Unity: What Do We Really Mean?

By Ryan Shaw

Unity is often talked about in the body of Christ today. It is a kind of buzzword. But what do we really mean by it?

There are many opinions and ideas about unity but few concrete, Biblical examples considered. If we want to follow God’s heart for His people, we need to know what we’re talking about, and as importantly, what we’re not.

Jesus prayed in John 17 that believers would function with a spirit of unity. This prayer took place just before His betrayal and crucifixion. One of the last things Jesus modeled before the cross was a prayer for what He knew His people would become before His second coming.

This has far reaching implications. The body of Jesus Christ is meant to esteem each part and receive the special anointing each part brings to the whole.

This does not mean we are to merge all our ministries and become one organization. This is not the testimony of Scripture or what the Spirit is saying.

The children of Israel were divided into 12 distinct tribes. Each possessing their calling, culture and mandated purpose in God. They were committed to that “local” calling while at the same time maintaining a vision and sense of responsibility for the whole “calling” of Israel.

In Nehemiah 3 each tribe works faithfully to rebuild their portion of the broken down walls of Jerusalem. They did so side by side (with clear coordination) with the other tribes. Each faithful to their calling, yet in unity with the others to fulfill a task much bigger than anything they could do separately.

This is what the Spirit is highlighting today, specifically in the area of pursuing the literal fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Local churches and campus ministries have a local mandate to serve their communities. This is right. In addition, we each possess a global mandate to educate, inspire and activate our fellowships toward fulfilling specific roles in serving the Great Commission.

Every believer has a role in the Great Commission! None of us are exempt simply because we do not see ourselves as a “missionary.” Our calling as local ministries is to infuse vision, information and opportunities into our fellowships to grow in spiritual understanding of the Great Commission in all its facets. Each believer can then connect with their individual role.

For the body to function as God intended, each believer and ministry needs to be properly joined together. We are far from the fulfillment of this prophetic prayer of Jesus.

We are divided into different camps that come together around various truths of the gospel. We pick the “truth” we gravitate towards and find a fellowship that focuses on this. We “choose” which parts of the gospel we accept and which we reject.

As a result we’ve emphasized certain Scriptural focal points while thoroughly missing other crucial truths and elements. We need to be people of the “whole Word.” Overemphasis in one area reveals a failure to give correct attention to others.

Most of our fellowships are imbalanced. There are “prayer-oriented churches;” “teaching-oriented churches;” “mission-oriented churches” and so on.

This has been a factor in our ongoing spiritual immaturity as the body of Christ. Jesus calls us to embrace the “whole body” and the “whole Word” instead of having entire fellowships made up of “feet” or “arms” which only focus on a specific “pet truth.”

Our churches and ministries need to be representative of the whole body of gifts, strengths, and gospel focuses. Highlighting a local calling while keeping the remaining unreached and unengaged firmly before the people. This is where unity and balance will be restored in our midst.

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