Pursuing True Unity – What Are We Talking About?

For several years I have been asking the Lord for clarity regarding true, Biblical unity. We know unity in the body of Christ is important. Jesus prayed for believers to walk in it (John 17:21), the Spirit invites the people of God to grow in it and the fulfillment of the Great Commission appears to depend on it (John 17:21).

Yet it seems an elusive subject. What exactly is unity? What are we pursuing? While there is much talk in ministry circles about unity, there is little adequate clarity as to what we are precisely talking about.

Is unity doing ministry activities together or having periodic gatherings across ministry streams? Is unity going along with another’s ministry wishes to avoid conflict? Or suppressing our calling in favor of someone else’s calling? There are many well-meaning, yet ill-informed ideas about true unity out there.

Because the Bible puts so much emphasis on true unity, it is necessary to wrestle with the topic. A Biblical, Spirit-led understanding of unity enables believers and ministries to flourish in both the ministry assignments God has given them, while simultaneously walking in unity of heart toward others possessing different ministry assignments.

Philippians 2:1-11 is an important passage about true unity. Paul describes the inner attitude and outlook believers possess in Philippians 1:27, “Only let your conduct (attitude or outlook) be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” What is the inner attitude he refers to?

Paul defines it in Philippians 2:2. “Being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Believers are bound together in oneness because of being “in Christ” and our attitudes toward one another are to reflect this fact.

Unity in the body of Christ is about a heart response (love, respect, esteem, honor, serving) of spiritual oneness with others, not about the externals of ministry activity. It is a common error to falsely see unity as meaning we all do ministry together in the same way. This describes “uniformity” not “unity.”

Unity is the outward expression of an inward heart reality. True unity means believers and ministries affirm one another in their varying God-given ministry assignments and focal points, laying down silly rivalries and the competitive spirit that is of the world. This is obviously dependent on those various ministry assignments being rooted in the true Gospel and will of God.

When each believer and ministry is faithfully doing their assigned job from the Lord, it helps all the others and the corporate community of saints. All are meant to honor Jesus and obediently do His will. Yet when any seeks their own reputation, looking for glory themselves, divisions and rivalries take over.

Paul reveals in 1 Corinthians 12 the body of Christ is made up of many different parts. None is better nor more important than any other. Yet they do have different purposes. There are different gifts, ministries, activities, “but the same God who works all in all (1 Cor. 12:4-6).”

It is a common struggle in ministry circles, particularly among leaders, to know how to practically walk out unity across ministries and streams in the body of Christ. True unity is an attitude and outlook on those who have a different mandate, calling, ministry assignment than ourselves. We encourage them, believing in the importance of their God-given ministry assignments even when different than our own.

God is diverse and creative in His ministry expressions, consistently revealing more to those with ears to hear and eyes to see. The global Church is in no way to be identical in ministry expression. Instead, the Holy Spirit has called each ministry to be obedient, faithful to the specific ministry directives given to each one.

Paul reveals in our Philippians 2 passage that each different gift, ministry, activity is done without seeking prominence or prestige, but lowliness, meekness (vs. 3). Looking out for others’ ministry interests, cheering them on, affirming the significance of their assignment in the Lord, wanting them to succeed as much as ourselves. If these unity-producing heart attitudes were stronger across the global Church, we would progress in the Great Commission much faster.

How does Paul suggest we grow in these heart attitudes? By taking on the same mind (attitude or outlook) that was in Christ Jesus (vs. 5). Jesus is our example of the perfect life lived in true humility and unity of heart in relation to others.

By thinking of others, not merely our own situations and calling (vs. 5-6), serving (vs. 7), sacrificing (vs. 8) and glorifying God (vs. 9-11). Through embracing Jesus’ attitudes in our own outlooks toward others, we will proceed toward true unity at the heart level.

The primary “like-mindedness, oneness (vs. 2),” Paul seems to reveal surrounds the overarching vision of the actualization of the Kingdom of God. We are united around that goal, unified in the gospel foundations of the New Testament propelling us toward that goal. Yet, the ministry activities and ways each group does so will differ. We never allow a competitive spirit between us, choosing rather to build the Kingdom of God through the power of the Spirit.

In doing so, we affirm one another at the heart level, believing in the importance of each one’s Kingdom purpose and contribution, looking for ways to bless one another, working in unity of heart, mind, ultimate purpose together.

1 thought on “Pursuing True Unity – What Are We Talking About?”

  1. Yes, very on point. We are one body in Christ, must encourage one another to fulfill god’s eternal plan. We must encourage the weak to be strong and the lost to repent too. God bless you.


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