What is this all about? What is unity?
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV
The conversation became tense once unity entered. At a leadership conference a few younger men and I discussed discipleship and Biblical expression of faith. One asked me what projects busied me. I spoke of an upcoming gathering of four varied congregations for worship. Two of the men looked at me disgusted. Both told me they thought unity was not needed in the kingdom. It was shocking to me to hear such an attitude at a Christian conference on leadership. Many others at the table shook their heads in agreement with the two. For a moment I thought I had been beamed into another dimension. In fact, I had. The dimension of selfish Christianity, which is not a Christian value.
Where does selfish Christianity live? It lives in denominational and independent isolation chambers. And it violates the heart of Christ. Earlier in Ephesians 4 we are told to pursue the spirit of unity in the bond of peace. Pursue means chase. It is not something we wait to happen. It is something we pursue to make happen.
Some people believe that Jesus will automatically return to earth once every language and people group has heard the gospel. Let’s consider something much more significant. What? That is right. There is more.
The job of the Holy Spirit is two fold. One to draw all men to Christ. Second to bring them together as one, as a bride. Who wants a bride with a leg in one room and a head in another room and a body in a third room? Really? That is what we look like many times. The Kingdom is to be brought together as one. It is Jesus’ primary prayer in John 17. That they may be one even as the Father and the Son are one.
Get it? Unity is not optional. It is the preparation of the Bride (us) for Christ.
Unity events develop strength in the Body, the Bride.
For years, I have worked on unity events. That conversation at the table did not deter me at all. Well, I have never gone back to that leadership gathering. There were several other indicators of selfish Christianity that permeated the group. It is hard enough to work on a tough area without being surrounded by violent ignorance of the Bible posing as Biblical scholarship. I pray for those trapped, but I don’t embed myself in it.
Yesterday was a great unity event in North Texas. Several churches of unlike disposition worshipped together. They shared styles of praise and enjoyed each other. I am proud of the many who came and participated with worship led by groups unlike themselves. That is pursuit of unity. That is the Christian mandate of Jesus in John 17 and throughout the letters of the New Testament. Not all could stay the entire time, but what a joy for those who stayed as long as they could and the ones that could stay the entire time. These are the seeds of unity planted across the county. It only takes a few seeds to produce great crops.
There is no way to describe the closing worship time as we praised in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. More so, we praised from across many expressions of the Kingdom as one in Christ. That is power. That unleashes the Holy Spirit to do His awesome work.
We can’t develop unity every day. We must each as members of local congregations pursue the vision and commission of Christ for us. Yet, we must find time to develop unity in our prayers, study, and fellowship. It is not an option. It is a mandate of Christ as strong as baptism and being filled with the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s Supper and a life of holiness. If He is Lord, then He is Lord of all.
If you believe in missions and evangelism, then you must believe in unity. The work of the Holy Spirit to draw people to Christ moves to the work to develop us into a life of dedication and separation and unity. In many ways, unity is a work of sanctification. We are separated to be joined in family under one Father, one Lord, and one Holy Spirit and one Body.
In the words of the old hymn, “Bind us together, Lord, bind us together. Bind us together as one.” It isn’t just about our home group or local congregation, it is about the Body. The BIG C church that is bigger than our denominational group, independent spirit, or local church. It is about JESUS, who is bigger than us all.
What a day that will be!