A Church Growth Study of the Zuni IndiansRalph Bruce Terry
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5.4 CO-OPERATION

 

One of the questions which the missionary must face is the extent to which he will co-operate with the other missions. The problem of unity is fundamental in Zuni. The competition between the missions has already served to discredit Christianity to the Zunis. The Baptist and Christian Reformed missions have been able to work together to a limited extent, but they have opposed the work of the Catholics and Mormons.

The problem associated with co-operation has two aspects: doctrinal and practical. On the doctrinal side, Churches of Christ have always stood for a return to apostolic tradition as revealed in the New Testament in place of ecclesiastical tradition. They have pleaded for unity through a return to biblical teaching. The missions at Zuni are tied to their own particular doctrines through their denominational organizations. These organizations have their origins in post-biblical times and have been rejected by Churches of Christ as unscriptural.

Other areas of doctrinal difference that would hinder co-operation are beliefs about the necessity of creeds,53 clergy-laity,54 the Lord's Supper,55 baptism,56 and Calvinism.57 To co-operate too closely might imply approval. On the practical side, it might not be wise to identify too closely with groups which the Zunis have rejected for the time being.

Even though there are certain hindrances to co-operation, a policy of complete isolationism is not wise either. The missions claim to be representing Christianity also and isolationism would give further justification to the Zunis' claim that Christianity is divided. Also, in a non-Christian society such as Zuni, the basic message of any evangelical group is about the same with only minor variations in emphasis: that we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. To the Zunis, isolationism would seem to imply that Christianity is divided even among those that teach the same message. Of course, any real attempt towards co-operation would depend upon the personalities involved and the degree to which the various missions at Zuni are primarily interested in beginning the church of God at Zuni rather than a denominational replica.


53Churches of Christ have no creeds. [return]

54In the New Testament there is no clergy-laity distinction. All Christians are priests. Cf. I Peter 2:9. [return]

55The Lord's Supper in the New Testament is not a sacrament (the word is not found in the New Testament) administered by the clergy, but a memorial feast shared by Christians on the Lord's Day. I Corinthians 10:16; 11:23-26. [return]

56Baptism in the New Testament is a physical dipping in water (Acts 8:36) that has spiritual meaning (I Corinthians 12:13). It is associated with salvation (Acts 2:38; 22:16; I Peter 3:21) and a change of life (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12) and was administered to penitent believers (Acts 2:38; 16:31-33; 18:8) immediately (Acts 16:3) upon their simple confession of faith in Jesus. It was administered in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38) and in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). It was commanded by Jesus (Matthew 28:19) and is a mark of the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:5). [return]

57Churches of Christ do not accept Calvinism as scriptural. [return]

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