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A Quest for unity begins

Alan Martin speaks during the opening night of Quest at Oklahoma Christian University. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

Blogging live from Oklahoma City
Oklahoma Christian University launched its annual Quest lectures tonight, featuring a keynote by Alan Martin, the newly appointed chair of the the university’s College of Biblical Studies.

Keith Lancaster of Acappella Ministries leads worship on the first night of Quest at Oklahoma Christian University. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

Described as “an interactive summit on ministry effectiveness and leadership in local churches,” this year’s Quest focuses on unity. The theme, “Keep the Unity of the Spirit,” comes from Ephesians 4:1-3
Mike O’Neal, the university’s president, cited Jesus’ prayers in John 17 — specifically, his prayer “for those who will believe in me through (the disciples’) message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
“There is mounting evidence that our congregations are rediscovering the blessings of unity,” O’Neal said.
Martin, a native of South Africa, has degrees from Harding University, Abilene Christian University and Michigan State University. He has ministered for churches in cities including Cape Town, South Africa and Lansing, Mich. In addition to teaching at Oklahoma Christian, he serves as community outreach minister for the Edmond, Okla., Church of Christ.

While church members listened to Alan Martin, children at Quest were treated to a series of short plays, including an over-the-top dramatization of the lives of Samson and Delilah. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

“I have personally experienced the carnage of division,” Martin told an auditorium full of Quest attendees. “The worst of our spirits is seen when we are intent on claiming our own corners, but the best of our creation is seen when we … manifest a godly spirit of unity.”
Martin quoted passages from Ephesians. He also quoted from Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address from 1809: “The Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally and constitutionally one.”
Quest continues through Oct. 5, with keynotes by Rusty Tugman, senior minister for the Alameda Church of Christ in Norman, Okla.; Monte Cox, dean of the College of Bible and Religion at Harding University in Searcy, Ark.; and Seth McDowell, minister for the Shawnee Trail Church of Christ in Frisco, Texas.
Quest – 2010 from Oklahoma Christian on Vimeo.

  • Feedback
    My prayer is that this quest for unity shares the same common quest of the Campbell’s and Stone rather than another version that ignores the many fellow believers belonging to congregations outside of the Churches of Christ. Jesus surely wants a united body of Christ but his body is certainly not limited to the Churches of Christ nor to congregations whose historical roots are found in the Restoration Movement. So when I read “There is mounting evidence that our congregations are rediscovering the blessings of unity” I am inclined to wonder to what that possessive pronoun “our” refers to.
    Grace and peace,
    K. Rex Butts
    October, 5 2010

    My hope is that unity among the brotherhood would include those outside of the “traditional” churches of Christ as well. Some within the “traditional” churches of Christ have not actually embraced those within the brotherhood wherein some are excluded who use instrumental music in worship and some still seek to exclude those who have separate accappela as well instrumental worship services. Others are excluded or not fellowshipped due to many other very minute differences. Many of the things that divide us are so petty but we spend way too much time debating such issues. There should be more of embracing one another in Christ instead of the aloofness often observed.
    Don Finstad
    October, 8 2010

    The whole point of being churches of Christ is that we refuse to be members of anything other than the body of Christ. Unity in Christ exists among Christians who worship and serve according to His teaching as members of His local congregations. Any Christian who is a member of some congregation that is not a church of Christ is participating in organized division. Someone who is not a Christian has not been added to the Lord’s church. See the article on my web page, ‘The church of Christ is unique’ and watch the videos, ‘Can we be the church of the NT?’
    Roy Davison
    October, 8 2010

    Who wants to TRULY be the New Testament church today? Look at the churches of that time…Corinthian church…struggled with arrogance and lack of unity amongst other MAJOR issues. The Galatians struggled with the false teaching of Judaism. Ephesians struggled with how to be the church in their time and history and with unity. The Philippians struggled with how to be Jesus in the church! The Colossians struggled with false teaching that added to the gospel thereby taking away the supremacy and adequacy of Christ in their lives. Who wants to be those churches? Why can’t we learn from them and strive to unified like these people and those of the Restoration Movement have asked for all these years! Let’s not get lost in minute issues, let us focus on Christ and his goal to be ONE now!!
    One of the main reasons we have these examples of congregations in Scripture is to take from them and learn from them how to BE church!! Let’s start promoting Jesus and Unity in our brotherhood and those things that bring us together NOT separate us!!! This was the plea of Stone and Campbell, but most importantly the plea of our LORD…
    Paul Castleman
    October, 8 2010

    Those who are of the household of God are limited to those who have obeyed the gospel (1 Peter 4:17-18). These are the ones designated as saved. The Lord only adds those being saved to His church (Acts 2:47).
    When a group fails to teach accurately the gospel plan of salvation then they cannot be considered the Lord’s church. They are not in fellowship. There is no unity.
    Johnny D. Hinton
    October, 8 2010

    I appreciate it when any group who claims Jesus as Lord talks about unity. It is quite clear, after reading these comments that we have some growing to do.
    The article mentioned John 17. Was Jesus only talking about the Resotration Movement churches, or even only churches of Christ? Really?
    Let’s see… Did Alexander Campbell say “We are Christians only but not the only Christians” or “We are Christians only and the only Christians”?
    Royce Ogle
    October, 8 2010

    The only way I know to have “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” is to be in agreement with what the Spirit has revealed in the Spirit-given Word. Anything short of that is simply compromise. Why do we have such an aversion to simply sitting down with open Bibles and openly discuss our differences in the light of God’s Word and in the true spirit of brotherly love?
    David Webb
    October, 8 2010

    We do have a lot of growing to do!! Opinions have become more important than Scripture…highly unfortunate but it has always been that way. We need to be different NOW…better Now…use Scripture to benefit the process of unity. I agree with you, Mr. Webb.
    Mr. Hinton–not meaning any disrespect…what is the accurate gospel plan of salvation? Is it the 5 step process continually taught as a means to salvation? I hope and pray that this teaching is NOT continued to be taught in our brotherhood! It is false teaching, in my opinion. ( Ephesians 2:8-9) The plan of salvation simply rest on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, essentially the cross!! That is truth, that is the Way to salvation…
    Remember the idea of Unity is based on striving to not just agree to disagree…what kind of Church would that be if we all had the same opinions? Unity is based on us striving to continually come together, grow together, challenge each other every day to BE Jesus in our communities and churches…
    Paul Castleman
    October, 8 2010

    In Acts 18: 24-28, we have the story of Apollos, the Alexandrian Jew who was fervently proclaiming the word but had to be taught, in private, the way of the Lord more accurately and babtism is specifically mentioned as his shortcoming. So the example is set for just how to achieve more perfect unity amongst individuals, not groups and it clearly pictures a bringing in, not a meeting of minds. Now to be sure our public dialog must support and provide opportunity for such encounters. Its also pretty clear that Apollos was eager to hear more. So, in summary, discussion should procede but following, not creating the New testament pattern.
    Chuck Reed
    October, 9 2010

    It is true,While we have all the resources in our grasp and the knowledge to make disciples of all ethnic groups,if you will, we have slowly become oblivious to the plight of those who are diligently searching for truth and ignored the Command to make disciples of Christ and not disciples of a building with a name on it’s walls .It is heartwarming to know that there is a move a foot to iradicate that selfish attitude of secluding the gospel to a few and open the gates of our enlightenment to the public and denoms in general. The Late Dr. Stumph of South Africa taught and baptized an Irish Catholic Priest and I had the opportunity to convert through explaining the Word, a Moravian preacher who was later fired from his post after he and his family became Christians..The proof of the pudding lies in the eating…IT CAN BE DONE! Dropping those barriers will make a difference If we’re not afraid to make friends of our “enemies”and not look down upon the suffering and hurting of society we can do the will of OUR Master… (Luke 17:10)This is my prayer. I was a downcast once until I found the Truth!
    John Jansen
    October, 9 2010

    I would like to Add, that Dan Cooper in New Jersey taught and converted a Rabbi to Christianity.Lets Do It!
    John Jansen
    October, 9 2010

    The Church here in Eastridge, Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town will be hosting a Bible Workshop at the end of the year and we have chosen the theme to be “Unifying the Saints”.
    Our world is dominated by racial strife, marital strife, strife between countries, strife between religious groups and strife within religious groups – even between and within those congregations that we call “Churches of Christ”. Where is the unity and why is there so little of it?
    I think Apostle Paul answers that question for us in Philip.2:1-5. Everything in this passage is based on the premise of being”United with Christ”.”Unifying the Saints” is the result of being United with Christ – not something WE create.
    Unity is not based on our choosing others – it is based on God choosing us. We get no choice about who our brothers and sisters are.
    Mervyn Pasqualle
    October, 9 2010

    Unity in among the followers of Jesus Christ is appreciated.
    At the same time if there is unity in the faith it will be a lasting long.
    Paul Renganathan
    October, 11 2010

    Some Christians place their faith upon God’s work in Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. Others place their faith upon their own intellectually ability to delineate with absolute certitude the correct teachings of scripture. The former strive to follow Jesus as they understand the scriptures to teach but understand that there salvation does not depend on how right they are in their understanding of scripture but instead understand that their salvation has and always will rest upon the grace and mercy of God. The later, convinced that one can only be saved based on whether they follow correct teachings, offer neatly crafted propositions that clarify their own set of beliefs and then mine the Bible for the necessary proof-texts to justify their set of beliefs and to show why others holding a different view are in error (and in the worst case, not a Christian). We sing the song “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness…” Well, which is it? Jesus’ blood and righteousness or our human intellectual capacity to reason? I know what my choice is and it is why I believe the body of Christ is much wider than the Churches of Christ and why any unity movement that honors Jesus Christ and his church ought to include all who profess the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior!
    K. Rex Butts
    October, 12 2010

    It is sad, but many who profess the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be rejected on the day of judgment. Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (Matthew 7:21-23).
    One must trust in the blood of Christ for salvation, but faith without obedience does not save.
    Many of the rulers BELIEVED in Jesus, but they did not confess Him “because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42, 43). They believed. Were they saved by faith only?
    After the church was established “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). The faith must be obeyed.
    Our hope must be built on the word of God, not on our own feelings or opinions. It is not a matter of intellect but of humility and submission to the word of God. They who submit to God’s word speak the same thing (1 Corinthians 1:10) and are united in Christ.
    Roy Davison
    October, 12 2010

    Thanks for your input, folks. This is turning into a back-and-forth discussion, so I’m shutting it down. K. Rex and Roy, if you both agree to me supplying you with each other’s e-mail addresses, you can continue this conversation privately. Thanks.
    Erik Tryggestad
    October, 12 2010

    OCU is my favorite Christian university.
    Martha Stanford
    November, 18 2010

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