Does our Church Need to be Unified?

Encouragement for Your Heart and Mine from Pastor David Staff

There’s little doubt that one of our country’s (i.e., the United States of America) main struggles has to do with that word “united.”  Today, our name feels like a misnomer.  We are a remarkably polarized people, pushing each other away further and further.   Only tragedy seems to have the power to pull us together…at least to deal with the crisis.

But agreement forged from reasonable compromise between the two sides is a rare commodity.  The resulting political rancor leaves all of us – all of us Americans – perpetually unsettled.

This difficult phenomena can be evident among God’s own people.  Though the Apostle Paul pled with those at Ephesus to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) churches often split.  People begin to make choices to “walk with God alone” rather than bother being an active part of Jesus’ body.

In his helpful book, The Unity Factor, Larry Osborne urges that we ought to worry a bit more about a good church’s unity.  He notes that “Jesus predicted church growth, but he prayed for unity.  If left unattended, or taken for granted, unity can disappear.”

Recently, my personal Bible reading has taken me into the Old Testament account called Judges.  You’ll remember it was a time with the people of Israel where a cycle of sin, judgment, and deliverance-through-a-“judge” happened over and over and over again.  After a time of blessing, complacency (even idol worship) set in.  God’s people disobeyed God.  God then brought in an outside oppressor (usually a rival nation) to punish His people’s disobedience.  Finally, they would cry out to God for relief, and in mercy God would provide a “judge” (a clear leader) to defeat the oppressors and restore blessing.

A prophetic woman named Deborah, and a man named Barak, combined to provide leadership for Israel as described in Judges 4.  King Jabin of Canaan had oppressed God’s people, and had the military might (i.e., iron chariots) imposing harsh rulership.
At the Spirit’s prompting, Deborah summoned Barak, and instructed him to gather 10,000 Israelites from the different tribes (12 in all) to fight and prevail against Jabin.  The call was issued.  Wonderfully, ten thousand came down from Mount Tabor with Barak in the lead.  “The Lord threw Sisera (Jabin’s general), all his charioteers, and all his army into a panic before Barak’s assault.  The whole army fell by the sword; not a single man was left” (Judges 4:15-16).
It was a tremendous victory for God’s people, with God’s strong hand right in the middle of it.  Judges 5 records a song that Deborah and Barak (composed and) publicly sung, extolling God’s provision and praising those who came unified to fight.  Interestingly, the names of the tribes which sent warriors are in the lyrics of the song: Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, Issachar, Naphtali are heralded.  Barak sings, “The Lord’s people came to me with the warriors!”

But not all.  Other verses call out those among God’s people who hesitated.  “There was great searching of heart among the clans of Reuben” (Judges 5:15b). “Why did you sit among the sheep pens, listening to the playing of pipes for the flocks?”  Translation, “Reuben…why didn’t you come and fight?  Why didn’t you join in?  Two other tribes are called out.  “Gilead remained beyond the Jordan.  Dan, why did you linger at the ships?  Asher remained at the seashore and stayed in his harbors” (Judges 5:17-18).  Other tribes (Manasseh, Simeon, Judah) are not even mentioned.

These had no part or joy in the victory.  They were unwilling to unite and join in what God’s Spirit was calling His people to do.
As you will hear in the weeks and months ahead, the Holy Spirit is moving in our church, the Free Church, to rise to the call of a unified discipleship effort.  Our pastors and leaders are considering a fresh discipleship framework for our body, an approach to intentionally helping every follower of Jesus on our team become more like Christ himself.

We are excited to see this unfolding in the will of God.  It has the potential of bringing great victory into each person’s life.

What will be needed?  Unity!  This body – all of us together and each of us individually – rallying to an approach to making disciples in which we all aim at the same target and pull in the same direction.

I trust that as this discipling framework is brought to our church team and family in the months to come, that your response will be like that of the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun, and not like that of Dan or Asher.  Great victory can be ahead.  Lives can be changed forever.
Posted in
Tagged with