Unity is one of those characteristics that we tend to think of in a positive light. When a group of people are unified, there’s a clear sense of everyone pulling in the same direction. People are able to better identify attitudes, behaviors, or ideas that don’t fit within their unified direction. Sports teams that are truly unified can at times make up for a talent disadvantage because their ability to work together may far exceed that of a more talented, but less unified, team. Unity truly matters and can be a powerful thing, but could unity ever be a bad thing for a group of people to experience?
Could the unity you have with someone or a group of people actually be hindering everyone’s progress? What about within a church? Is unity always good in a church? I’ve often heard people say churches must fight to protect their unity, and while I generally agree with this, I do believe there is one scenario where unity in a church would be considered more negative than positive…
That’s right, unity in a church can actually make a particular church unhealthy. If a church is unified around the wrong or lesser things, they’ll never pursue the right or greater things! Many churches in America today are sadly declining and dying because they are unified! They are actually so extremely unified in who they are that nothing is going to disrupt their unity… Even if their unity has formed around a vision of church that is absent of Jesus’ mission for His church.
For us as The Grove Church (or for any church), how do we ensure our unity is a good thing? I believe these three qualities will help ensure we stay unified in a healthy way for years to come!
- The unifying factor is Jesus… Many churches will unify around a “personality” rather the person of Jesus. Often times, this is someone in a visible role such as a pastor or worship leader. However, there’s great danger in this. The church (people) can easily “check-out” on their own individual pursuit of Jesus and just live out their faith hanging on to the coat-tails of someone seemingly “more religious” than they are. Churches will lower the bar of following Jesus to simply attending a service and dropping a check in the offering. Sure, this church may be unified and everyone gets along, but to what end? We must make sure that our unifying factor is Jesus… to seek Him, know Him, and make Him known. As each person embraces this, we will find ourselves unified around the One who holds all things together rather than becoming overdependent and over-attached to anyone other than Jesus.
- Preferences give way to vision… Everyone has a preference on everything, especially within a church… What songs or style of music should we sing? How long should the pastor preach? What serving opportunity should we pursue within the community?… One of the good things about having a difference of opinions and ideas is that we can see things from different perspectives. However, when it comes down to it, decisions have to be made and not everyone will be able to experience their preference, so decisions must be made in connection to a clear vision. Unfortunately though, churches all too often mistake these differences of opinion as a lack of unity, and they cater to keeping everyone happy. Well, this just doesn’t work in the long-run and is a perfect example of negative unity. Positive unity says I may not get exactly what I want, but I believe in the bigger vision of what God is doing… It’s not about me; it’s about WE, HIM, and HIS GLORY, not my own!
- Future aspirations don’t end with where we are now… If the goal of any church is to maintain it’s small status, then they’ve completely misunderstood God’s goal for the church. The idea of “Us 4 and No More” is a definite sign of unity, but it’s not the kind of unity we are striving for. Churches that are dogmatic about doing things as they’ve always done them are clearly unified in the conviction to stay their exact course; however, they are misguided to assume what works now is going to always work. Yes, Jesus never changes, but how we present Jesus and relate to the culture around us must adapt to the filter by which people see the world. It’s easy to forget that what we grip so tight today was once something new and less known at some point in the past. Churches must be unified not in their desire to never change but to change as needed for the sake of Jesus. Our change should never conflict with Scripture, but if a church is unified over methods, then it will struggle to align with Jesus’ mission for reaching people and making disciples where they are!