The missions movement and the prayer movement are combining. Consider the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Youth with a Mission, Campus Crusade for Christ, Operation Mobilization, Inter-varsity, and others. These are locking arms with the understanding that radical prayer and radical missions cannot be separated.
Jesus isn’t coming back so we can have more pastor-planned smallgroups. He’s not coming back once we get enough houses of sermons and monologues. He’s coming back to set up His Kingdom, once we reflect His Kingdom in the earth. The main obstacle standing in the way is not the new, fancy building fundraisers that have yet to collect all their pledged donations.
Church without denominations is almost unimaginable, but it is both necessary and possible. There are many different streams that may be considered. The first is the Local Church movement from China.
The Local Church of Watchman Nee has an administration that operates locally and without clergy. The Western Church knows very little about the loosely-affiliated movement/organization and it’s easy to confuse the good and the bad. But there are lessons to learn both ways.
Unfortunately, after Nee was imprisoned, the movement shifted their focus from Local Church functioning to re-writing Western Church theology without need and then began criticizing Western denominationalism without a path to reconciliation. Their solution was that the entire Western Church should think like they do—and we in the West have two thousand years of history to prove that “expecting everyone else to agree with me” NEVER works… never. Most all of this happened under Witness Lee, whom many in the West confuse with Watchman Nee. Lee’s fruit was division within his own network, mutinies under his watch, and one of the greatest—if not the greatest—publication brawl among Christians in North America.
Cross-stream fellowship quickly decays without a working understanding that all of us need to change. They’ll need to lay down their regular push for sales of Witness Lee’s writings at local gatherings before the Western Church accepts them… BUT they are admirable Christians who know how to organize Local Church fellowship and they thoroughly understand Watchman Nee, who offered a refreshing view of Biblical, Local Church administration.
Baring the non-clerical and local-only structure established by Watchman Nee, the Western and Far-eastern Churches seems equally distracted with a full calendar of small meetings, parties, social gatherings, and stuff which neither organizes prayer locally nor expands the Great Commission at large.
Arguably, the only element of division, in the Western Church, bigger than writing excessive theology, is our calendars—all of which seem to be too full to lend time to each other. People who don’t talk to each other tend to develop their own sub-culture jargon. Denominational theology differences aren’t too different from the differences between British and American forms of English. We don’t understand each other because we don’t spend time together.
Perhaps we make our theologies excessive to compensate for our overbooked calendars. Perhaps we overbook our calendars because we’re so busy elaborating on our excessive theologies. Or, perhaps both our overbooked calendars and our excessive theologies are motivated by finances. If the Church was ever to unite and combine real estate, half the clergy would likely default on their mortgages. This is why the non-clerical system outlined by Watchman Nee certainly seems favorable if Christian unity is our goal. Perhaps, the best action step local pastors could take for global Church unity is to find an alternate source of income. Lay pastors can be more effective than professional clergy.
Another area to consider is Christian missions in relation to Church administration. Missions must have respect and cooperation with the local Church leaders. Even if different Christians have different visions for an area, they must communicate. Missions and the local Church often step on each others toes. This can be the beginning of division, hostility, and, later down the road, denominationalism.
The Local Church movement from China, however, is very effective at mixing missions with local Church administration. This is mainly because their meetings center around the question of fulfilling the Great Commission. This is an improvement over “local Christian community” for the sake of community itself, which seems to be the unofficial mission of many in the Western Church. The Great Commission can be a unifying force, but it cannot be completed apart from an equal emphasis on prayer. The Local Church movement agrees with the idea of prayer for missions, but they, like the rest of denominational America, have not made it the primary identity by which they, and their buildings, are known by.
So, another area to consider is the “praying” Church—that is, Christian communities which center themselves around prayer. By “center themselves around prayer” I mean that they pray together more than they listen to sermons together and more than they eat together. Prayer provides a place for “common ground”. Christians with different visions for an area can still meet and pray for each other. When the primary activity of local Church administration is prayer, the environment for denominationalism vanishes. Cooperation, then, increases. And the manpower to fulfill the Great Commission is readily available.
When Christians collectively—that is the Church—identify themselves as a House of Prayer for all people, it paves the way to unity and the disunity we have so heavily depended on starts to, in a technical sense, “go out of business”. This could be why denominational America has reacted harshly to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. The advance of unified Church missions threatened the local business-religions of the New Testament as well.
Allen Hood was right at the onething conference in 2012. Business as usual has ended for the Church. The secret is out. Prayer is a lifestyle, not a Sunday morning event with a two hour limit—or one or three hour limit, in the case of some denominations. Now it’s time for the Church to get her identity from the Kingdom of Heaven. “My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all people,” Isaiah 56:7.
The way to eliminate denominationalism from the Western Church is to first understand that it has become our identity. So, ending denominationalism would be ending our identity! First, we need a new identity—a Biblical identity. House of Prayer is the Biblical identity God gave the local Church through the prophet Isaiah.
In other words, if Christians are to stop bickering, we need to stop talking about “getting along” and we simply need to get our priorities straight: Fulfill the Great Commission by both praying and going.