(This column originally appeared in The Town Talk on Sunday, June 3, 2018.)
Last month’s National Day of Prayer events that were held nationwide carried a one-word theme: “Unity.” Several million people gathered in thousands of events, large and small, across this land to pray for our nation. Their prayer was sparked by Jesus’ last prayer on the earth. The night before He was crucified He prayed these words:
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even 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 sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23 NASB)
Jesus prayed that the believers through the ages would “be perfected in unity.” And the purpose of this unity was so that the world would know that Jesus was indeed sent from God because He loved the world that much!
Unfortunately it seems that we Christians have demonstrated everything except unity. The witness we have given the world has not been one of unity but rather of infighting, political posturing and selfish ambition. Church splits have been the norm and Christians can’t seem to agree on anything.
Or can we? While there are many things that we may not agree on completely, there is much more unity in the Body of Christ than you might imagine. Sure, we all have different styles of worship and various preferences when it comes to the songs we sing, the instruments we use (or don’t use), and many other external things.
But when it comes to the essentials, there is tremendous agreement among all believers. When Paul described the Gospel message that he preached, he described what ALL Christian believers believe:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve.” (1 Cor 15:3-4 NASB)
When you break that down, we all agree wholeheartedly that Jesus died for our sins, that He was buried and then rose on the third day and then appeared with many convincing proofs to hundreds of eye-witnesses. That is the essence of Christian unity! Everything else is a side-issue from this core message of the Gospel.
There are still many areas of disagreement in church-life today. But when we focus on what Paul said was “of first importance” we all agree. We experience unity.
I’ve been blessed to be part of a weekly breakfast gathering of pastors from many different denominations that has met for 30 years. We are Assembly of God, Baptist, Church of Christ, Church of God, Methodist, Nazarene, Non-denominational, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, and just about every stripe in between. And while we have many different worship styles, practices and beliefs, we agree that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, rose from the dead on the 3rd day and appeared to many witnesses! And because of that, we have unity!
There’s another wonderful expression of unity that God is raising up across denominational and racial lines. Pastors are recognizing the need to demonstrate that there is no room for racial prejudice in the Body of Christ. So we are joining forces to create conversation and dialog through a series of bi-monthly Men’s Unity Breakfasts.
The first one will be on Saturday, June 16 at 7:30AM at Family of Grace Church, 4200 S. MacArthur Dr in Alexandria. Pastor Bryant Sanders of Miracle Temple Ministries and Pastor Brad Webb of Family of Grace Church are combining forces for this first one, and every other month two more churches will cooperate to host these events. The goal is to break bread together and build friendships – not in an attempt to create unity, but to demonstrate the unity we already have in Jesus!
More information about the Cenla Men's Unity Breakfast is available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/413049612503798/.