Do you ever get so passionate about something it literally makes you want to scream when someone doesn’t get it, discounts it, or actually works to undermine it? There are only a few things that I’m that passionate about, but one of them is seeing churches work together in the name of Christ without any agenda other than to spread the Gospel in their city or country.
This is one of the two reasons I chose to take a job with CharlotteONE (check out our new website www.CharlotteONE.org and watch this video with me in it www.CharlotteONE.org/media). CharlotteONE is a unified movement of local churches coming together as ONE to reach 20s and 30s for Christ and connect them to a local faith community. If unity is one of the two reasons I work for CharlotteONE, getting people into a church community is the second. But today I want to talk about unity.
What is it that actually unites anyone?
I think a number of things unite people. For instance, pizza. I can’t think of a better food that brings more people together. Think about all the parties and celebrations that feature pizza as one of the main events. Others would be sports teams, particular brands (such as Apple consumers), coffeeshops, hair color, gender, economic status, and career choices. But there is really only one thing that truly unites people in the depths of who they are.
Deeply held beliefs.
What binds Christ followers together is their beliefs about who Jesus is. No matter the denomination, theological method of interpretation, church size, worship style, biblical translation, or preferred preacher, the one thing Christ followers must unite around is their beliefs about Jesus Christ. Not only do Jesus’ followers believe the same thing about who He is, but they must also take on His mission. This is the single greatest mission any person or organization can join. According to 2 Cor. 5, God has given the followers of Jesus Christ the responsibility of being His ambassadors of reconciliation to the world. And according to John 17:23, the main strategy for accomplishing this mission is the unity of His followers.
I am privileged to see this happen firsthand in my job with CharlotteONE. We have churches from multiple denominations and ecclesiological structures, sizes, worship styles, and preaching strategies. But, all 40 of these churches work together as ONE under Christ’s leadership to help 20s and 30s hear the Gospel and connect to a local community. And it is working!
There is no room for personal or denominational agendas. If one church or denomination pushes for prominence over the others, unity is sacrificed. If one speaker or worship leader has an agenda outside of the mission given by Jesus in Jn. 17:23 and 2 Cor. 5, not only is unity sacrificed, but the focus has been removed from the mission to a human agenda.
I am also privileged to see this happen in my small group. We have had at least five different churches represented by members of our group. While it is understood that our group is under the authority of one particular church, we do not neglect or treat differently any other members who do not happen to go to that church. We are united by our belief in Jesus Christ and in working with Him to fulfill His mission to reconcile the world to Himself. We have set aside our personal preferences in worship style, preacher, church size, denomination, and made our common beliefs in Jesus the thing that binds us together in unity. In order to this, we have had to work through which beliefs are absolutely foundational to our faith—the ones we cannot let go and still call ourselves “Christian”—and which ones are secondary issues, such as what kind of music allows us to worship God more fully.
Common unity = Community. I have written a little bit about why community is central to our identity (www.itsnotmystory.wordpress.com/belong), but we can only be a community through our common unity in Christ.
So, if you are a Christ follower, are you actively pursuing unity with other Christ followers, or are your preferences hindering unity? We must learn to set aside secondary issues in order to pursue unity, so that the world will know the love of God through Jesus Christ.