Five Characteristics of a Unified Church
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Why is Church unity important? What does it mean exactly?
We travel to churches in various parts of the world each year. We meet with the churches we partner with and are constantly building relationships with new ones.
It is really one of my favorite things to do. Each church has its own unique set of characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. I like to think of it as fingerprints. No two are the same, and they are indicative of who you are.
Unity is one of the things I always look for. Unity in Christ crosses cultures and any other boundary we put in its way. When the body of Christ is unified it looks the same in the U.S., Africa, Honduras, and Germany.
When we are of one mind and working in one accord as the Lord has asked, it is unforgettable and in some cases truly life-changing.
Here are some of the things I have learned as we have witnessed the power of unity in Christ.
Five Characteristics of a Unified Church:
Take advantage of everyone’s gifts and strengths. They allow everyone the blessing of giving their gift back in service of the Lord, knowing that it will benefit and grow all of them.
They confront whatever threatens the body of Christ. If someone is stirring up disunity or hurting the spiritual development of individuals, they put an end to it.
They pray defensively. The things on the prayer list are more about edification, encouragement, and vision for the church and its members. When someone struggles with faith or in life, they all carry the burden and bring their concerns to the Father in prayer.
They do not brush issues under the rug. They confront them, deal with them, and move on. The first time I witnessed this, we were at a family retreat in Croatia. A woman who had an issue with the behavior of another member asked the speaker about it during a session. One of the church leaders stood up and facilitated a discussion that helped both sides to work through it.
They don’t allow fear to stop them. One of my favorite churches to watch, hear about, and fellowship with is the church in Athens. It is the most diverse group of Christians I have ever seen. They hold multiple services, Bible studies, and events to spread God’s love to the many different people groups that gather there. As a matter of fact, last Sunday, the church in Athens baptized nine refugees traveling to build lives in Europe. While many fear all the unknown things that come with such a large group of people on the move, this church is taking advantage of joining God in meeting the people in some of their darkest moments. Keep in mind, this is a church that within itself has multiple nationalities. Aside from the many obvious differences they work together to bring others to Christ.
So what does this mean for us? What is our call to action?
Church unity begins with each one of us. When we decide to use our gifts to edify and develop the church, we are living as the body of Christ. When we forgive, have hard conversations, and pray blessing and success on one another, we are building up the church. Each one of us has the responsibility of ministering to one another and the world.
A Road Map to Unity
Ephesians 4:1-16 gives us a road map on how we need to behave to grow in Christ and foster unity. Take some time today to read it and think about what role you have to play in your church.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gently; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Are there ways you bring about disunity?
What are your talents and how can you use them to build up the church?