Friday, 18 February 2011

Unity in the Church


Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

Ephesians 4:2-4 (New Living Translation)

Over the years since I have been involved in church leadership, I have been invited to numerous Christian events, which generally involve walking around the streets of my city with leaders and members of other local churches. The purpose of these events is usually to demonstrate to the watching world (if they are remotely interested) that the churches in our city are united. I have even heard the phrase “show a united front” used by some when describing these events, but in reality that is all they are – a front or a facade. A united front generally hides a divided rear. “Well it’s surely better than all the division and backbiting of the past?” I hear you cry. Absolutely, but it also falls far short of the unity of the Spirit that God is after, and that will hasten the day of Christ’s return.

What is the answer? Am I suggesting that we all sell our buildings and move into the biggest auditorium in town for our gatherings? On the contrary, I would be happy to see a Christian church meeting in every street. Should we then throw off our denominational labels and affiliations? It might be nice, but it still does not deal with the root issue in our thinking, which is that God already sees only ONE CHURCH, therefore it is our thinking that needs to be changed to come into line with what IS already a Spiritual reality.

At this point it is important to clarify, that not every group that calls itself a church, is a church, and not everyone who calls themself Christian, is a Christian, only the biblical definition will do. The true church is a people who have turned away from their old life and put their faith in Jesus Christ. They have been born again, by the Spirit of God and been baptised INTO His family – the church (John3:7, 1 Peter 1:23, Mark 16:16, Galatians 3:27)

What will a change in our thinking look like? Firstly, when we come to the realisation that we are ALREADY one body then we understand that far from being in competition with each other we are there to bless and support one another as local churches. Jesus said that “He will build His church,” therefore we are there to assist Him in His mission, not the other way round as some might think. We must understand that as local churches our mission is the same – making disciples of the nations - and that when one part of the body is blessed we are all blessed, when one part suffers, we all suffer. In other words when we hear that the church down the road has seen twenty people saved and added last week, our attitude should be “Praise God,” and not “why them?” When we hear that there is strife and problem in another church, our heart should be to pray for them and lift them up, rather than hoping that it might mean a few more in our own congregation.

If we are all one body and one church, am I then giving individuals the freedom to hop from one congregation to another as they see fit? Absolutely not. We are all members individually also, and therefore we should be rightly related to the people that God has joined us to within a locality. God puts us together in a local church setting for our growth and maturity, where we can receive encouragement and correction, where we can actively serve God and play our part (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Where do we start? As our opening verse stated, we must first“be humble,” and admit that God is right, therefore our thinking and attitude must line up with His. We must also decide to be gentle and patient with one another and make allowance for one another's faults and differences, rather than see them as a source for annoyance and division. We should “make every effort” towards peace and unity in the Spirit, realising that for the Lord, nothing less will do.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this article. God has been speaking to me to pray for greater unity in our church. I am one of the Pastors in my church and I don't know of any problems here. But I know God wants to do greater things there because He assigned me to pray more for the church and unity was one of the areas He spoke to me about for prayer. I appreciate your beautiful words to remind us of what unity is and how it is achieved. This really spoke to my heart today. Thank you so much and God bless you always.
    Rev Helen Davies/Dallas, TX.

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  2. Jesus said that “He will build His church,” therefore we are there to assist Him in His mission, not the other way round as some might think.

    I would like to know what sort of things you were thinking of where we are expecting God to assist us.

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  3. Not quite sure what you mean Chris. My point is that we are here to serve God's plan, He is not here to serve our's. When we understand this then we can stop pursuing our own agenda and find out what God wants to do in us and through us.

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  4. It's something that is very poignant at the moment. I read Mark 7 this morning, about the traditions of the elders vs the command of God.
    I am concerned that our busy church agenda of evangelism and events is just our clever ideas rather than the voice of Him who tells us which side to throw the net. Part of me thinks this really is no big deal, we are doing something good, but another part of me thinks we are wasting our time on another fruitless task without His initiative.

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