In John 17:11 Jesus prayed that his disciples would be kept as one people, saying: “Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” If Jesus’ prayer would be answered, and he claimed that his Father always answered his prayers (John 11:42), what would that church unity look like today? If the Church today and throughout history has been one as the Father and Jesus are one, then unity must be something other than structural unity. Moreover, if this is true, then unity, according to God, does not appear to be the same as unity according to man.
Unity, according to John 17:11, could never refer to doctrinal unity, because the gentile churches throughout the Roman Empire, at least in practice, expressed the doctrine of circumcision differently than the Jewish churches in Palestine. Therefore, it would be wrong to impose doctrine as a system of power to hold the church together. Neither was there ever a time in the life of the first century Church where unity was vested in the power of a single man or a single group of men. The fact is, ‘lording-it-over’ one another was never an accepted practice in the New Testament Church, (cp. 2Corinthians 1:24; 1Peter 5:3). Therefore, whether we speak of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism or Protestant denominationalism, unity, as expressed in Jesus’ prayer to his Father, can never be found in these structures. Which one of them seeks to be the other’s slave? Which organizational structure is beating a path to be last or to be of no reputation?
Am I saying no one who worships God in these structures is Christian? Of course not, but I am saying that Church unity, as Jesus prayed for it, cannot be expressed through the structural authority of these organizations. Jesus’ model organization is the local church setting itself up in the world as the Body of Christ. This is the manner in which it was done in the first century of the Christian era. No man was its head, nor was there a single body of believers who was first in order over the rest. Each church was autonomous and neither came behind nor had authority over any other body of believers. Church unity was found in the solitary fact that Jesus was Lord over all.
Some might say in alarm: “Anyone could come into such a church and lead it astray, if there were no leadership or doctrinal agreement.” I could then ask if the Holy Spirit is responsible for the splintered organizational structure we find in Church history, including modern Christendom. As I see it, we have a problem placing our trust in the leadership of Christ, our Lord. We offer him lip service by calling him “Lord!” but keep taking the reins of control from his hands and placing them in our own, but to what end? Look around! Does the world see Christendom as a single entity or a house divided? Yet, Jesus claimed that if the world was able to see our unity, they would understand God had sent him (John 17:21). The world will never be able to conclude that God had sent Jesus into the world, as long as we seek to control our own unity through worldly means—through one doctrinal or philosophical thought, one law or one human authority. The nations do such things, but it shall not be for those in the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:42-44).
If it is the way of the world to exercise authority over themselves, what should it look like in the Church, if we are not to do such a thing? If it is the way of the world’s leaders to seek to be first, what would it look like in the Church for those in authority to seek to be last? If it is the way of the world for its great men to enlarge their status among men, what would it look like in the Church if our leaders sought no reputation? If it is way of the world for its leaders to force opposition into submission, what would it look like in the Church, if those who disagreed disallowed the use of force and instead submitted to one another out of love? What would such behavior look like today? What would it have looked like in Christian history? I’m sure all believers would agree that Jesus, the Christ, is Lord, but who among us really practices such a belief?
 As I said HERE, this current theme about the person of Jesus is based upon the book: The Jesus Style by Gayle Erwin. They are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Gayle wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read about Jesus.