Unity in the church?

What is unity? It’s not the same thing as conformity, that’s for sure.

Pastor Matthew Best

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Gotanswers.org offered the following answer to the question “How can a church achieve a true, biblical unity?”:

“The Bible underscores the importance of “unity” and “oneness.” Unity with others is “good” and “pleasant” ( Psalm 133:1). Unity is absolutely essential because the church is the “body of Christ” ( 1 Corinthians 12:27), and a body cannot be in disunity or disharmony with itself. If disunity occurs, it essentially ceases to be a body and becomes a disjointed group of individuals. Jesus’ plan for His church is people unified in the faith.

“The secret to unity begins with how we view ourselves within the body and how we view others. The key verse that addresses this is Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Disunity in a church is most often caused when we act selfishly and consider ourselves better than others. Paul goes on to explain further in the following verse: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Sadly, churches that experience disunity and are in conflict and turmoil are generally filled with people looking to their own needs, their own desires, and their own ambitions. Such behavior is characteristic of unbelievers, not those with the mind of Christ. Worldliness, not godliness, is the hallmark of the disunified church, as Paul reminded the Corinthians: “For you are yet carnal. For in that there is among you envyings and strife and divisions, are you not carnal, and do you not walk according to men?” ( 1 Corinthians 3:3).”

I find this all very interesting for a few reasons. The answer focuses on individual churches. I wonder if the answer to the question changes when you take the church on a larger scale? Or does the same answer apply? To some degree I think it does. But the more people you incorporate in, the harder the idea of unity becomes.

And what do you do in a culture that places such a high cultural value on individualism? How does individualism match up with what it means to have unity in the church? I’m not sure they do match. In this way the church is called to be counter cultural — offering a different set of values than what is valued in the culture it resides in. The early church did this — offering a far different set of values to live in contrast to the…

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Pastor Matthew Best

My name is Matthew Best. I’m an ELCA (Lutheran) pastor who attempts to translate church and churchy stuff into everyday language.