Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Picture Of Unity

Take a good look at the picture above; what do you see?  Do you notice anything this group?  Can you tell anything about their denominational alignment?  Does anything stand out about the kind of music they like, or what kind of outreaches they do?  Does anything at all seem, say, off?  Or weird? 

The answer to all of those questions is probably "no."

Let me let you in on what we're looking at: this picture was taken at a church in East Mesa, AZ.  What you see are elements of a few different churches, one of them a bilingual church, one of them a largely Caucasian church.  This photograph was taken after a worship service where multiple congregations were invited to come and worship God together in unity.  It was a powerful evening: God moved, people were touched, and we touched the heart of God.  It was a wonderful night, and an incredible experience. 

In reflecting on that service, I thought to myself, "There's something powerful about God's people coming together in worship."  Really, it best embodies that first verse of Psalm 133: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity." 

Then, I thought further: what if we could replicate this all over the country? 

Now, I know that there are huge worship gatherings all over the country every year, the best example of which being the OneDay worship festivals put on by the Passion group.

photo courtesy of renewalchurch.org

That's a lot of people!

In the midst of meetings like this, the power of God is able to really work because people are able to put aside their differences and focus on our creator and seeking His face. 

I find a problem, though, but it's not a problem with huge worship meetings that draw people in from all over the country; I find a problem with us being able to do this same thing among local churches, which is why the picture at the beginning of this post is so significant.

Yes, coming together on the level of OneDay is important, but here's the key: I believe that one of the things that God is waiting for is for the two little churches of fifty people that are three miles apart (and have never agreed on anything) to put aside their differences and seek His face, together.  That was the case with the image above: none of the congregations represented there have more than 50 members, but they made a point of coming together to seek God.  And God paid attention to the cries of his people in that service.  

Here's another thought: I've been a part of both large and small churches, and I've noticed that large churches are often not interested in anything another church does unless it's a larger ministry than theirs.  Now, I realize that larger churches have more things that they have to deal with simply because they have more people, but what's wrong with a pastor stepping down for a moment to get involved in something that a smaller ministry is doing?  I'm not saying that it's necessary all the time, but let's at least consider the possibility that God wants you to be involved in a smaller church's event, or worship service, or anything else they might be doing. 

On the flip side, some pastors of smaller churches absolutely refuse to get involved with larger ministries, whether it's because because they distrust them ("they might take our members,") or they feel that they're corrupt ("they must be watering down the Gospel,") or whatever other reason they may have.  The fact is that they could actually learn something by taking the time to participate in something that a larger ministry is doing, and use what they learn to be of greater good in their own community. 

In the end, all I'm saying is this: there are so many points that can divide us as a church, which is why we have to be proactive about promoting unity, and one of the best ways to do that is crossing congregational boundaries and coming together in worship.  Why is that one of the best ways?  Because God deserves all the glory on account of His love and His goodness, and we can all agree on that.

So, I challenge you with this: whether you're a pastor or parishioner, leader or team member, paid staff or volunteer, do something to connect with another church in your city, community, or neighborhood.  Pastors, reach out to another pastor that you maybe haven't reached out to in a long time (or ever) and arrange a cooperative worship service.  Take some time to get together and give God glory. 

See, what we want is for God to do what He did in Genesis 11: we want to come together in such a way that He wants to come down and see what's going on!  We don't want to continue in this mess of isolation that has turned people away from the church and ultimately away from God; we want to come together in unity and lift up Jesus so that he can draw all men to His side. 

The best picture of this that I can give is from Micah 2:12-13 (NKJV):

I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob,
      I will surely gather the remnant of Israel;
      I will put them together like sheep of the fold,
      Like a flock in the midst of their pasture;
      They shall make a loud noise because of so many people.
      The one who breaks open will come up before them;
      They will break out,
      Pass through the gate,
      And go out by it;
      Their king will pass before them,
      With the LORD at their head.”

And let that be our prayer, o God, that as your people unite in you, that you would break open all the things that stand in our way, and lead us onward in victory as we march toward the redemption of our great nation.

God bless you as you continue to minister the Gospel everywhere you go.

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