In President Biden’s inaugural address, he declared, “My whole soul is in this: Bringing America together, uniting our people. and uniting our nation. I ask every American to join me in this cause.” This call to unity is important for the nation and it is essential for the church. In my coaching of multiple pastors over the past year the primary ministry challenge they identified wasn’t learning new technology or managing stay at home orders or remaining connected to members but addressing the acrimony in their ranks. This found tangible expression in conversations about meeting or not meeting in-person and wearing or not wearing masks.
Perhaps this disunity in the church shouldn’t be a surprise. Someone once said, “It’s hard to live above the temperature of the culture.” Still a church that desires Spirit-empowered renewal must be unified in cause and devotion. Conversely, a church that refuses to seek unity will always quench the Spirit’s renewing work. With the Psalmist we should say, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” It’s time for the church to take the lead in uniting people for the good of a nation and for the renewal of the church. This is particularly important to address while the pandemic still rages so the heat of this moment can be marshalled into a refining fire.
Here are 7 investments that will help restore unity:
Investment 1: Boldly Name the Challenge
The first responsibility of renewal leaders is to name current reality. Renewal leaders must have the courage to say openly what they have experienced privately, that there has been unacceptable disunity in the body of Christ.
Investment 2: Begin With Confession
Renewal leaders should lead confession not lay blame. The Bible is filled with examples of disunity and calls to unity. These passages should be used to cast a vision for unity and call people into confession for our shared contributions to disunity. The act of confession should be for the whole church of Jesus Christ, not just your local congregation.
Investment 3: Raise Up a Vison For Servant-Living
Jesus said that the greatest among you will be the servant of all. At the heart of servant-living is the conviction that “It’s not about me.” Every decision has to be about the benefit of others and devoid of personal interests or persuasions.
Investment 4: Teach Communal Discernment
One reason disunity so quickly creeps into the church is that the church hasn’t been taught communal discernment. In communal discernment God’s will triumphs over my opinion. In communal discernment the church engages in listening prayer, shares what has been heard then seeks a final communal conviction around which the body unites as a whole.
Investment 5: Engage Real Conversations
Growth in faith demands addressing differences not denying them. Real conversations force people to listen careful, love deeply and reflect fully on the consistency of our own convictions in light of God’s Word and Christ’s character. All this is an anvil on which the fruit of the Spirit is forged into life. Connect with the Colossian Forum for assistance.
Investment 6: Promote Good Citizenship
Good heavenly citizens should be good earthly citizens whenever possible. Living out the kingdom values of servant-living, love for neighbor and respect for authority is a testimony to the world. A rebellious spirit against governmental directives that have no bearing on God’s revealed will only tarnishes the good name of Christ and His church.
Investment 7: Stay Clear, Stay Calm, Stay Connected, Stay the Course
These four commitments are the beating heart of renewal. They are also essential for restoring unity in the church. Expect congregants to push back on calls for unity when it demands surrendering personal agendas. In the face of these expected headwinds resolve never to give up. Our unity, said Jesus, is our testimony (John 17:20-21).