WE ARE IN CAMPS. We have always been in camps. We always will be in camps. My friend’s article criticized camps. However, camps are good not bad. Maybe you want us all to come together and attend YOUR conference of choice and sing “Kumbaya,” but that isn’t going to happen. Fundamentalism has many camps which all have their own unique personalities and flavor. It has always been that way. These camps are all doing good and trying to reach souls and take a stand as they see it. Stop attempting to unify them because once you do we will sink to the lowest common denominator.
Splitting is what preserves us. We are all part of a split not a union. We divide and then multiply. We divide and conquer NOT unite and conquer!
10. REAL MOVEMENTS HAVE NO HEADQUARTERS. They may have many outposts, but no Vatican. Some may have their outpost in Hammond, IN, or perhaps in Longview, TX, or Long Beach, CA, or Lancaster, CA, or Lexington, KY, or even Murfreesboro, TN, or any number of places.
Are we supposed to all unit and HOPE we do not all lose the distinctiveness God has given each of us. Certainly this is an antithesis of all God had in mind.
Now lest I be accused of missing the point of the article may I humbly submit that I DID NOT! I get it loud and clear and it was not accurate. In fact, it was important enough that I knew I had to address it. I love my dear brother very much, yet in truth he has split from me and he knows it. It is obviously not over doctrine. He would not preach with me, endorse me, write a review of my book on Dr. Hyles, in fact he has refused to cooperate with me, yet he writes on unity. Amazing! I cannot help but wonder if what he is asking for is for all of us to unify with him and his group. I must say I sense some serious hypocrisy here.
Unity, in the right context is wonderful, but apart from it is dangerous and potentially lethal to what we are and what we believe.
11. DIRECTION DETERMINES DESTINATION. Unity means we are walking together and I may not want to go where you are going. How can two walk together lest they be agreed. Sometimes secondary separation is necessary to protect me from the influence of the one who is influencing you.
I must protect the integrity of my influence therefore I cannot unite with those whose influences may hurt the ones I influence. I cannot go to Rick Warren’s conference because while I may be able to discern between the good and the bad those I influence may not.
Some methods come from flawed ideology. Accept the method and eventually you will accept the ideology. A good example is “worship” talk. The words, “worship service” may not be bad, but they are attached to flawed ideology as well as flawed theology. Just because there is a good food in the dumpster does not mean I am going to feed my family food out of the dumpster. Good ideas may come out of the dumpster of the liberals, but do I really want to build my church on dumpster ideas? NO!
The hottest guy out there may not be the guy I want to be joined at the hip. I may sense troubling trends that make me keep my distance. I am not going to fight him, but I am not going to be told I should unite with him.
JUST A THOUGHT!