Nothing will derail vision faster than disunity in the ranks. It is true of a business, a basketball team, a family, and a church. How many times have we seen the movie where a less talented but determined team pulled together and toppled the more talented, better financed, more popular, but ego-centered team? It is such a popular idea that it has become a cliché.
In my years of ministry I have observed churches that made you scratch your head and wonder why more was not being done for the Kingdom of God in them. They had talent, resources, and opportunity, but no real growth. I really believe that one of the key factors to church growth and fulfilled vision is this little thing called unity. It is certainly not the only factor, but I have never personally seen a church grow without it.
So why is unity so important in the church?
1. Jesus prayed for unity in the church.
John 17:23a “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. If Jesus prayed for unity in the church then it must be important. He prayed that the church would follow the example of the God the Father and God the Son. What could the primary reason for this unity be? Point two answers that question.
2. Unity is necessary for the most effective presentation of the gospel.
John 17:23b “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Notice how this kind of unity is tied to the spreading of the gospel. “Then the world will know…” I believe a church that is unified around the mission of spreading the gospel will model the kind of unity that the Father and Son have. I also believe that Satan knows the best way to keep a church from fulfilling its mission is to get people arguing over non-essentials. This kind of disharmony causes the church to become inward-focused and to lose its evangelistic passion.
3. Unity is necessary for the power of God.
2 Chronicles 30:12 “Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD.” When God’s hand is on a church or a group of people his power rests on them. This power is necessary for the unity of mind and purpose that is needed to follow the word of the Lord. It is critical to elevate the mission of bringing God glory through our obedience to the highest level in order to have this kind of unity. In other words a church must not focus on the minor things but on the major thing! Too often we divide ourselves over things that do not matter. Don’t mistake diversity for disunity. We can be wonderfully diverse while being totally in harmony over who we are in Christ. If God created over 400,000 species of beetles why would he not want churches with unique personalities and abilities to reach people!
4. Unity keeps the church body growing, maturing, and working at its fullest potential.
1 Corinthians 12:12 “…just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” Ephesians 4:3 “…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.” While some Christians think that spiritual maturity is achieved through amassing knowledge about the Bible the Bible actually shows us that spiritual maturity is achieved through obeying what the Bible says and fulfilling the mission of telling everyone everywhere about the gospel.
5. Unity flows from love and love unites the church in its mission.
Colossians 3:14 “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Without love there is no unity whatsoever. This love must be focused on and received from Jesus Christ. There is no other way to keep harmony and stay on mission.
6. Unity keeps Christ at the center instead of us.
Ephesians 1:10b “…to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” It is not about you but it is about Christ! My plans, my desires, my preferences, my agenda, and my feelings are nothing compared to the gospel. When we become unified around that mission it changes everything and makes our churches more effective in fulfilling God’s mission for our lives.
The Psalmist said it well when he wrote, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 131:1