By Melissa Crutchfield, a former staff member of Agape in Italy
Photo by Luke Sanders
Unity. Unity is defined as being joined together as a whole or more simply, oneness. What if Christians sought to be unified with one another rather than working against each other? What impact would it have on a world full of division, conflict, and dissension?
Over the course of Church history, many different homologies and ways of practising Christianity have developed. A state of “oneness” does not indicate “sameness,” but rather in Christianity, it can indicate agreeing upon the core confessions of faith from centuries past, and yet disagreeing about secondary issues of the faith. People from various cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, and expressions of the Christian faith can join together over the cause of Christ, all the while, engaging in healthy, open conversations about their differences.
In Greece, a beautiful example of unity between the Orthodox Church and Agape Hellas (Greece) has materialized over the past five years. His Eminence Ignatios, Bishop in the Orthodox Diocese of Volos, and Emmanuel Toufexis, the national director of Agape Hellas, share a similar vision for unity. Both His Eminence Ignatios and Emmanuel have noticed that young people in Greece are longing for a sign that Christian faith is viable today, and they believe that unity can play a significant role in revealing that sign.
In the country of Greece, about 98% of Christians are Orthodox Christians, approximately 0.2% are Evangelical Christians, and a small percentage are Catholic Christians. As an interdenominational ministry, Agape is playing a unique role in helping to bring together Christians from various backgrounds.
In order for unity to occur between different groups of people, trust must be built. Agape sought to initiate trust with the Orthodox Church by asking how they could help and come alongside the Church, rather than approaching them with a specific agenda. His Eminence Ignatios and Emmanuel recognized that they were both seeking the same end goal: helping people in their country encounter the transformative love of Christ.
The Orthodox Church and Agape have been encouraged by the change they have seen in their country as they walk side by side in partnership. In recent years, Agape published an Orthodox-oriented version of The Jesus Film, and the Orthodox Church distributed thousands, perhaps millions of copies to people within their denomination. Further, Agape has hosted inter-Christian family meetings where Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical couples come together and learn from speakers within each tradition about common problems that arise in families. Through these efforts, both His Eminence Ignatios and Emmanuel have moved beyond the boundaries of tradition for the sake of the Gospel.
“If people see that Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Christians demonstrate signs of unity, I believe that people will see Christianity through a different lens. When we speak about Christ and we are not united together, then we are not a good witness of what the people need today.
If we unite together (not talking about the unity of churches, but the unity of hearts), the people looking on will see that behind our unity, there is something else, that is, a God who coordinates everything. With this, we will give to the people what they actually need to listen to the message of the Gospel. This is a culture change.” - Emmanuel Toufexis
What if Christians across the globe followed in their footsteps, moving past the barriers of traditions and denominations, uniting together for the common cause of the Gospel? Seeking unity is not easy. People express their Christian faith in many different ways. Unity must be intentionally sought after, pushing through hurdles that arise. But as we seek to be united as Jesus commanded us to be, profound life change will occur in our communities, cities, and around the world.
Discover more in this video.
About the author: Melissa Crutchfield was part of an Agape "Summer Spotlight" team that aimed to highlight how God is at work in Europe. Melissa served as a staff member of Cru in Bologna, Italy, Fort Worth, Texas and also Denver, Colorado. She recently completed a master’s in counselling. She enjoys the outdoors, playing guitar, photography and connecting with people. Melissa also shares more of her writing here.