Pseudo-Polymath posted an intriguing challenge to defend the differences that cause Christians to split into many denominations. Believing one another’s views to be heretical is the most obvious cause for division, but on the whole most of the groups have come into being simply because they thought the others were defficient in one or more emphasis. The new movements have an unfortunate habit of not simply redressing the balance, but taking their particular favourite thing to the extreme and making it all important.
A lot also seems to rest on how our differences affect the way we corporately worship. For the most part, a premillenialist and a postmillenialist will be able to sing the same hymns and enjoy the same sermons. The trouble comes when one group wants to allow or enforce something (e.g. head covering, speaking in tongues, women preaching, infant baptism, dancing) that another group wants to prohibit.
I have been studying 1 Corinthians recently. They get a lot of bad press for their divisions – “I follow Paul, I follow Apollos” etc. But at least there was just one church in Corinth. The Apollos crowd hadn’t started their own church. It is all too easy these days to walk out on one another and go down the road where we like the emphasis better. This positively encourages unbalanced churches as like minds gather together and congratulate themselves on being the only ones who have got it right.
Rey from Bible Archive has written some helpful thoughts on this, and has suggested that for him, regular breaking of bread, plurality of elders, multiplicity of gifts and “the financial support only by those who are in fellowship with one another” are the key distinctives he looks for (I am not entirely sure what he is getting at with the last one). Similarly, Adrian Warnock lists some of the distinctives of New Frontiers, a group of which I am part of also. As pseudo-polymath says, it would be great if more people could consisely and graciously define and defend some of the distictive emphases of their group. It may well spur the rest of us to be catalysts for change within our own church groupings to make sure that we are not unbalanced. At the very least it might reduce some of the ignorant caricaturing of one another.