The word ‘Renaissance’ is from an old French word ‘renaistre’ meaning ‘to be born again.’ It refers to a rebirth of learning or the discovery of something that has long been hidden or lost. It is an interesting phenomenon that in the rhythm of human experience, issues and ideas can ebb and flow in their perceived sense of importance. Theologian H. Richard Niebuhr observed, “The great Christian revolutions came not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when someone takes radically something that was always there.”
Jesus’ Church is experiencing a spiritual renaissance. It is not being fueled by the discovery of something that was not known before, but by the Spirit-guided illumination of something that has always been there … the reality of the oneness and unity of the Body of Christ. God’s people are being radically awakened to their personal oneness with Christ and their corporate oneness in Christ.
For a moment, try to set aside your assumptions and preconceived ideas of “Church”. Take a deep breath, and read the following verses as though you were reading them for the very first time.
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Cor. 1:10
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Col. 3:12-14
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. – 1 Peter 3:8
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Eph. 4:1-3
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. – 1 John 3:16
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:20-21
If you were a new believer in Jesus Christ wanting to know how his followers should relate with one another – what conclusions would you draw from verses above? Note that the characteristics of Christ’s community (undivided, same mind and judgment, compassionate, kind, patient, bearing with, forgiving, tender hearted, humble, eagerly maintaining unity, willing to die for one another) are all commands, calling for our obedient response. The heart cry of our Savior is for the visible unity of his followers rooted in the real spiritual oneness we share with the triune God (Jn. 17:21). Knowing Christ’s desire for the oneness of his Church should be sufficient, by itself, to fuel our endless pursuit of his ideal for his people.
Jesus’ Church is experiencing a spiritual renaissance. It is guided by God’s Spirit and focused on the essential reality and role of the visible unity of the Body of Christ. It is an essential reality in that it is part of our fundamental identity as believers, being intimately associated and identified with the triune God. The unity, oneness, and community of the trinity is to find expression in the relationships of believers with one another. Just as we hold up the virtues of Jesus as standards of behavior that we are to embody, regardless of our flawed practice of them, in the same way we are to hold up the visible unity of the redeemed people of God on earth as a goal for which we constantly strive until we see him face to face. The role of visible unity is most clearly seen in Christ’s prayer for the unity of his followers, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The visible unity of Christ’s followers is to play an essential and profound role in the effective accomplishment of the Great Commission. The unity of the Church is meant to influence the salvation of unbelievers. To the degree that God’s people are divided and relationships between individuals and congregations are characterized by competition, malice and pride, the harvest is being hindered. God’s Spirit is calling his people to a fresh engagement of unity. To refuse pursuing the visible unity of Christ’s Church is to be like the prophet Jonah, ignoring God’s clear commands and heading toward Tarshish instead of Nineveh. What is your current “compass setting” with regard to the visible oneness of God’s people?
The visible unity of God’s people is not simply measured on Sunday morning. It is evidenced by the Kingdom collaboration of God’s people throughout their community in every sphere of employment, influence and service. The oneness that Christ desires to be expressed by his followers is to be manifest between individuals and families within congregations, between congregations, and throughout the “Church of the city” as believers work, live, and play alongside one another. Our cities will only be saturated with the redeeming influence of the gospel as God’s people walk in visible unity in obedience to Jesus.
Here are some practical suggestions for taking some strategic steps toward visible unity and Kingdom Collaboration in 2019.
• Love is at the heart of unity and oneness. A great place to begin is by simply asking God to increase your capacity to love others. Confess any hardness of heart, cynicism, impatience, or critical spirit. Invite God to express his love through you and to make you a source of encouragement to every believer in Jesus you meet.
• If you have dear friends who attend a different local congregation than yours, you are already a living example of the visible unity of the Body of Christ. Write a note to your friends thanking them for their friendship, expressing your love, and affirming your friendship as an example of the visible unity of Christ’s followers that needs to be encouraged throughout your community.
• In your apartment complex, neighborhood, school, or workplace begin asking God to help you meet other followers of Jesus. As you encounter fellow believers, share your desire to be a supportive influence in their life. Listen to their concerns, pray for their needs, and respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit within you regarding how he wants to use you in their lives.
• If you serve as an elder or deacon, or hold a position of leadership in your congregation, ask God to use you as a tool of visible unity. Be a model of relational reconciliation. Discuss with other leaders in your congregation the idea of creative ministry partnerships with other congregations in order to meet strategic needs in your community.
• If you are a pastor of a local congregation, identify two pastors in your city that you would like to initiate a friendship with and invite them to have a cup of coffee.
• Identify the top three pressing needs in your community (homelessness, teen drug use, hunger, crime, racial tension, etc). What non-profit ministries and/or local congregations can you partner with to begin addressing these needs. Begin a dialogue with other local leaders.
• Seek to join with a prayer gathering that meets to pray for your community or invite several friends to come together and start a prayer group.
As God begins to fuel your vision and passion for the unity of Christ’s Church ask him to use you to spark that same passion in others. Imagine a movement of unity sweeping across the Church of your city that changes the spiritual climate of your region and results in a harvest of souls. How does God want to use you to stir a movement of Church Unity and Kingdom Collaboration?
May God richly bless your New year. – Tracy Weaver
The Mission of City Church Unite is to unite the Church to transform the city. Our desire is to advance Christ’s Kingdom by enhancing the spiritual vitality and visible unity of the Church of the city.