Church unity is more important than "theological correctness," according to North Point Community Church Senior Pastor Andy Stanley at a conference with approximately 8,000 attendees.
At the Orange Conference, which focuses on issues of church leadership, Stanley spoke on Thursday about the importance of Christians of different denominations being "one" in their mission.
Stanley centered on John 17, in which Jesus prayed that His followers "may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
The influential author and speaker said that he found it significant that Jesus prayed for the disciples to be one, rather than for other things, including good health and being theologically accurate.
"He prayed for our oneness, that we'd be on the same page," said Stanley. "This is mission critical. If they are not one, we will not win ... unity is mission critical and disunity disrupts the mission."
Stanley spoke of how he came to believe that believing in Jesus Christ was more important than theological arguments like how communion should be served or if babies should be baptized.
"Will we prioritize our oneness over our doctrinal peculiarities? Our baptism, our communion, our style of worship, our preaching?" he posed.
"Will we prioritize our oneness over our politics? Will we continue to allow the kingdom of the world to divide the Kingdom of God that is in this world because of politics?"
Stanley argued that oneness in the faith was "more important than being theologically correct," adding that he believed when Christians of various denominations get to Heaven "we will discover that when it comes to theology, we were all wrong about something."
He cited the Jerusalem Council, as described in Acts 15, in which the early church decided that Gentile converts did not need to strictly observe Jewish law to become Christians.
Stanley argued that the passage showed that the early church was willing to make "theological and cultural concessions for the sake of unity and so should you and so should I."
His remarks were part of the multiday Orange Conference, a church leadership conference with the theme of "one voice."
"It's too easy to drift into silo thinking and build churches that become characterized by fragmented and random programs," states the conference's home page.
"But if we combine our talents, perspectives, and gifts to lead with one voice we have a different kind of influence with the next generation."
Other scheduled speakers for the conference taking place in Atlanta include Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church and founder of the Passion movement; Danielle Strickland, social justice secretary for Salvation Army Western United States; Santiago "Jimmy" Mellado, president and CEO of Compassion International; Adam Duckworth, minister to Children and Families at First Baptist Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; and Doug Fields, author and executive director of HomeWord's Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University, among others.
During his remarks, Fields stressed the need for people to help their church leadership, telling those gathered that "we is greater than I."
"Great leaders don't do it alone," Fields said, noting that the recently deceased evangelist Billy Graham had a team that worked with him throughout his decades of ministry and evangelism.
"For those of you who are leading, and you're leading in a self-reliant way, you're leading in a way that you think it's about you, you think you're going to get to greater places, you won't get to greater places."