One of the common refrains from pulpits across America is the church needs to walk in unity. Often the crowd will clap and shout hallelujah thinking this means everyone is going to be like them. They believe others should have their same values, use their same translation of the Bible, have their same preference for style of worship, and the color of the carpet, etc. If they don’t, they think we don’t have unity in this church.
People often mistake unity with uniformity. Uniformity means we are all alike and have no differences. Uniformity is being like the clone troopers from “Star Wars.” They were exactly alike and had no variety. In order for every church to operate at its highest capacity, differences are necessary. Let me illustrate. My body is comprised of many diverse parts and they are all in unity so everything is connected . This unity causes my body to operate at the highest capacity. What if my whole body was an eye, however. Would that be functional? No, and it would actually be kind of weird. Or what if my hand said, “I quit because I’m different than the eyes. I just have a different ministry. The eyes are green and I am flesh colored. We are different colors so I don’t fit.” It sounds crazy and would be humorous, but honestly the body of Christ does this pretty consistently. And we wonder where there isn’t revival?
Increase comes when we learn to unify in spite of our differences not because we don’t have any. Think about it, that’s how a man and woman make a baby. They unify in love in spite of their physical differences. This causes increase to happen. Diversity in unity brings increase! This principle applies to the church world too. God brings diverse parts together and He wants them to walk in unity so they bring multiplication.
So how do we do this? We have to learn to see with Jesus’s eyes. Jesus sees Himself in everyone. We have to learn to relate to the spirit of Christ in people and not relate to people after the flesh. In the spirit, we are one body, which is why the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:
3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
In the spirit all believers are unified because we all have the spirit of Christ in us. This takes work to do, which is why Paul said to endeavor. It doesn’t happen on accident, it takes intentionally on our part. This is because everyones’s flesh and fleshly preferences are different. Some are young and some old, some like tradition and some are more contemporary, we have a multitude of preferences about music and church design, we have a multitude of races, and we have a multitude of opinions on non-essential biblical matters. Non-essential biblical matters include when and how the Lord will return, how to operate in the gifts of the spirit during worship, forms of baptism, and the organization of church governance. These are non-essential because we don’t have to agree in order be born again and get to go to heaven.
The only place we need complete agreement are the handful of essentials that include the virgin birth, the Bible is the word of God, the doctrine that Jesus is fully God and fully human, and that He died on a cross in the place of sinners to secure salvation for all who believe. There may be a couple more essentials I left out, but you get the idea. When we remember that on the essentials almost all Christians agree, we are more alike than we are different. I’m sure God would love us to have perfect theology on everything, but while we are learning and growing we need to relate to one another based on the fact that we have strong majority agreement on the main things.
Since I’ve learned I agree with most Christians about the majority of the important things in our faith, its freed me up to relate with people who are different than me. As I’ve done this, they’re learned and I’ve learned. We grow! It’s important to learn to relate to believers about places you have common ground and value their right to their opinion on non-essential stuff. I’d also encourage us to learn from people who are different than us because sometimes the truth we need to get the breakthrough we are looking for is going to come in a package we don’t like or expect. It’s just how God does things.
Some of you would be shocked at the variety of ministers I listen to and learn from. While I’m a self professed charismatic that fits mostly into grace and faith type churches, I regularly read and listen to Baptist’s, Presbyterians, a variety of Calvinists, and classical Pentecostals. I’m a mut theologically, but I think that’s healthy because I’ve heard different perspectives before I decide on doctrine. It also helps me to relate to people who are different than me.
I’m also that way in terms of style. For example, my preference in worship is contemporary music, but I really love and appreciate hymns. Seriously, can you find a better song than “How Great Thou Art?” It’s a hymn and I love it and I’ll listen to it and then go listen to Jesus Culture. As far as the Bible, I read the New King James version typically, but I love the old King James Bible for its poetic language. I also like the Message and Passion Translations because of the nuance they bring out in the scripture. As far as dress, sometimes I preach in jeans and a t-shirt and last Sunday I wore a suit. I find the variety is good for me and it also helps me to relate to a wider variety of people.
My point in writing all of this is to say we need to learn to get along. God’s goal for us isn’t to only be around people who are like us, but its to be conformed to the image of His Son so we learn to love everybody. This takes pressing into the spirit so we see people with Jesus’s eyes! When we do this we’ll fulfill God’s plan for our lives and will also partner with Him to release a sustained revival in the earth.
If you’d like to learn more about unity, check out this message I taught at Grace Life Church.