create-unity

In last week’s post about an autopsy of a deceased church, one of the characteristics was the members had “more and more arguments about what they wanted.” This selfishness both created and sustained one thing no church can tolerate very long and survive: disunity.

It is very common for pastors and church members to desire unity and even talk about the importance of it. Beyond desire, though, should be a plan to foster unity in the local body. Unity can be very hard to achieve and it never happens on its own.

Ultimately, only the Lord can bring unity to His people. Here are four ways to help foster unity in your church.

  1. Preach on it. I don’t mean mentioning unity on occasion, or talking about it during the Lord’s Supper. I don’t even mean bringing it up when you know of a disagreement in the body. I mean preach on unity regularly, emphasizing why no church will accomplish God’s mission without it. Preach a series on the goodness and pleasantness of unity (Psalm 133:1) or how unity contributes to peace in the body (Ephesians 4:3).
  2. Talk about Jesus’ emphasis on it. In John 17, we find the longest recorded prayer of Jesus. Over and over in the space of only three verses Jesus emphasized unity, saying, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me” (vs. 21-23). If unity is important to Jesus it should be important to us.
  3. Model it. You cannot lead your church to be unified if there are broken relationships in your own life. What you live, people learn. The old saying, “More caught than taught,” is perhaps more true for pastors than most. People expect the pastor to model the behavior of a fully mature disciple, and pastors should. This seems clear in Paul’s challenge to “follow me as I follow Christ.”
  4. Get everyone on the same page—literally. In recent years, many churches have given small group leaders and Sunday School teachers the option to choose from a range of Bible studies. This has been beneficial to many, and I don’t mean to demean that option. However, if your church is struggling with unity, consider using a single Bible study tool as one way to help facilitate it.

Using a single Bible study can help promote ongoing conversations between small-group members, leaders and family members. Creating biblically centered conversations between parents, teens and children is easier when everyone is studying the same concepts at the same time.

One of the many things I am excited about at LifeWay is a new ongoing Bible study series that gives churches the option of getting everyone on the same page. The new series, called Bible Studies for Life, has been developed for every age in the church so everyone will study the same biblical concepts at the same time making home-based as well as church-based discipleship more accessible.

How would our churches change if we joined Jesus in His prayer for unity? What if churches were actually operating in unity? What if members were striving together, constantly, to fulfill the mission of God?

We might just see a move of God like none of us has ever seen.

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Comments

  1. Church: DIFFERENT says

    I get a bit uncomfortable when the ‘unity’ subject comes up. Don’t get me wrong, I encourage it! But in my experience it’s too often thrown out there when folks don’t conform to the desired norm. There is a difference between ‘lack of unity’ and ‘differences’. (I’m not speaking of differences as in conflict) The old ‘causing disunity’ accusation is a cruel, evil control that often stifles the Body. Christ followers ARE unified by definition. They may, however, funtion differently and often can function differently while in the same assembly.

    I immediately am offput by too much attempt to achieve lock-step thinking under the guise of unity. I’ll be interested to see how this discussion plays out…

    • Thom Rainer says

      Chris –

      We are probably looking at the difference between unity and uniformity. Thanks for commenting.

  2. says

    Unity does not mean Uniformity! There is a huge difference in the two. In the book, “sticky teams” the author mentions that Jesus said He would build His church and Hell would not prevail, but Jesus prayed for unity. Great article

  3. Adam Cruse says

    I love that you emphasized “model it.” I have found as a pastor that in my call for unity, i myself am doing and saying subtle things that undermined it, not to mention where I allowed my own heart to go and remain. Thanks for the reminder. Needed to hear it fresh this morning.

  4. Christiane says

    since the Holy Spirit is the spirit of unity,
    and He always points towards Christ, that should help to figure out how Christian folks pull together . . .
    the closer people get to Christ, the closer they come to one another . . .
    getting them centered around anything or anyone else is not the work of the Holy Spirit but another’s

    • Karen says

      Amen, Christiane! As we love one another with His love flowing through us, by the Precious Holy Spirit, we will have unity, and it is easy when we encourage the Holy Spirit to flow as he wishes in our lives and the church congregation, what I find is a church killer is when unity is preached from the pulpit, not for the sake of true spiritual unity, but to use as a reason (or excuse) for the desire to control what the members of the church think or do. To keep them in line with the pastor’s way of thinking, for example, if someone in the congregation says, why don’t we start an outreach to the homeless, and hungry, instead of enthusiasm, the pastor will say, we’ll bring that up before the church board to discuss it…and seven months to seven years of church board meetings later, every time you ask the pastor what did the board say, he will say, oh, we haven’t gotten around to discussing it yet, too much other pressing business got in the way…and Jesus weeps…

  5. Eric says

    This is a great and encouraging reminder. Clearly unity has been a struggle for God’s people for centuries. When we look at the letters to the churches from the apostles, we continually see encouragement from the apostles for unity. If those churches needed messages and reminders encouraging them to be one in spirit and in purpose, surely we do as well.

    A local church is much more influential in a local community when she is unified. Or as Jesus said, “By this all men will know we are His disciples…”

  6. Angela Prince says

    Our Church is united in apathy. We have business meetings where everything passes with very little discussion, unless it is new and progressive – then every idea gets dragged through committees for years. We have been working on a new sanctuary for 8 years and have yet to see anything agreed on. our church isn now 75% senior adults and is fading……

  7. says

    Thom,

    Thanks for writing a great article. I believe this to be critical to God’s Design for the Church, and for our ability to accomplish the mission. John 17 is so critical. Of all the issues we would love to hear the heart of our savior he prayed for our unity for the purpose that we would be God’s perfect picture to draw mankind. A great tool for churches to use in teaching unity skills is “The Five Principles of Unity” by Blake Coffee. It is structured as a small group study tool

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