On unity

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1–11 ESV)

Note: This is a series which refers to the PDF transcript of a Network teaching. The parenthesized numbers or ranges refer to lines in it. Some of the words I quote might be different from the PDF. This is because the transcript differed from what I heard Sándor say in the audio recording.

In February, Leaving the Network published a 2018 teaching by Sándor Paull, “Unity in All Matters.” It focused on Philippians 2:1–4, supported by several other passages. Sándor stressed the goal of the church to be one voice (Romans 15:5–6), one heart and soul (Acts 4:32), in agreement (2 Corinthians 13:11), one in mind and judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Peter 3:8, Philippians 2:1–4). The church should strive to stay in unity, patiently working through problems, disagreements, etc.

The theme of unity was combined with the Network teaching on leadership. Trusting in your leaders was a theme in this doctrine of unity (Hebrews 13:17). Congregants should be “open-handed with the things that even for us are the top-tier, most important things that we believe.” (1104–1106) God will honor those who follow leaders, even when they think the leaders are wrong (976–977). All things that your leader has concerns about make them important (103–104, 160).

This teaching certainly has commendable aspects to it. Church unity is a tough topic to talk about, especially in recent years. Encouraging the hard work of unity when it’s often easier to leave is right and good. He talked about hidden motives that we all sometimes have, while seeming to act righteously, which can hinder unity (825–903). He called on people to be wise and listen to counsel to compensate for our blindspots (1011–1014). He acknowledged the ease in which unity can be broken in a church (1084–1091). “Love is load-bearing” is a good saying.

However, this doctrine of unity and its application have at least three problems. First, it is based on misreadings of various passages and results in several errors. Sándor made his explanation sound clear and it’s easy to accept if you don’t think too much about it. Second, it has a heavy infusion of the Network doctrine of leadership. Third, it is only concerned about unity with itself and not the wider church. These problems make the biblical call to unity into a call for loyalty and conformity to Network standards. The following articles focus on these problems.