Is it Time to Bridge the Brethren Divide?
It is no secret that the brethren movement from the mid 1800s has gone through many splits. It is well documented in a number of books and websites. Many of those divisions were nasty and ugly. Many people were hurt and left scarred.
It is also no secret that misinformation about the “other side” has been floating around for years. Comments made without evidence have damaged any possibility of unity in some regions.
Turning the ship around
What has been encouraging is that there is an effort in a number of areas around North America to mend the strife and find common ground. The reality is that in most cases there are very few doctrinal differences.
Whether it’s closed, exclusive or open (or any other variation of brethren) we follow many of the same principles from the original founders of the movement.
These efforts to bridge the divide are resulting in fellowship between assemblies that would never have connected before. This is exciting.
The time is now
The answer to the articles’ question is a resounding YES! Will it be easy? No. Will it take effort, humility and patience? of course. Will it be worth it? Absolutely!
The time is now because there is not much time left. Even if the Lord doesn’t come back for another 1000 years we are losing generations of people. We are seeing families leave our assemblies because of a damaging “us vs them” attitude (among other reasons).
How do we build again?
Here are 6 ways we can help build the bridge between brethren groups
- Accept the differences. The sooner we recognize that each group has different views on non-core practices, the sooner we can mend the division. Most of the differences that separate groups are not foundational to the gospel. Most are cultural or simply preferences. And that’s ok. We can still be united while holding to different preferences and practices.
- Be kind. Wow, this is a big one. I have seen such a lack of kindness towards the “other group” that it can hardly be called Christ-like. In fact, it’s downright sinful. I may feel my practices and beliefs are closest to the truth of Scripture but it doesn’t give me the right to treat a fellow brother or sister with disdain or meanness. We need a huge dose of kindness in our attitudes to help this strife end.
- Stop the gossip. I have talked to a number of people from all the groups who had been told so many false truths about the others that it was hard to even recognize who they were talking about. Let’s stop gossiping and start finding out the truth. We would find that things are not as bad as we thought they were. This will require actual discussion with those in other groups. Hearsay isn’t going to cut it. Reaching across the divide is the only way to gather the truth.
- Work together. There are so many opportunities to work together in the body of Christ. With the right attitude, we can make this happen. Prayer comes to mind as a great way to join together. Many of these groups are in the same cities or regions. Praying together for the salvation of souls would unify our groups. Sharing preachers and attending conferences together is another great opportunity. We sing the same songs, so let’s sing together. The possibilities are out there.
- Receive one another. Let’s take the Word of God seriously. “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” Romans 15:7. The very foundation of the brethren movement was a belief that life in Christ and not light of Scripture was the only requirement for fellowship. It was the freedom in Christ that allowed men and women from all church backgrounds to break bread together and enjoy fellowship. It’s the character of satan to be an accuser of the brethren but open arms are the way of the Lord.
- Pray! We need to pray for each other and our own attitudes. We need to pray for the work of the Spirit among us. We so often pray for others to change. We need to change! We need to be transformed by the power of Christ in us.
I can hear many now saying that this will never happen. The gap is too wide. There is too much pride. That may be true in some places but it isn’t true everywhere. Where there is a willingness to follow the Holy Spirit there will be unity. We CAN build bridges. We CAN turn decades of strife into victory for His glory. And we can start right now!