– A never-solved challenge from the first century till now
– In our family of churches unity was simple
– Now it is much more complex
1. The Significance (of Unity)
Jesus – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34–35 NIV11)
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they 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.” (John 17:22–23 NIV11)
The world will not know that we are his disciples unless we are unified, unless we love deeply
“In the church, we divide easily because we love shallowly.” Francis Chan, ‘Until Unity’.
Paul – “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2 NIV11)
Early church – “When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.” (Acts 15:4 NIV11)
2. The Tensions (around Unity)
Do we have to agree? Depends on how define ‘unity’: relational, not organisational – Jn 13, 17.
“Many times huge divisions come between people who can sign the same doctrinal statement but can’t agree on the same methodology.” Francis Chan, ‘Until Unity’
Agree on what?
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV11)
That Christ is your leader.
“make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2 NIV11)
A Christ-like love. A Christ-like humility.
If we focus on unity will we neglect the mission?
Depends on how define ‘mission’
Part of mission is revealing God’s heart to world
That’s a heart of love unified with brothers and sisters – a family-community
If not our experience we can only offer facts to the world – not heart
If heart right, evangelistic aspect of mission will be more effective
3. The Answer (to Unity)
Define unity & mission
Attempt unity – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 NIV11)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NIV11)
Do not be a disunity detective
Put unity before programs, plans, plantings
We talk of paradigms, programs and plantings but unity is more important
Why is unity more important? Because we cannot be unified without humility and love.
Paradigms can be conceived of, programs can be designed, and plantings can be sent out without humility or love.
The world is not short on church plantings, church programs, and discussions about the perfect church paradigm.
The world is short on humility and love.
“Many of our problems could be reconciled if we discussed our concerns on our knees before a Holy God. We can’t allow the Enemy or our enemies to interrupt our praise. Worship is our path to unity.” Francis Chan, “Until Unity”
I have nothing against paradigms, programs of plantings. I would not argue that Jesus had no plan when he came to earth. But, what I would argue, and I believe the Scriptures present, is that the plan is, when carefully considered in the light of scripture, almost hidden, almost invisible, certainly inferred rather than laid out in a “here’s how to do it” manner. Instead, the Scriptures clearly present the heart of God in Jesus. And what do we learn about gods heart? Is it a heart primarily concerned about paradigms, programs and plantings? No. It is a heart concerned with reconciliation, grace, love, family, forgiveness, harmony, oneness, healing.
Where is our focus?
“Imagine what it could be like if, rather than viewing themselves as the defenders of truth, Christian leaders lived like it was their God-given duty to defend the unity of the Church.” ibid.
How much energy do we put in to evangelism, planning church services and organising the organisation compared to how much energy we put into developing harmonious, family, loving unity? Especially when that unity has gone wrong. It is clear the apostle Paul had a huge heart for saving those that are lost, but, his letters are not about that. They are about issues that have disrupted Congregational harmony, and harmony between congregations.
God’s heart – our heart
Your thoughts? Experiences?
Ideas and Questions for Reflection:
– How do you understand unity?
– How do you understand mission?
– What is your best advice to maintain unity?
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
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God bless, Malcolm