Merging Churches

Scripture: John 17:21, John 10:16, 1 John 2:6
The ecumenical movement to combine all churches into one is being pushed by many in the name of Christian unity. But would such a combination of churches achieve a true church? Is this God's plan?
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The word "Ecumenical" is now commonly upon the lips of many church leaders around the world. The Ecumenical Movement that started in earnest back in the early 60s has been slowly plodding toward its goal of actual organic union of all churches. The great desire in the heart of Christians for centuries has been that of unity, that of joining together. So, we ask the question today, Is the ecumenical movement fulfilling God's plans?

Certainly the Bible makes it clear that God desires His followers to be united; in fact, Jesus prayed to that end. In the great High-priestly prayer recorded in the 17th chapter of John, verse 21, we find Him praying in these words: "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." So we find that the great longing in the heart of Christians has been unity.

Now the word "ecumenical" simply means "world wide," or "universal," and when used in connection with the church, it bespeaks an earnest desire for a world-wide, universal church. Since 1900 there have been scores of concerted actions on the part of church members and church leaders to bring about an amalgamation or a merger of all the major denominations. For over 20 years now, Protestants and Catholics have set aside one week each year to pray for Christian unity. In some years, the material used in both Catholic and Protestant churches has been identical. Many times they have gotten together in a week of prayer for Christian unity participating in joint prayer services and Bible study.

When this annual week of prayer was initiated over twenty-five years ago, it was widely regarded as a rather far-fetched idea. Many felt it would be absolutely impossible for Catholics and Protestants to ever come close to one another in Christian fellowship and unity. We have made rapid strides in what is termed the Ecumenical Movement in the last twenty years.

Much of the impetus for merging churches came from Dr. Eugene Carson Blake and his proposal in 1960. He was speaking at Dean Pike's Episcopal church in San Francisco. At that time Dr. Blake was a leader in the Presbyterian church, and he suggested that the four major Protestant denominations merge to form one super Protestant church that would represent some 18 million church members. He called for a truly democratic church government with a hospitality that would reach out to a wide variety of theological thought and worship. Immediate responses came from the other denominations, many of whom phoned, telegraphed, or wrote saying, "Why leave us out?" As a result, committees have been meeting through these intervening years, and organic union of some large denominations have already been achieved.

Friends, such a consolidation of members and power could rapidly sweep us into the age of power structure religion. Such mergers could finally concentrate into greater influence than the labor unions of this country.

Perhaps more than any other one man, Pope John XXIII popularized the term "Ecumenical." What did he have in mind? In one of his encyclical letters addressed not just to the church, not just to the faithful, but to the whole world, he made a clarion call appealing to the "separated brethren", that is, all Protestants. It was for the "separated brethren" to find their way back to the "mother church." This has been Rome's plan and desire.

In Rome, Professor Gonnet said, "Rome is well pleased to see other Christians marching towards unity, because in her opinion this will inevitably lead to a return to the fold under one sole shepherd, the Pope."

But friends, Jesus also has a plan for unity, and He prayed about it. I read it a moment ago: "That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee." This was the great prayer, but how is God's plan of unity to come about? Is God's plan to be fulfilled through church mergers? Is God's plan to be fulfilled through an amalgamation of all the denominations? Is this God's plan?

God's Word has some very interesting things to say on this subject. In John 10:16 Jesus said: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring." There are many folds; Jesus has sheep in all of them. "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold." I'll tell you, friend, it is a wonderful thing to realize that God has His people everywhere. God has His people in every organization, every church, every denomination, every religion.

Jesus said, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." Friends, I propose for your thinking that when those words of Jesus are fulfilled, there will be real Christian unity. Do you agree with me? "One fold and one shepherd!", that is real Christian unity; but, how is that going to come about?

Let me read this text again, putting the emphasis where I think Jesus put it when He spoke. "Other sheep, I have, which are not of this fold, them also I must bring." You see, this unity isn't something that man is going to work up, it isn't something man is going to accomplish. It is something Jesus is going to do. "Them also I must bring." How is He going to bring them? "They shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." Yes, Christian unity is going to come as a result of hearing the voice of Jesus and following in His steps.

Now turn to 1 John 2:6 and notice what John says. "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." Jesus said, "Why call me Lord, and do not the things that I tell you?" You do not walk in My steps; you do not follow as I have set the way and marked out the path. Christian unity will come as a result of hearing the voice of Jesus and walking in His steps. And, my friend, I maintain that when we are walking in the steps of Jesus, we are going to be walking in the same path. Doesn't that sound logical?

You think of it for a moment. Jesus marked out the way, He marked out the steps that I am to walk. He said, "I am the way, walk in my steps." Now, if you walk in Jesus' steps, and I walk in Jesus' steps, will we not be walking on the same path? Will we not be walking in the same way?

I hear folks say, "Well, you know, all the different churches are going to the same place; we're just on different roads leading there. We're all going up the same mountain." Yet, my friend, churches are as different as day and night. If you study the fundamental beliefs of different churches as I have done, you'll find they are very different; there is a great variety. Man has decided that the only way to bring about unity is to agree on those points they see eye to eye on, and where they disagree, forget it. Just forget it! Get rid of those disagreements, and we'll join you. In fact, it has just about come down to the place where they are going to unite on but one fact, there is a God.

One of the latest moves is a plan for an ecumenical Bible. There are committees at work now to prepare a Bible that will be acceptable to Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Mohammedans, Hindus, Buddhists, and even Communists. An Ecumenical Bible, it is called. A Bible that will be accepted by everyone. You know, I've thought of how much twisting and turning they are going to have to do with this book to make it acceptable to such a wide divergence of thought as to be found in all of these different philosophies. Jesus said that real unity is to be found in walking in His steps, walking in the path that Jesus marked out for our feet.

Listen, God is not in any movement that is based on compromise of principle, compromise of truth and is an enormous man-made operation. The words of Jesus could be fulfilled so simply if we would only do what Jesus asks us to do. He said, "My people hear my voice and they follow me." Friends, when we listen to the voice of Jesus and follow in His steps, that path is going to lead us into the same identical way.

Someone asks, "How may I know which is the true church?" Dr. Milner said, "There is but one inquiry to make, namely, which is the true church? By solving this one question, you will answer every religious controversy that has ever been or ever can be agitated." It is easy to open a safe if you know the combination. So you can readily learn the truth when you locate the true church. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 3:15 that the church of the living God is the pillar and the ground of the truth.

Make a list of all the things that Jesus taught. Write them all down, then examine the facts. Look for the church that is keeping all the commandments of God by faith in Jesus Christ. All of the commandments, not just nine, but all ten. The way to find the true church today is to look right back to the very beginning and find out what it was that Christ gave to the church in His word, and then see if the church in the last days fits in with the church back there in its teaching.

I think of the Broken Stone Mission in South America. Some years ago when missionaries went into the high Andes they found Indians there who had heard about the gospel. They loved what they heard because it told them about Jesus and His love. It told of His forgiveness of their sins. They noticed that people who accepted this message cleaned up their lives and were happy. The tribe wanted the missionaries to send in some teachers that they too might know this wonderful message. The leaders sadly told them that it would be impossible because of the lack of means. There were no teachers to send. The Indians asked, "How long will it be?" They replied, "We can't foresee anything this side of eighteen months." The Indians were disappointed that a teacher couldn't come immediately, but they were delighted that they could plan on having someone in the future. Then they began to think. They asked, "When a teacher comes to our tribe, how will we know whether he is teaching the true message or not?" The leader of the missionaries thought for a moment, then reached down and picked up a soft sandstone. Breaking it in two he said, "You keep one half of this stone. I will take the other. When we send in the teacher, he will bring this half of the stone. You put the stones together, and if they fit, you will know it is the teacher that we are sending." Eighteen months later, true to their promise, the missionary teacher came. The Indians were a bit skeptical, and wanted to be sure. They asked him to produce the stone, which he did. The Indian chief took the stones and brought them together slowly. The irregular notches fit perfectly. He knew the people of promise had at last come. They call that mission station the Broken Stone Mission to this day.

In like manner God's Word is one-half of the stone. Only the church whose teachings match every notch of the Bible truths can be the one fulfilling God's call for unity.

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