The Common Good

Beyond Denominations: Jesus' Prayer to Be 'Perfectly One'

I’ve written a lot about what it really means to be the Church. And by “Church,” I mean the Church—not Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic—Jesus’ Church. The communion of believers, and all that.

Man speaking to disciples, Jef Thompson, Shutterstock.com
Man speaking to disciples, Jef Thompson, Shutterstock.com

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” – John 17:22-23

Jesus wants his followers to be “perfectly one” so that the world may know Him.

One of the things that turns people off about church—and is driving young evangelicals away from established churches—is infighting. Denominationalism. Closed communion. Growing up, my Southern Baptist church friends told me that my Catholic school friends were in desperate need of saving—it was my job to keep them from going to hell. Wait, what?

There is bad theology, but there is plenty to go around—in every denomination. Nobody has everything right.

So what does Jesus’ prayer for us to be one look like?

This past weekend, I joined my husband in Minneapolis at a church planters’ assessment, where pastors went through a series of evaluations to determine if they have the skills and support system to start a new ministry. I’ve been interested in church planting since I married a preacher, moved to Chicago, and experienced the need for new models of ministry, especially in city centers.

Note that I say new ministries and not new churches. I truly believe that the last thing our cities—or our budgets—need are more church buildings. There are plenty of them, vacant, foreclosed upon, even turned into condos or nightclubs.

Jesus didn’t tell us to build new worship spaces; he told us to make new disciples.

This video proposes a more relational form of Church—one in which we “do life together,” whether that is through meeting once a week for breakfast or starting a book club with other stay-at-home moms. It doesn’t discount the need for corporate worship, but it emphasizes the point that Church doesn’t end at brunch time on Sunday.

This form of Church envisions groups of missional communities throughout the city in people’s homes, places of work, coffee shops, etc. Corporate worship—whether once a week or once a month—serves as a recharge station for missionaries.

We are one in our daily lives as we come alongside others to build them up. We are one as we go out to dinner with our neighbors. We are one as we get together for mommy-and-me.

We are one community of believers.

Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners. You can follow her on Twitter @Sandi.

Man speaking to disciples, Jef Thompson, Shutterstock.com

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