How seriously do we as followers of Jesus take the “church unity” commands in the New Testament? I know I’ve sometimes had the tendency to write them off as impractical and not applicable to the confusing and diverse landscape of evangelical faith today. The temptation within this tendency is to apply these commands solely within the context of our local congregation and ignore how they might determine our attitude and behavior towards the many other congregations of Christ-followers in our particular city. However, as conviction has set in, and I’ve begun to take more time to think about how I can more obediently work towards this unity, a startling realization has surfaced: I’ve never thoroughly contemplated what Biblical church unity across the body of Christ in one particular area or city should look like in practice. Which raises the question, how can we work towards something that we haven’t practically defined?
So what characterizes true unity of the Body of Christ in real life among different congregations in the same particular population center?
Over the next couple weeks, I plan to publish a series of posts in an effort to answer that question. I’ve tried to establish a number of characteristics of true practical unity, which I’ve listed below. Each subsequent post will take up two or three of these points and expand on them in further detail. It is likely that this list will evolve as this series progresses. There is certainly some overlap here, and some of the points will likely be combined and/or condensed.
Here they are for now:
- True practical unity must be centered on the Good News of Jesus
- It must not be theologically dismissive but lovingly and winsomely engaged in the promotion and pursuit of truth amidst a culture of moral and spiritual relativity
- It has to be more than just an event or even a worship service (it cannot be contained within the four walls of a building but must be visible to the world)
- It has to be sustainable over time
- It has to be owned by both pastors and their people
- It has to be intentional
- It cannot exist for its own sake but for the good of the community (to make a local impact for the Kingdom)
I hope and pray that this series will stimulate profitable conversation and move the Church to action in regards to this crucial topic, that our unity would demonstrate the reality of what God has done in sending his Son to the world (see John 17:20-23).