Those acquainted with OneCry know that our clarion call for spiritual awakening is turn, pray, and unite. We spend much time and effort talking about the first two: turning from sin (repentance) and the need for prayer. But we are less clear on sharing what it means to unite, other than encouraging Christians to “unite with other believers in spreading the hope of Christ-centered revival.”
Certainly, we need to spread the hope of revival with others. But is there not more to this call for unity?
One cannot read the Gospel of John without concluding that unity is a high priority with our Lord. Here are just a few of His statements on point:
Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one (John 17:11).
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).
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (John 17:22-23; see also John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17).
The apostle also Paul made it clear that unity in the body was fundamental. Here are three examples from his letters:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:11).
Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ…. God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).
These Scriptures are not specifically stating that unity is a necessary prerequisite for revival and spiritual awakening. But do you think God is likely to bless our prayers for revival when we are not obeying His clear commands?
You might say you have a sense of unity among followers of Christ in your church. Wonderful! Truly the converse is deadly. Those in our parent ministry (Life Action Ministries), from over forty years of ministering in churches, can share many war stories of how God’s work is largely neutralized in churches and communities where God’s people are at odds with each other.
If you are experiencing unity in your local church, that is wonderful and an essential ingredient to revival. But it is not enough. I’m convinced we also need real unity in Christ’s body in our communities at large.
We need to ask: Is there genuine love flowing among true followers of Christ in my community on a regular basis? Or is there major division ethnically, economically, or denominationally? How about that big wall between the Charismatics and the Evangelicals?
I’m not looking for a false ecumenism where we grit our teeth, hold hands, and sing “Kumbaya” at the campfire. I’m talking about intentionally and consistently loving true followers of Christ in our communities—those who ascribe to the lordship of Christ, who believe in salvation by grace through faith alone, and who hold to the infallibility of Scripture.
Yes, their skin may be a different color than yours; they may have an accent; they may worship in louder or quieter ways than you; they may baptize differently and may have a different understanding of spiritual gifts or eschatology. That’s okay; we are talking about unity, not uniformity nor union.
The fact is, all those who agree with you on the core basics are your blood-bought brothers and sisters, and Jesus wants you to love them and unite with them for the sake of seeing God powerfully work in your community.
My dear friend Pastor Brent Brooks of Reno Christian Fellowship has done much in his community to seek unity among what he calls the different “tribes” of his city. Think of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Each tribe undoubtedly had its own unique characteristics, but they all fought their enemies together as one. We are so much stronger together than separated from each other.
So, what should we do? Pray. Ask God how you can be a catalyst for bringing unity to the followers of Christ in your community. Prayer together and honestly talking through your differences can help glue you together in love to show the watching world that Jesus is the real deal, and they need to know Him too.