Self-sufficiency is encouraged in our society. Pride causes us to focus tirelessly on ourselves. And if reaching unity on our own isn’t difficult enough, we have an enemy that never sleeps. So in light of these obstacles, here are a few practical ways to help create or maintain unity within your church.
Remember the game tug-a-war where two teams pull their end of the rope as far as they can? Nowadays, they have a multiteam tug-a-war with an enclosed rope or sometimes as big as a large tire. Four players would yank the tire with all their might, trying to pull it and the other players back across the baseline. When the strength of the players is somewhat equal, the tire doesn’t go anywhere. In other instances, the weakest team member is usually dragged back and forth.
Many churches treat their ministry like this tire. They have multiple committees, ministries and leadership heads all trying to drag their church in different directions. When you have multiple “teams” that are assertive and unyielding, the ministry barely moves ahead because there’s a pull of energy and resources coming from the opposite direction. The weaker of the ministries will be dragged along with no enthusiasm for where the church is going.
This is what happens when a church and its ministries have a long list of objectives and goals. This usually appears in larger congregations where no one is on the same page. When ministries run in opposite directions, one of two things occur. Ministries exhaust themselves from practically running in place, or the church will be ripped apart—formally known as a church split.
We must want less. I’m sure there are many things that need to be done and many things on our want list, but we need to cut down on our number of goals. That way, we can have plenty of support for a few ideas at a time and not insufficient support for many individualistic ideas.
In order to cut down on the number of goals, someone will need to give in. Someone must put their ambitions aside for the greater good. I know that we all think we’re doing the right thing, but if what we’re doing is pulling each other apart then we need to reconsider if we are in the right. And sometimes it’s not a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s a matter of following the Spirit of Christ.
To use the tug-a-war analogy again, it would be of great advantage for all teams to help carry the tire across one team’s baseline. Once that is complete, we all help carry the tire across a different baseline. This is what is looks like to work in unison. We are not in competition with one another. We must support those who need support, and work with each other and not against.
Agree on Spending
Money is considered amoral. It’s neither good or bad. The only thing that matters is what one chooses to do with it. And that is the one question where the answers create a huge chasm in a church. What in the world should be done with the money that comes in?
Feuds over money destroy churches just like it does marriages. When it is that time of the year to create the budget, no one leaves satisfied. When money is asked for, it’s like pulling teeth. Not to mention, there are thieves and con artists who manipulate others for their personal gain.
Instead of fighting and complaining over the money, why not just give it all away to those in need?
It’s a radical idea, but if it’s seriously considered we may find ourselves realigned with our priorities. Maybe there’s an alternative for dumping money into facility repairs and renovations that will allow us to support more missionary work. If we weren’t so concerned with making a name for ourselves we might spend less on commercial items and more on things like discipleship, leadership training or benevolence.
Doing something charitable with the money is not the key to bringing unity. It comes through agreement and hopefully we agree on spending that generates the most amount of good. The highest good is not the same for every church since it’s determined by location, people group and other factors. But whatever spiritual objective we are trying to achieve, we must go above and beyond to agree on the financial steps necessary to get there.
What I’m saying probably sounds crazy. You may be wondering, how do you agree with something you don’t agree with? One word: accept. That doesn’t mean you forfeit your opinions; you accept the views of others. Most of the time, members are well-intending with their suggestions, so it’s okay to accept them if they are reasonable, fair and righteous. There are a million ways to spend money, but we must learn how to discuss these ideas without antagonizing one another.
This probably goes without saying, but we need to sin less. The natural side effect of sin is always separation. It’s been like that since day one. When Adam and Eve sinned, the peace and wholeness of life was shattered. Humans were separated from God, from each other, from the serpent and even from nature. Life was like a perfectly good lightbulb that crashed into the ground.
Still, sin does the exact same thing in relationships within God’s family. It breaks my heart to see a church’s lightbulb burst when gossip turns into rumors, when volunteers are treated like slaves, and extramarital affairs leave messes like hurricanes.
And people wonder why the state of the church is so volatile. Congregants switch churches at the drop of a dime. Those who are still working their way into the faith, if they are hurt they’ll leave Christianity altogether with scars to show for it. Sin causes people to drop out of churches like raindrops from the clouds.
A bulb of unity can break, but the light can come on again. Our God is a master at mending what is broken and reviving what is dead. In fact, he is in the process of fixing the unity that broke between him and mankind. Praise God, he doesn’t do away with us because we don’t always see things his way.
So in the light of our Father, we need to be the peacemakers he’s called us to be. When people are on opposite sides of a canyon, somebody needs to be the bridge. When walls are being built in the midst of us, we need to immediately tear them down.
“If unity was a song, reconciliation would be the melody and forgiveness the words.”
Everybody loves food. Everybody needs it too. But did you know eating together helps create unity? Statistically, people who eat with their church family are 3 times more satisfied with the church. In other words, the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach.
It’s true! For many people, giving them food can be a very soul satisfying experience, of which, they remember a good meal for years to come. If you are a foodie, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Food is a way of life that generates a pot full of memories. Getting together around the dinner table is a fun way to meet a very fundamental need: to eat.
As great as eating a good meal can be, that’s not the most important course. Sometimes it’s the gesture of inviting that people remember most. In a world where many are struggling with loneliness and depression, an invitation to the table means a lot. It goes a long way when you invite someone who doesn’t look, sound or smell like you. Having an atmosphere that says “everyone is welcome” works contrarily to elitism, discrimination and racism.
Other times, it’s the conversation that people remember. You might be surprised how rare it is for people to have mature and meaningful conversations. They may spend all day talking to coworkers about things of little importance. Or they may spend countless hours taking care of other people, but no one sits down to see how they are really doing.
This is a great way of getting close with one another and bring new friends into the community of believers—especially if it’s home cooking. There has to be a certain level of trust to eat someone else’s food. Once trust is there, people are more open to having transparent conversations and that is where true connections begin.