At ADK Mission, we work across all denominations that are making disciples of Jesus Christ. We believe that at the very core, Jesus told us to focus on doing three things:
- “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
- “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:39-40)
- “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a)
We take these words of Jesus to heart; loving God, loving others, and making disciples of Jesus is the core motivation for all that we do. We also subscribe to the same universal creeds that are accepted by virtually all mainstream Christian denominations in the western church: the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Chalcedonian Creed. Although we value our Vineyard heritage, and we are incredibly grateful for the generosity of our sending church, ADK Mission is an independent, non-denominational ministry.
Why are we so ecumenical and cross-denominational in our focus?
- We are firmly convinced that this is the best way to fulfill the Great Commission in the post-Christian, rural context of the Adirondack Mountain region.
- And because the Bible makes it very clear that unity across the Body of Christ was critically important to both Jesus and the early church.
In the final hours of his earthly ministry, John 17:20-23 records that Jesus prayed to the Father for his disciples and for unity across those who would believe in him through their message.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Jesus’ prayer has not yet been answered.
When we fail to seek unity around our common mission, and instead emphasize our differences, we are contradicting the will of Jesus and the leadership of the church’s founding fathers. Jesus prayed that we would be one, as he is one with the Father. Ponder that for a moment: our unity with one another should reflect the perfect unity found in the Trinity.
Emphasizing this point further, Paul began his first letter to the Corinthians with the following exhortation (1:10-13):
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
It’s much easier to engage in ministry with people just like us. A New Testament theologian, Dr. Scot McKnight, calls this an attraction toward a “Fellowship of the sames.” ¹ Achieving unity in spite of our differences takes work. But we must be one in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
In Transforming Mission, ² which Christianity Today named one of the 100 most significant books of the 20th century, leading missiologist David Bosch said: “If the church is the Body of Christ, it can only be one.” He went on to say, “It is impossible to choose in favor of either unity or of mission…it is inconceivable to divorce the obligation of the church to take the gospel to the whole world from its obligation to draw all Christ’s people together.” Otherwise, “we would only be converting people to our ‘denomination’ while at the same time administering to them the poison of division.”
Nonetheless, Bosch is careful to point out that unity across the body of Christ “does not presume uniformity.” Unity is not uniformity. “Church unity was never meant to be the result of reaching doctrinal consensus via theological debate. The aim is not a leveling out of differences, a shallow reductionism, a kind of ecumenical broth. Our differences are genuine and have to be treated as such. Ecumenism is only possible where people accept each other despite differences. Our goal is not a fellowship exempt from conflict, but one which is characterized by unity in reconciled diversity.” And in the midst of all diversity, “There is a center: Jesus Christ.”
As George Eldon Ladd points out in A Theology of the New Testament ³, the goal is not merely oneness in external structures since those could still be filled with internal strife and divisions. “This unity is far deeper than organizational structure. Even as the Father and the Son are one while remaining separate persons, so the unity of the church must allow for outward distinctions. However, the unity for which Christ prayed cannot be altogether relegated to an invisible, spiritual realm; it is to be so visible that it will be a witness to the world of Jesus’ divine origin. The bond that binds all believers together – the person of Christ – is greater and stronger than the so-called denominational distinctives that separate them organically. But when denominational distinctives become barriers to Christian fellowship and mutual love, they fracture the unity for which Christ prayed.”
At its best, the greater Church functions like a family of diverse local churches in which each unit appreciates the similarities and differences in the others. We need our diversity. Our differences complement each other – like individual parts of a larger picture – as we pursue our common mission of making disciples of our Lord, Jesus.
We are a missional people.
The term “missional” simply defines the church as God’s sent people. Either we are defined by mission, or we reduce the scope of the gospel and the mandate of the church to lesser priorities. In Understanding Folk Religion: a Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices 4, the authors said it well: “Mission is not a fruit of the church. It is of its essence. Without mission the church is not the church.”
Our challenge today is to move from churches with a mission to the church on a mission. We have a mission because Jesus has a mission, and we are privileged to be invited to join him in his work.
We are a missional people in fellowship with one another.
The term “fellowship” simply means a group of people meeting to pursue a shared interest or aim. Regardless of our differing backgrounds and denominations, we all share same the mission: to love God, love others, and make disciples of Jesus.
Jesus said that through our unity, people outside the church would see that the Father loves them and sent Jesus as an expression of that love. It’s with this in mind that we are deeply convinced of the following:
Building up the church – across denominations – will be the most effective way to fulfill the Great Commission in the post-Christian, rural context of the Adirondack Mountain region.
¹ McKnight, S. (2014, February 26). Our Churches in God’s Story: How the Kingdom Expands. National Gathering. Lecture conducted from Ecclesia Network, Chevy Chase.
² Bosch, D. J. (2014). Transforming mission: paradigm shifts in theology of mission (3 ed.). Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.
³ Ladd, G. E. (1974). A Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
4 Hiebert, P. G., Shaw, R. D., & Tienou, T. (2000). Understanding Folk Religion a Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices.. Grand Rapids: Baker Pub. Group.