last week my blog introduced our Theme Verse for 2021 : 1 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV)
Our Year of Collaboration and Unity
“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.”
- 2012: Romans 15:13 — Our year of hope
- 2013: 2 Corinthians 5:7 — Our year of faith
- 2014: John 13:35 — Our year of love
- 2015: Luke 19:10 — Our year of outreach
- 2016: Titus 2:12 — Our year of devotion
- 2017: Colossians 2:7 — Our year of discipleship
- 2018: Romans 12:12 — Our year of prayer
- 2019: John 4:34 — Our year of mission
- 2020: Hosea 12:6 — Our year of renewal
- 2021: 1 Corinthians 1:10 — Our year of collaboration and unity
Last week my blog mentioned my longing to see our churches remain united while we continue the tricky work of navigating our church ministries in the midst of COVID restriction. The devil seeks to use these circumstances to divide, conquer and make us ineffective.
Our unity is essential if we are to experience mission advance in our communities, our country and globally through our missionaries.
I’d like to address the importance of two qualities essential if mission is to be effective among our churches.
The Importance of Peace and Unity
- We are part of the same family — God’s family and that changes everything.
- The world doesn’t share in this extraordinary oneness, community, and love.
- It is our ability to love one another and journey together that makes such an impact and witness to a watching world.
- Our unity as brethren is one of our potent evangelistic tools to see spiritually lost people come to Christ.
- Jesus calls us to the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, to go into all the world to make disciples
- To accomplish His mission, we must all pursue two thing first:
The First is PEACE
The Hebrew word “shalom” is translated 170 times in our English Bible as “Peace”. The word “shalom” basically means that something is “whole” in the sense that it is “complete”. In 1 Kings 9:25 the word is translated as “finished” (or made whole) in reference to the completion of the temple. In Genesis 15:16 the word is used in reference to the sin of the Amorites which was not yet “complete”. There are 20 instances in the Bible where the word is translated as “perfect”. In 1 Chronicles 29:19, David prays to Jehovah, “and give to my son, Solomon, a ‘perfect’ (shalom) heart to keep your commandments”. In 1 Kings 8:61 Solomon prays that people of God would have a “shalom” or “whole” heart, or wholly devoted heart for God. And so, the fundamental idea behind the word “shalom” is a wholeness or completeness in your relationship to God. Shalom means to be in a right relationship with God, in essence, to be at peace with God. And so, to live in “shalom” with God is to live a life of contentment and abundant living that is free of guilt and is at one with God. This can only be found in Christ. Every last one of us, as Christian leaders, are in the business of brokering peace: with God and ourselves. This peace leads to unity and ensures our wholeness, our completeness, our oneness in Christ and our inseparable bond to one another. This wholeness is manifested in our oneness in Christ, our unity.
The Second is UNITY
The Fellowship National’s motto slogan is SERVE, UNITE, THRIVE. We will not thrive until we unite. One of my essential tasks as president is to protect and guard the unity of our movement. What is unity supposed to look like? Let’s look at Jesus’ Word on Unity in John 17:20-23. In John 17, Jesus is looking for his children to exercise dependence on God, and interdependence on one another. In His “high priestly prayer” He declared this:
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 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.” (NIV)
In verse 20-23 there are two sentences that talk about unity. We notice unity is the result of our dependence on God and our interdependence on one another. Both sentences end almost identically with, “that the world may know and believe that You sent me”. So unity has a purpose, and objective to win the spiritually lost. Unity communicates to the spiritual lost community. The parallel construction of the two sentences in the Bible is spectacular. Verse 21 reads “that they all may be one...that they may be in us...that the world may believe”. Verse 22-23 reads, “that they may be one...that they may be brought to complete unity...that the world may know...that you sent me”. Each clause in each sentence starts with the demonstrative pronoun, “that”. This is often called a purpose (“hina”) clause in the Koine Greek New Testament. In fact, Jesus uses 19 purpose clauses in John 17. In John verse 20-23 there are six in these two sentences. Jesus’ over-emphasized point in these clauses is that the church’s purpose is to be characterized by unity as a means to help the world “know” (verse 23) and “believe” (verse 21). Unity has a purpose, an objective, a mission: to win the lost.
Let’s move to the Apostle Paul’s word on unity (Ephesians 4 NIV):
“1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
In a Reader’s Digest article I read, “What is a Good Tree?”. It explained that the roots of trees liked to touch one another. A substance of fungus helps link roots of differing species of trees. An entire forest is linked together. If one tree needs access to water, or nutrients or sunlight...the other trees share. This linkage is the means for all trees to share and mature. In Ephesians 4:1-6; the apostle Paul, talks about unity, specifically the origin and character of our unity.
The Origin of our Unity is Rooted in the Trinity (verse 4-6)
Paul identifies the seven great unities of the Christian church. Unity does not happen because of good structure and programs, but a rooted connection to the Father, Son and Spirit.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
We note the person of the Holy Spirit bringing unity. We see the person of Christ and His ministry of unity. We see the person of the father and His work of unity. We all have the same paternity unifying all of us.
I have two brothers and we could not be more different. We’re unlike in every way possible. But they accept me. Why? Despite our great differences we share the same great dad. Deep within there is an unspoken tie that unifies us. A paternity that makes us one.
The Character of our Unity (verse 4-6)
Verse 2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Our unity is characterized by humility, gentleness, patience and love. “Humility” cannot be our focus or it turns to pride. It should be highly sought after but never claimed, because once claimed it turns to pride. “Gentleness” is another word for meekness. It is a word referencing the taming of wild animals (especially horses). A horse may be broken and trained, but still spirited and strong. Its “will” is under control of its master. “Patience” accepts all events in life as part of God’s plan. This kind of patience, which results in unity, is to be characterized by “love”, a “forbearing” type of love.
Our unity ought to be rooted in the three Persons of the God-head and characterized by humility, gentleness, patience, and love for one another. This unity is the by-product of the peace we have all found in Christ. It starts with peace which compels us to nurture unity which propels us to accomplish the mission. But, we don’t get the mission accomplished until we ensure a peaceful and unified coexistence. Nothing of our eternal consequences will happen, the mission will be forgotten if we fuel suspicion and a competitive spirit among our leaders or our churches. Our unity ensures the mission gets done.