We are 21 months into the church planting journey of City on a Hill Church. By far the biggest ongoing challenge is keeping unity within the church. Maintaining unity within the body is only accomplished by the grace of God, the distinct work of the Holy Spirit and the obedience God’s people.
Unity is critical to accomplishing the mission and vision of City on a Hill Church and each individual believer’s purpose. Jesus prayed in John 17 that every believer at that time and every believer who followed would be made one. He prayed that we would experience the kind of unity or oneness that the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) shares. It is perfect unity, harmony and submission each complimenting the other and enhancing the function of the other. I have prayed John 17 over COAH for well over a year now. It has been my constant prayer because I know the potential that we have to impact our church, this city and our world if we remain in unity. That unity has come under assault numerous times in numerous ways. We have seen disunity in marriage relationships, in parent/ child relationships, in Ministry Team relationships, in friendships, in church member relationships, in relationship to the vision of COAH, in relationship to the music (style, volume, attire), and in so many other arenas. I have called these things out daily and we have dealt with them to the glory of God according to the Word of God by God’s grace. I am happy to report we still share a divine unity at COAH and because of the unity we are seeing the lost found, wanderers come home, disciples made into disciple making disciples and missionaries sent into every culture in our city. We are still in unity around our number one core value, “It is all about Jesus, it has always been about Jesus, and it will always be about Jesus.” And we are still in unity around our mission to build become and be a city within a city reaching our city with the life changing message of Jesus Christ one life at a time. But a subtle assault continues daily brewing just under the surface. How do we do battle against it? How do we respond? By God’s grace, with scripture, and being mindful to address issues before they get out of control. Much of the disunity can be addressed by looking into the Trinity and understanding the way our God lives in community and in perfect unity.
The first observation is each person understanding their function within the community and the others complimenting that function and enhancing the functionality of the individual. This can be seen in the Trinity. The Father sends and the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit submit, obey and go. The Son (Jesus) justifies. It is by the blood of Jesus that the wrath of God is satisfied and we stand justified. The Holy Spirit sanctifies. Jesus says He must go away and He will ask, key word ask not command or demand, that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to do His sanctifying work in us and through us. We can see of this is John 14.Understanding our function within the Body creates unity because I understand my function and others within the community also understand, affirm and confirm my function allowing me to be fulfilled gaining a deep sense of meaning and value. The Apostle Paul writes about this in both his letter to the church in Corinth and the church in Ephesus. He explains the gifts and the functions of those gifts by giving us the illustration of the human body. He deals with the necessity of each part and its function. He deals with the disunity of thinking some part is more important or some part trying to function in a role they are ill equipped for. It justdoesn’t work and it affects the unity and function of the overall body. We must know our role and seek to function within that role.We also must know others roles and seek to compliment them in those roles not lording over them or seeking to take their role. A role we may desire but are not equipped with head, heart and hands to fulfill. Much of the disunity within the body comes from people trying to function outside of their calling which is confirmed through the head, heart and hands and the affirmation of the body. Just as the Trinity functions by understanding their specific roles we as the church must also seek to function by understand our roles and the roles of others within our fellowship. Ephesians 4 reveals a powerful truth concerning what happens when the church is in unity and functioning as God intended. Christ is the head and everyone is growing and maturing into the fullness of Christ. Understanding our function within the body will keep us operating in our sweet spot we will see growth in us and around us. The key to this is submission.
Submission is a powerful word. Paul deals with this word and the results of the submitted life in Ephesians 5. He paints a picture of what life can be like in the church and in our relationships through submission to Christ and mutual submission to one another.He then goes on to share in Romans 13 what it means to submit to authority recognizing God’s sovereignty over every aspect of human history and life. We see a perfect picture of the submitted life in Trinitarian life as well. Each member of the Trinity wiling submitting to the other creating a unity and harmony that is unmatched anywhere in the universe. Submission is easy. Yes that is right I said submission is easy. It is easy when we know that we are loved and we know that we can trust the one another. In Ephesians 5 Paul speaks of unity in marriage relationships. Many men have used this scripture to lord over their wives and claim kingship in the households. Their attempts have been futile without love and trust. If husbands and wives do not know they are loved and they can share mutual trust submission is impossible. In any relationship when we know that we are loved and we can trust one another submission is easy because we know the other person has our best interest as heart. This is how we are to lead our families, friends, businesses, and the church loving God and loving people. This kind of leadership builds trust and love and the results are mutual submission and ultimately unity within the body. We cannot have unity without submission. We cannot fulfill our life’s purpose or the mission and vision of the church without mutual submission. Recognizing and submitting to God’s ultimate authority is step one. Recognizing and submitting to one another out of reverence for God is step two. Living out the submitted life by God’s grace and the help of the Holy Spirit is step three and it is ongoing.
I thank God for His perfection and the perfect model that He has provided for us for unity. It is born in love and trust. It is lived out in submission and function. I praise God for the Ministry Team of COAH who exemplify what this kind of life looks like. I attribute the success that we have had and the future success God has planned out for us to the unity given to us by the Grace of God, the distinct work of the Holy Spirit and the obedience if willing vessels who recognize it is not about us it is all about Jesus. My prayer is that we never forget that without unity we are dead in the water. Without unity everything that we had experienced ends. Without unity we are left to wander the desert of ineffectiveness. Without unity we are unfulfilled and life loses meaning. However with unity we are world changers. With unity Christ is exalted. With unity everyone wins and we live fulfilled lives. With unity the Church grows. With unity the lost are found. With unity wanderers find their way home and back into abundant life. With unity disciples are made into disciple making disciples. With unity the world is filled with missionaries bringing unity to a world filled with chaos. With unity God is glorified.
The moral to this story is that we know our roles and functions within our communities and that we know the roles and functions of others within the communities and seek to compliment them. I pray we all submit to one another and the leaders God has placed in our lives willingly out of faith, obedience, love and trust in God. I pray we don’t prefer ourselves above others. I pray we guard the sacredness of the divinely inspired and orchestrated unity that we share. Be encouraged!
Unity – John 17
Function – 1 Corinthians 12/ Ephesians 4
Submission – Ephesians 5/ Romans 13