I belong to a tribe – the EFCA. In a day when denominations are supposed to be gone and done with they live and breathe and are driving forces for church planting, church health, seminary training and missions. Tribes are a good thing. They provide fellowship, accountability and allow congregations to do together what they could not do separately.
All that said, I do not believe that our denominational tribes should necessarily be our highest allegiance. In the local setting it often creates competition, isolation from other churches and fragmented community impact. In fact, how we think about out tribe (if we have one) needs to be informed by the prayer Jesus prayed for us just before his death: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Our unity is a sign of Jesus’ divinity! That is a scary thought given the lack of unity among congregations in most local settings. When we compete rather than cooperate, do our own thing rather than work together for the reaching of our communities we actually hurt the reputation of Jesus!
Fortunately this is starting to change. Take Austin, Texas for example. Dozens of evangelical churches are working together to reach their community. The same in Lake County, Illinois and other locations. Rather than thinking independently, or only about their tribe, local congregations are coming together to form a local tribe – a coalition to reach their city or region for Christ. When that happens the community sees and experiences the church and therefore Jesus in a new way.
This really is about whether we think our thing – our church or our denomination – is more important than His church. Jesus did not die for the SBC or EFCA or whatever tribe you belong to. He died for His church that is made up of many tribes. And our unity or lack of it says a lot about where our highest commitment lies. I love my tribe but I have a higher allegiance and that is to the cause of Christ and the spread of the gospel. And I am encouraged whenever local congregations band together to reach their communities with the gospel. When that happens, people find Jesus and His name is lifted high – because of our unity.
I wish we could call a halt to our competitive spirits for the sake of the cause of Christ and move from competition to cooperation. I take my hat off to all who have! May their tribe increase!