CCU Blog

Vision 2019 – Church Unity & Kingdom Collaboration

Church Unity

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?

Kingdom Collaboration

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CCU Newsletter

August 2018 – The Trinity and Church Unity

God’s Spirit is igniting a movement of unity among God’s people.

This isn’t a trend or a fad, it is an awakening to the core biblical reality of the Church’s essential identity as members of the Body of Christ. In the August edition of Unite!, we look at the powerful implications the Trinity has toward Church unity.

Click link to download the newsletter – CCU Newsletter August 2018

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CCU Blog

A Radio Interview With Tracy Weaver

City Church Unite Executive Director, Tracy Weaver, was interviewed a second time by Richard Kennedy on KKLA radio – 99.5 FM.

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Richard Kennedy & Tracy Weaver

This twenty-five minute interview will give you a helpful introduction to the mission and vision of City Church Unite.  We invite you to listen to the interview and ask God to begin to stir your heart for the unity of Christ’s Body in your community.

Listen to Interview #2

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CCU Blog

Teaching Them To Obey … Everything

A primary directive of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 is teaching disciples of Jesus “… to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).

Jesus’ most frequent command for his followers is to be men and women who love greatly.

  • We are to love God with all our capacity (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30).
  • We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31).
  • We are to love our enemies and bless them (Matt. 5:43-44; Luke 6:27-28).
  • We are to love one another just as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34).

This practice of expressing extraordinary love toward God, toward our adversaries, toward those in our sphere of influence, and toward brothers and sisters in Christ is to be so characteristic of God’s people that Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Question – Does the Church in your community have a reputation for remarkable love?  Are God’s people characteristically thought of as being pace-setters for kindness, compassion, and reconciliation?  Do you know the testimony of anyone who has come to faith in Jesus because of the extraordinary love they witnessed between local churches and amongst God’s people?  Do the churches in your city honor one another and partner together for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom?

By this we knowTragically, the widespread perception outside the Church and, for many, the experience inside the Church is that God’s people are petty, selfish, and unkind.  In many communities there are lines of division between church families that are in direct disobedience to Jesus, the Head of the Church.  The message of the New Testament is that there are two kinds of people on the earth: those who are spiritually alive by the grace of God and those who are spiritually dead, who are to be the focus of compassionate united gospel endeavors in the hope that they might be saved. We have ignored the vital role of the unity of the Body of Christ in accomplishing the great commission and in doing so we have placed our own personal preferences above the salvation of lost souls. Rather than strengthening the visible unity of Christ-followers as an expression of obedient love, many ministry leaders have given themselves permission to only align themselves with those in the Body of Christ with whom they feel comfortable.  Rather than being willing to die for all the brothers, many have drawn a circle, determining who is “in” and who is “out” based on another’s view of spiritual gifts, worship style, and other non-essential criteria.

The Church in the western world needs to repent of its disobedience to Jesus, the Head of the Church, when it comes to the unity of the broader Body of Christ. The apostle John writes, “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).  The measure of our love for the Church of our city is a willingness to give our lives for the brothers and sisters who attend another church across town and express their love for Jesus differently than we do?  Certainly, if we are willing to die for brothers and sisters in Christ, we can partner with them for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.

Father, we humbly confess our failure to love others beyond our own comfort zone.  We have ignored the vital role of the unity of the Body of Christ in accomplishing the  great commission and in doing so we have placed our own petty preferences above the salvation of lost souls.  God forgive us.  As an expression of your grace and mercy we ask that you would awaken your Church to its true identity of being one new man, one body, one temple, one bride, and one united expression of the presence of Jesus on earth.  May the collective Body of Christ in our community, repent of its isolation and independence and embrace the high calling and privilege of representing you as one united Church of the city.  May those in our city begin being aware of a dynamic change in the way congregations are genuinely loving and caring for one another.  May pastoral leaders abandon any motivations of pride and ego and, instead, find significance in becoming champions of the visible unity of the Body of Christ in their city.  May Jesus be lifted up and a wave of new believers be drawn to him through the love and unity of your people.  May it be increasingly so in cities across America and around the world.

We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen

CCU Blog

A Defining Movement

The Church was born on Pentecost (Acts 2).

For the first time in the history of mankind God chose to indwell all of his followers with his personal presence.  For the Apostle Paul the defining reality of a person who belongs to Christ is the presence of the Holy Spirit within them – “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9b).  Paul divides all of humanity by either being “in the flesh” (i.e. unsaved) or “in the Spirit” (i.e. saved) – “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:9a). Every person who has believed the gospel message of Jesus has been forgiven of their sin and received the promised life of God through his Spirit.

From Pentecost forward, God’s redemptive mission for mankind has been advanced by his human ambassadors who carry his personal presence into every home, every workplace, every relationship, and every conversation.

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Written in my journal March 1, 2018.

God’s design is that his Church, expressed individually, congregationallly, and collectively, would be a winsome visible witness of the grace and truth of Jesus by embodying and communicating the gospel.  Paul celebrates the collective Church in Thessalonica by affirming the influence they have had.  He writes, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8).  The unified witness of the Church of the City in Thessalonica had a regional, national, and international impact.

For years, the Church in the west has been largely entrenched in a congregationally focused view of the Body of Christ.  New Testament exhortations to love one another, serve one another, forgive one another and even be willing to die for one another are routinely applied directly to the local congregation of the preacher – completely ignoring that they were originally directed to the collective Church of the city.

There is, however, a thrilling movement of the Holy Spirit taking place, awakening Christ’s followers to their essential identity as collective members of His singular Body and responsible to carry out the desires and commands of the Head, who is Christ.  I believe the uniting of the Body of Christ in cities around the world,  is the defining movement of the Holy Spirit in these last days before Christ’s return.

I invite you to become an active participant in this movement of the Spirit by engaging God in two courageous ways.

  1. Pray.  Ask the unified triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to awaken you to his design and desire for the collective visible witness of the Body of Christ.
  2. Read.  Begin reading Paul’s epistles (noting to whom the are addressed (the collective Church of the city) and start envisioning what the commands and exhortations would look like if they were carried out among the churches of your community.

We, at City Church Unite, would love to hear about your discoveries and be a source of encouragement as well.  We invite you to use the form below to share your comments.   – Tracy Weaver

CCU Blog

EnVision The Church of Santa Clarita

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EnVision The Church of Santa Clarita, California

(This essay was written with Santa Clarita, California, in mind.  As you read it, however, I invite you to prayerfully seek God’s heart on behalf of your community. I believe Jesus is stirring his Church toward a renaissance of spiritual vitality, visible unity, and citywide transformation.  This vision isn’t only for Santa Clarita, but for your community as well.)

From art, to fashion, to entertainment, to social trends … it is widely recognized that California influences the world. Because of Santa Clarita’s strategic location and close proximity to Los Angeles, the city of Santa Clarita (the Santa Clarita Valley) is poised to have a remarkable influence in its local context and beyond. What is true of the city is true of the Church of the city.

If you were to take a few minutes before the Lord and ask Him, “What do You envision for the Church of Santa Clarita?” – what impressions do you think His Spirit would place upon your heart? (I encourage you to try this exercise and write down your thoughts). Here is what came to my mind:

  • A strategic city where the Body of Christ has embraced its unified God-designed relationship of love and honor under Christ as its Head (Eph. 1:22, 4:15, 5:23; John 17).
  • Church families (congregations, fellowships, and missional communities) that are walking in relational health and spiritual vitality with Christ, with their pastoral leadership, and with one another.
  • Churches that are devoted to enhancing Christ’s Kingdom beyond their local expressions by providing ministries and services to build and strengthen the broader Body of Christ and bless the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond.
  • A unified Church of Santa Clarita that is being used as a strategic tool to recapture one of the greatest priorities of Christ’s heart – the collective unity of His people to impact the world.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even 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 sent Me. 22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. – John 17:20-23

  • A Collective City-Church that is “seeding” a movement of fresh expressions (forms) of God’s people gathering for worship, evangelism and equipping throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.
  • A City-Church that is impacting the marketplace by equipping God’s people with the vision and skills to fulfill their calling to be His representatives in the workplace.
  • A City-Church that, by virtue of its radical obedience to Christ, is reaching and inspiring a new generation of Christ followers to boldly live for His glory in their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.
  • A City-Church that, by virtue of its compassion and gracious spirit, is catalyzing a movement of collaborative service with non-profit organizations, the marketplace, and city structures to bless and transform the city.
  • A City-Church that God graciously uses to have an influence and impact for the gospel far beyond its capacity and resources.

For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth” (1 Thess. 1:8)

A vision like this can only be realized by the grace and empowerment of God. It will need Pastoral Leaders who have embraced Christ’s desire for His people to live and serve as one – even as He and the Father are one (Jn. 17:21).   It will require leaders who have not yet been developed and the gifts and passions of Christians who have not yet embraced the Savior. It will call for faith to trust God for what cannot be seen, and necessitate stepping beyond our comfort zone. It will demand our total devotion to Jesus and His Kingdom, realizing that we may only serve as stepping-stones to its ultimate fulfillment. I believe this vision for the collective Church of the city is an expression of Jesus’ heart. I can’t think of anything more thrilling than partnering with Him in the pursuit of such a vision. – Tracy Weaver, February 2018