As I work on my book, Your Church is Too Small, I find that I must again and again explain the proper understanding of the word "ecumenism." For so many it has an entirely negative tone about it. I grew up around people who felt the word was akin to a "Communist conspiracy" or something.

The word comes from the early church making reference to councils as "ecumenical councils" because the whole church was represented at the gathering. The idea of ecumenical is "the whole visible church." Clement of Alexandria, in A.D. 195, said, "The pre-eminence of the church is its oneness. It is the basis of union. In this, it surpasses all other things and has nothing like or equal to itself."

The ecumenical movement has been a movement of people and churches in dialog seeking to express their oneness in Christ for the sake of his mission in the world. The fact that this movement has gone wrong at some points does not mean the movement itself is wrong. It means sinful people mess things up. Those who sit-out the efforts to find and express our visible unity throw bricks at the movement while they contribute little to the oneness of Christ’s people except more separatism and schism. It is to this problem that my book addresses a great deal of its message.

Please keep praying for me this summer while I work on this vitally important subject. I hope this book will be a vital contribution to the new ecumenism that is moving evangelicals to get involved in the global church.

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  1. Chris Criminger July 22, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Hi John,
    I have been gone for most of the summer but may God give you the grace to finish this necessary and important book. Many blessings brother . . .

  2. Manlius July 23, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Yes, please help rescue that great word!
    When I was struggling recently to label my religion on my Facebook profile, I finally settled on “traditional and ecumenical Christian.” The word “catholic” is also great, but it can be misleading because most of the public will understandably assume Roman Catholic. “Mere” Christianity is OK, but is not very inspiring. “Ecumenical” has its recent problematic associations with modernist theology, as you suggested, but it offers too good a description to relinquish. It is acceptable to all Christian traditions and simultaneously emphasizes Christian unity, the ancient creeds and our mission to the world.
    Let’s bring it back!

  3. Craig Higgins July 23, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Praying for you, John, and for your work on the book in particular. I thank God for your ministry to all of us.

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