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Is Your Church Unified in These 5 Ways?
Paul laid down a daunting task for the church when he said in 1 Corinthians,
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
Even though God has created the church as unified, unity doesn’t come easy today. Unity is something that requires humility, patience, and skill to achieve and maintain.
When speaking of “unity,” I’m not talking about leaving truth and your personal convictions at home and succumbing to some uniform mindset. Rather, I’m talking about a humble mindset that seeks unity first in essential areas and that disagrees in love on non-essential issues rather than seeking to create division.
The following are five areas where unity is essential in a local church.
1. Theological Unity
There must be theological unity. In short, this means that the leaders and members of the church agree on what they will and won’t fight over. This is why I suggest that you develop a list of close- and open-handed beliefs.
At Mars Hill Church, our close-handed non-negotiables are those beliefs connected most closely to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will fight for the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as our sinless God who became a man to die in our place, for our sins, to save us from hell and grant us salvation by grace alone through faith alone in him alone.
Unlike these close-handed beliefs, we don’t fight for every issue with a fundamentalist spirit (2 Tim. 2:14–16, 23; 6:4–5; Titus 3:9). There are many issues we approach with an open hand, where we agree to disagree in an agreeable way. For example, we believe that Jesus is bodily and visibly returning to judge both the living and the dead. This is close-handed issue. What is an open-handed issue for us are the different views on when and how Jesus will accomplish this.
To ensure unity in close- and open-handed issues at Mars Hill Church, every member is asked to covenant with us to adhere to Mars Hill Church’s position on primary theological issues and to not be divisive over secondary issues.
2. Relational Unity
There must be relational unity (1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11; Eph. 4:2–3).
This doesn’t mean that everyone in the church should be required to wear matching sweatshirts and hairstyles. It doesn’t even mean that everyone in the church should even like each other.
What this does mean is that the church should love one another and demonstrate that love by being cordial, respectful, and friendly with each other, even when they are talking about areas where they disagree.
3. Philosophical Unity
There must be philosophical unity around ministry methods and style. Two people may love Jesus, but they can have completely different opinions on the way things should be done in the church. In addition to Bible rules, the church family, like all families, also has house rules about how they do things. We call this a ministry philosophy, and it in many ways is the cause of a particular cultural style in the church.
When it comes to ministry methods, it can be argued that some are more faithful to Scripture than others. In faithfulness to God, the key is to have agreement in the church about how things are done, such as baptism, Communion, service order, preaching format, worship music, discipleship, and evangelism.
4. Missional Unity
The goal of every church should be to glorify God. There’s a great deal of flexibility in how each church will go about fulfilling this call in their community. This is why there must be missional unity around how the church goes about this call.
If you are a church leader, I encourage you to provide direction. Look to define what you will focus your personal and financial resources on. Time and money are not unlimited. You must be purposeful in glorifying God in the time and resources he has given you stewardship over.
5. Organizational Unity
There must be organizational unity around how things are done in the church. At Mars Hill Church, we provide job descriptions, conduct performance reviews, and policies regarding how money is spent and decisions are made.
Unity Is Vital—Don’t Take It for Granted
If you have served as a senior leader of a church, you have probably experienced some level of disunity. You know the painful cost you must pay when, not if, disunity occurs, even in the smallest of occasions.
While a lack of unity does not always rise to the level of betrayal that Judas demonstrated, every breach in unity costs the leaders of the church time, energy, emotion, and momentum. Division is often the cause of the greatest stress, pain, conflict, and despair.
Unity in your church is vitally important to the health of your church. Don’t take it for granted. Unity is fragile. It is gained slowly and lost quickly.
Work for the unity of the church so that the church may continue without detours in fulfilling the call of God.