Ben Moore guest-posts on Kumbaya, unity and Christian Unions.
I’ll never forget my first visit to the CU at my secondary school. After 15 minutes of introductions where we all said our name and an interesting fact about ourselves (most people’s interesting fact was ‘I love Jesus’), we all joined hands and sang Amazing Grace and, I kid you not, Kumbaya. I suddenly realised why most of the Christians at school didn’t go. It was completely inaccessible to a vast majority of them.
Obviously, I took this lesson to heart when I was on the CU committee at university and we were totally Jesus focussed and united. HAHAHA no, I tried to remake the CU in my own image. The only difference between me and the other committee members was that I had the audacity to disguise my sin as godliness. We isolated lots of the CU who stopped coming to meetings, so our mission team fell apart. Smallgroups were all but abandoned and our doctrinal basis got lost down the back of the sofa.
So what happened? How did we lose all semblance of unity? The answer is Jesus. No, I’m not saying it was his fault, but Jesus was not the main thing for us. Silly things were. We argued over the format, the content, and the minor practicalities of everything. In Colossians 2, Paul writes ‘Be rooted in Christ’, Jesus must be the main thing.
So what does this look like? It looks like love and dying to self.
When you’re standing side by side with another Christian sharing the gospel with someone, views on women in ministry, spiritual gifts, and Adam and Eve don’t really come into it. I’m not saying that these are not important topics or that no non-Christian ever asks about them. However, if they can share the gospel and are eager to do so, it would be madness to drive someone away because you disagree over who wrote Hebrews.
So, out of love for your siblings in Christ, you die to self. CU must be interdenominational. Only having speakers from one denomination, teaching one particular view of things (especially if they feel the need to tell everyone that believing in evolution is only for culture-pandering heathens) is unnecessarily divisive. CU is an evangelistic organisation, so have speakers who preach the gospel in an encouraging, uplifting, and challenging way that pushes you to mission. My committee had one speaker in who prayed, in front of the CU, that everyone would come to his church. We didn’t have him back. He didn’t get it. Don’t be like him.
It’s amazing how much power music has to bring us together or tear us apart. I don’t mean what’s on your iPod. I mean the music we use to worship. Don’t underestimate the effect of your worship band on the CU. Playing the songs you love every week may not be as wonderful for everyone as it is for you. It may be discouraging them.
During my time at CU, we had a variety of songs each week. I love me a bit of Stuart Townend. ‘Beautiful Saviour’ is ineffably sublime, but every time the worship leader launched into an acoustic rendition of the latest hit from those worship albums all young Christians seem to listen to, I wanted to curl up in a ball and eat my own face. Over time though, I realised how helpful other people found these songs. So, vary your song choices, you never know how helpful it could be to some people! You’re never going to like all the songs, but you can make sure as many people as possible can worship freely and without distraction. It’s about Christ, not Matt Redman. Though I do love ‘Blessed Be Your Name’.
Above all, you must love all the members of CU and be willing to die to self in meetings. Don’t just talk to your friends or people from your church. Read 1 Corinthians 1:11-13. Where it says ‘Paul’, ‘Apollos’, and ‘Cephas’, substitute the names of your local church leaders. Christ stepped into our world, into our suffering, for you. Can you walk across the room and talk to the slightly weird behaving/looking/dressing/sounding/singing student who nobody else goes near in CU? Seek out the people you would usually avoid and love them. CU is not a social club for you and your mates. Friendships can and should be formed, but makes sure nobody is left behind. If the Kumbayarmy had shown up at CU at my university, my call would have been to love them and welcome them, no matter what I thought about their way of doing things.
What good is unity? Why should we strive for it? The more we are willing to set aside differences, the more we realise that we are all part of the same body – the body of Christ. Serve each other in love, and evangelism will come easily. When the focus is on Christ and his work in us, why would disagreements over secondary issues matter? Unity really is a litmus test for Christ-centredness.
You don’t have to eliminate anything and everything you find enjoyable or helpful in CU, but do spend some time thinking and praying about how you could make CU a place where people unite around Christ and the fundamental truths of the gospel (hello Doctrinal Basis). How can you ensure people aren’t driven out by unnecessary division? Where do you find it hardest to compromise and how can you become more Christ-centred?