Dear Friends,

From time to time, we as a church or as individuals are invited to participate in a community faith event or service that is billed as being ecumenical.  Ecumenism can be defined as “the organized attempt to bring about cooperation and unity among Christians.” It can also be defined more broadly: “a movement that promotes worldwide unity among all religions through greater cooperation.” Let’s deal with this second definition first.  This would be exemplified by a Christian minister inviting a Muslim imam to speak from his pulpit, or a church gathering together with a Hindu temple to hold a joint prayer service. Defined this way, ecumenism is decidedly and Biblically wrong. We are not to be “yoked together with unbelievers”. That’s right, that passage has a marriage application but it is not about who you marry.  The passage in 2 Cor. 6:14-15 goes on to say, ”… For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?” (Belial is an intertestamental name used for Satan.)

So, what about working with and promoting unity with other Christians?  Should we be involved with other Christians in joint ventures locally, nationally, or internationally? The answer is not black and white. Biblically, unity among true Christians is important according to the words of Jesus in John 17:22 “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” But what if some of those who profess Christianity actually deny certain fundamentals of the faith? Del Tackett of the Truth Project said, “something that is 95% true is still a lie.” Do we want to lend our credence to anyone or any group that teaches lies?  For that reason, each situation must be considered individually.

We must ask, are those we are joining with truly Christians in the biblical sense of the word? Many people and organizations claim to be Christians but clearly reject what the Bible says about the nature and work of Jesus. Obvious examples of this are Mormon and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  A not-so-obvious example is liberal Christians and churches. Liberal Christianity is found in almost every denomination, and, although it may seem Christian, it usually rejects several essential truths such as the inspiration and authority of the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16), that salvation is found in none other but Christ alone (John 14:6) and the total dependence upon God’s grace, apart from human works, for salvation (Eph 2:8-9).  This would also make any joint mission with a Roman Catholic Church impossible due to the list of irreconcilable differences between what the Bible says and what the Roman Catholic Church says on many theological and practical issues. 

Often, however, we must look at the goals of an ecumenical venture.  Many times, we passionately hold similar ideals with groups who hold to un-Biblical theology.  Things like sanctity of human (unborn) life, care for the homeless and sick, traditional family values or justice in the world.  Scripture clearly tells Bible-believing Christians what our life living goals should be in Col. 3:17, “… whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  When we interact with lost people, Jesus made it clear in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) that the gospel and making disciples is to always be our top priority.

When considering ecumenical cooperation, we need to ask whether the gospel is being clearly presented and will God be glorified by our participation.  God has not called us to be His ambassadors for political, social, financial or environmental messages.  The ultimate goal of our actions should be the salvation of lost sinners.  Think about this, the Bible says that the angels of heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). There is nothing in the Bible that says the angels rejoice when a law is passed, when a well is dug, or even when a church is built.  Now, there is nothing wrong with accomplishing those things, but they cannot be allowed to overshadow the gospel. 

So, should we get involved in community faith events or ecumenical endeavors?  Sure we can, as long as there is no doctrinal compromise on core Biblical beliefs and as long as the gospel is not being watered-down or sidelined.  If we can proudly wear the event t-shirt and maintain a clear testimony before the world, and if God is glorified, then we may freely and joyfully join with other believers in serving God’s kingdom.

Only by Grace!

Pastor Mike