I am increasingly convinced that one of the most powerful things a church can do in their area is live in complete unity with other churches.
We have all experienced moments where churches were anything but unified. Times when you instantly understand that we have somehow missed the point. I’ve also seen communities where churches do a decent job of being at peace with one another. As in, you do your thing and we’ll do our thing and as long as your thing doesn’t mess with our thing, then its all good. That is nice and all, but I do believe that it is possible to do more than just get along. I do believe it is possible to live in unity; joined together as one.
Here are four things I think will help you fight for unity among churches in your area.
Pray - Jesus prayed, in John 17:20-23, that the disciples would experience complete unity, so that the world would know the truth about God’s love for them. We should pray for the same thing. Pray that God would break down the walls of territorialism amongst churches in your area. God, remind us that we are on the same team.
Celebrate the Wins - Often, it is easy to celebrate the success of a Church, or a Student Ministry, on the other side of the country, but what about the one across the street or down the block?
One thing that we do in our area is host Quarterly “All-Staff” Meetings. It is basically a collective staff meeting. Each time a different church will host as we come together for prayer, free breakfast (provided by the host church, or a local Chick-fil-A), worship, and teaching from the hosting Senior Pastor. It is absolutely beautiful. We celebrate everything that God is doing in our churches, in our region, and we remind ourselves that we are in it together as we attempt to minister to the 1.3 millionlost people in our County.
Youth Ministry “Network” meetings are another invaluable thing you can do in your area. Simply bring local Student Pastors together regularly for prayer. Consider hosting community-wide events together.
Ask the Hard Questions - How many students and/or families do you have that come to visit from other churches? What do you say when they tell you where they are from? Do you know the pastor’s name? Do you know what is going on there? Can you encourage them, “Man, we love your church. Do you know Pastor Dave? He is a great friend of mine. Loved hearing about your Mission Trip last summer, were you a part of that?” As much as it depends on you, encourage students and families to bloom where they are planted.
Ask yourself: Is our ministry constantly welcoming Christians that we’ve traded with the place down the street, or are we consistently welcoming the lost? If you’re doing a lot of trading, what you have to realize is that, at some point, for your ministry to “succeed” the one down the street has to fail. That’s not right, and something has to change.
Guard Your Tongue - The extent to which we are prone to tear down brothers and sisters in Christ never ceases to amazes me. It happens in casual conversation, it happens on blogs, it happens in 140 characters or less… Very simply, there is no room in the Kingdom of God to bash other believers. Lovingly correct them? Yes. But that is done directly and privately before anything else.
I just wonder if it is time for people to know churches less by what divides us and more by what unites us. If the goal is to grow in the image and likeness of Jesus, and point others towards a saving knowledge of Him, then I’m in.
May our churches be marked by a spirit of unity.
Ryan McDermott is the Director of Student Ministries at the Royal Palm Campus of Christ Fellowship Church in South Florida. Follow him @ryanmcdermott and check out the church at gochristfellowship.com.