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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.