Over the last 3 months, I've been thinking about this whole idea of unity. What exactly did Jesus mean when he taught on it? Why was the apostle Paul so strong about it in his letters to the church?
And why is it when I look into my husbands eyes and listen to him talk about our community and the role we as a believers play, do I sense such a heavy concern for how the gospel is being portrayed?
Author and Evangelist Tom Skinner once said, "The role of God's people is that we become the live expression on earth of what is happening in heaven. So that any time, anybody want to know what is happening in heaven all they have to do is watch us".
In Philippians 2:1-4 we read, IF you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, IF any comfort from his love, IF any fellowship with the Spirit, IF any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being of one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.
It's here in this passage we find our basis for our unity amongst one another. If we truly have experienced such comfort, encouragement, love and fellowship with God then this should motivate us to be on one accord with one another (as far as it depends upon you). We also see in the latter part of the verse where Paul is exhorting believers to think the same way, have the same love, be united in soul, intent on the same purpose. Again here is where we see him advocating for unity amongst the brethren. This is how we live out Philippians 1:27. (conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel)
This brings me to the main reason why I'm writing today. Gospel Partnership.
In today's society, everyone is trying to find a cause or a community to join or rally around. According to the scriptures, it's clear that we as believers , as a faith community, as family, as followers of Jesus, should always be devoted and be willing to pour our lives into gospel purposes. The church is a community that comes together for the cause of the gospel. Throughout my years of ministry, I have had to learn what it means to fight daily in my thoughts and actions to remember this truth, especially on the days when you feel like your labor is in vain or when you feel like your work goes unnoticed. I have grown to understand that this work isn't about me, but it is about the gospel going forth for the greater good of my community.
Over time I have found myself wondering one thing, why is this such a struggle for the Saints to do together?
Why is it a church on every block in my hood; yet, there seems to lack a partnership amongst the churches or pastors to make a greater impact on the community that they all claim to care so much about? Why is it so easy to partner with a church, organization, or people outside of the neighborhood verses the body of believers who are right up the road from you? Are we not here for the same purpose? Do we not want the same things for our community?
When partnerships are lacking what does this say about the gospel?
What does this say about Jesus message of unity?
What does this say about Heaven?
What does this say about our hearts?
In my study on this topic, I have learned (from Philippians 2:3-4) that the greatest enemy of unity is selfishness/vain conceit. Vain Conceit-Kenodoxia in greek is literally translated to mean empty glory. In Philippians 1:17 Paul talks about those who preach Christ out of selfishness. These ministers we know seek to advance their own causes rather than the gospel. LORD JESUS let this not be us!!
Motivations like this create division and confusion amongst the body and will cause us to view each other as rivals vs co laborers or partners. I have seen and read how this causes communities like the one I live in to suffer greatly. This mindset does not further the gospel, it only hinders it greatly.
I believe it's time for those of us who live, serve, worship and work in these communities to really ponder how the things we do ( or don't do) affect our mission. Why do we try to reinvent the wheel when there were so many here before us doing the work? I think it's important for us to remember that we are here due to the answered prayers of those before us. Specific prayers of help. When we decide NOT to partner with others for the sake of the gospel, then I believe we too are practicing colonization in many ways.
My prayer has been that as a body of believers that we would lock arms with one another and with the greatest ally of unity that we have- that being humility. I pray that we fight to put ourselves, our agendas and what we feel is right in our own eyes to the side and think about how much stronger we are together than separate.