Unity has increasingly been on the hearts and minds of many pastors this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial unrest that continue to cause tension among believers, many churches seem divided.
Biblical unity has always been important. Throughout the years, people have attributed the growth and health of Saddleback Church to a variety of factors, but I think one factor that is often overlooked is unity.
God blesses a unified church. Many churches have tremendous potential, but they never achieve what God wants them to achieve because the members spend all their time quarreling with each other.
Why Church Unity Matters
As a church leader, it's your job to protect the church. The Bible talks more about unity of the church than it does about heaven or hell. It's that important.
Here are six reasons the Bible says church unity is important:
1. Jesus prayed for it. John 17:21a (NLT) says, "I pray that they will all be one." The world will be won when the church is one. When you find a church filled with people who really love each other, more and more people will want to walk through its doors.
2. The church is a fellowship. If you destroy the unity of the church, you destroy the church. Fellowship is not something we do. Fellowship is something we are.
3. The Bible commands us to make unity the top priority. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:3 (NIV): "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." As a key leader in your church, promoting unity is one of your most important jobs.
4. Any attitude that causes disunity is sin. It's flat-out wrong! If you're causing disunity, it's wrong, no matter what the issue is.
5. Unity is a witness to the world. Jesus himself said in John 13:34-35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." When a congregation loves one another and demonstrates unity, visitors walk into the service and say, "There's something going on here." There is power in that kind of unity.
6. God blesses the unified church. When God wants to put a bunch of new baby Christians in a church, He looks around for the warmest incubator He can find.
Ten times in the first five chapters of Acts, the Bible says, "They were of one accord ... one heart ... they ate together .. one purpose ... one mind ... one soul ... one spirit." When a church develops the unity demonstrated by the church in the book of Acts, it gets the power and the growth of the church of Acts. You cannot stop a unified church.
How Should Pastors Handle Disunity?
Pastors are accountable to God to manage and direct the church (1 Pet. 5; 1 Tim. 3:5, 5:17). Specifically, God calls us to take six actions on behalf of the church.
1. Avoid situations that cause arguments. "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful" (2 Tim. 2:23-24).
2. Teach troublemakers to repent. "Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:25-26).
3. Warn your congregation about how negative words hurt others. "Keep reminding God's people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen" (2 Tim. 2:14).
4. Make a plea for harmony and unity. "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord" (Phil. 4:2).
5. Rebuke with authority if necessary. "These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good" (Tit. 2:15-3:1).
6. Remove them from the church if they ignore two warnings. "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned" (Tit. 3:10-11).
Satan's favorite way to destroy a church and its effectiveness is to cause division. As a pastor, you're charged by God to do whatever is necessary to prevent disunity in your congregation.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America's largest and most influential churches. He is the author of the New York Times' bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. Pastor Rick started The PEACE Plan to show the local church how God works through ordinary people to address the five global giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. You can listen to Daily Hope, Pastor Rick's daily 25-minute audio teaching, or sign up for his free daily devotionals at PastorRick.com. He is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global online community created to encourage pastors.
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