#unityinthechurch

Q&A Continued from 'The One Movement' Launch Event Nov. 3-4, 2017

So now that The One Movement Launch Conference is over, the question is, “How do we take this message of unity back into our churches?” 

 For some of us the passion for unity has been life-long and definitely part of who we are and why we are.  For others of us a fresh fire has been lit; we have been awakened to the deep passion that our Savior has for oneness in His Body and that He prayed so fervently (as recorded in John 17:20-23) would be the hallmark of those who would follow Him.

 I have a dear friend, Helena Barrington, who once wrote a very prophetic song entitled, “In our Time.”  The lyrics of the chorus are very profound to me: 

         “Every generation, demands a demonstration

         Of the church of Jesus Christ, relevant to its time.

         We are determined to be that demonstration

         In our time, yes in our time.”

The question then becomes, ‘What should the church look like?’  We need to see with Jesus’ eyes.  Jesus sees a church that demonstrates His love toward God, toward ourselves, toward our friends, toward our neighbors, toward both ‘the lovely’ and ‘the unlovely’.  He even expects us to demonstrate His love toward our enemies!  The bottom line is that Jesus makes it clear that the Father places a high, high value on relationships, and He expects us to as well.  This doesn’t mean that everyone is supposed to be ‘lovey-dovey’ all the time, but that even when relationships are broken, we are called to do all we can to repair the breakage. (Matthew 18) He says that there is ‘no greater love than for one to lay down his life for a friend’.  Jesus sees a powerful Church: one that is outside its walls winning souls; casting out demons; having signs and wonders accompany believers, looking like the early church did in the book of Acts; a church standing for the righteousness of God no matter the cost, with the Kingdom of God as its priority. 

In answer to the question of what do we do to take the message of racial unity back into our churches, I want to say that I do not believe that every church service or every church must absolutely become multi-ethnic.  That is not the point.  The point is that we must become “Kingdom-minded.”  The Kingdom of God involves ALL people.  Jesus came to earth to pay the penalty for sin for ALL people.  Every person that exists is created in the image of God.  Diversity is God’s design, not ours.  There is something of His glory reflected in every part of His design, and when we reject another on the basis of their outward appearance, their social, financial status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, education level, or any other temporal status, we forfeit a portion of God’s glory. Our homes, our lives, our churches, and our hearts must be for ALL people if we are after the heart of God.  That would make our heart one heart with His!

When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, His priorities were evident for us. His prayer began and ended with the Kingdom in mind, knowing our Father is the King!  Think of His disciples; they were a pretty diverse group.  There were fishermen, a tax collector, a revolutionary, and a betrayer. Jesus gathered a seemingly random group of ordinary men with not much in common. They didn’t even know how to pray. They weren’t all even saved.   What we do learn in John 17 is that the Father gave Him those guys and Jesus accepted them, although many if not all of the church ‘leaders’ of the day would have rejected them.   

The first thing that must happen for unity in the Body to occur is simple: Begin by praying.  Unless we begin with prayer, I believe our efforts at best will be artificial and short-lived. Jesus left His comfort zone with the Father’s vision in mind, purposing only to do the Father’s will. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent me.” (John 6:38) Pray that you too will be willing, no matter the cost, to do the Father’s will.

 Pray with the Lord’s vision in mind. His vision was, “That they may be one...” Ask the Father to give you His heart.  Ask Him what your part is in His plan. (James 1:5).   Search the Scriptures.  Some passages that might be helpful include: Genesis 1:26, 27; Genesis 11:1; 2 Chronicles 5:11–14; Psalm 133; John 1:1; John 4; John 17:24.  Look at the book of the Acts of the Apostles.  What happens when the people are one? God blessed those who were in the vicinity with major revival.  Read the 2nd chapter of Acts and look again at all the nations represented on that day as having heard the gospel in their own languages.  3000 souls were saved AND the church was increased daily! That’s major revival!

 Recognizing that you do have a choice to accept or reject God’s heart and His desire for unity (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5), examine your own heart to determine whether you are truly open to change.  Are you willing to go and visit a church where the majority-- if not the total congregation-- is of another culture?  Do you have friends, prayer partners, or neighbors who don’t look like you?  Did you meet and exchange contact information with someone at The One Movement event that you could follow up with to get to know better? Are you willing to make the investment of time, effort, and energy to go to future events that ‘The One Movement’ and other organizations host that will be designed to build relationships with others who may be of an ethnicity that is not your own?

 Ask the Spirit of God to reveal to you any areas where your heart doesn’t match His heart on this matter.  (Ps. 139:23-24) Jesus had no problems relating to people of other cultures.  He hung with whomever the Father sent him to be with, regardless of what others had to say about Him.  The religious leaders in Christ’s time were so arrogant that they eliminated anyone from their presence who was not a disease-free, ‘sin-free’, verifiable Hebrew male.  They criticized anyone who violated their standard, even Jesus, accusing Him constantly. They looked down upon women, Samaritans, Greeks, Romans, lepers, the poor, and any others they deemed less worthy than they were.  In sharp contrast-- and against the ‘rules’ of the religious leaders--Jesus cleansed a leper, talked with a Samaritan woman, defended a prostitute, ate with tax collectors, and hung out with the poor, lowly and ‘undesirables’.  Consider your circle of friends outside of the church, perhaps those on your Facebook page.  Are all of them of the same ethnicity as you as far as you know?  Do you want to make ‘room’ in your life for more diversity and are you willing to possibly be ‘inconvenienced’ to do so? Are you equipped to share the message of diversity with some of your friends who may not quite ‘get it’ yet?

 Set up a time to talk with your pastor to understand his or her perspective on the matter of cultural unity and diversity.  Is he or she open and willing to lead the way by extending a vision for cultural diversity and unity in the Christian church beyond the walls of religion and church tradition through a series of messages, followed by some action on the part of your congregation?  Are people of other hues welcome in your services?  Would a guest minister of a darker or whiter hue, or a woman be allowed to speak to your congregation?  You need to know if your church is ready to embrace God’s plan for unity. 

The GRACISM Task Force

 

 Unfortunately not everyone is ready for the unity the Lord longs to see. It so happens that a local pastor recently shared with me that one Sunday he was off and decided to visit a church within walking distance from his home.  When he walked into the church, heads turned and he got negative stares. Later a neighbor who was appalled at the behavior of her congregation shared with the pastor that some had asked the question, “What was he doing here?”  What would anyone be doing in a church on a Sunday morning?  The title alone of an article I recently posted on the GRACISM Task Force Facebook page is unfortunately indicative of some churches even today: “After I Adopted 2 Black Babies, I Realized My Church Was Full of Racists.”

 If it seems there are racists in our midsts, it means there is an opportunity for spiritual growth if we will pursue God’s agenda for love and unity in His church. Many people simply don’t know how to work through the issues that seemingly divide us. This is the task of the GRACISM Task Force that I initiated. We want to go into churches and hold workshops with small groups to help them process the conflicts in order to foster unity. We know this is God’s will, and know that Jesus is on our side as we pursue oneness in His Body. Jesus not only prayed for oneness among His followers before He went to the cross, as recorded in John 17, but He still lives to intercede and prays for unity among us. (Hebrews 7:25) If anyone can get through to the Father, it is the Son.   Dr. Tony Evans preached a message I heard on spiritual warfare in which he stated that the enemy of our souls knows the importance of unity and he is united against the Church of God.  He further stated that we’ve got to recognize that God will command His blessing when we abandon worshipping our ‘own ways’ and worship Him alone. We are to join with God in praying for and actively pursuing the oneness He desires in His Body for a unified Church is God’s goal, and when we become one through Him we will be the most powerful force on earth.  I believe we’ve begun to sow seeds of unity through ‘The One Movement’, through ‘Amen to Action’, and through other movements; now we must cultivate the soil so that the power of God can come rushing in and bring the revival that we and Jesus long to see. 

 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus... There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26, 28

 Written by Toni Turner, MA, NCC

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Toni grew up in a multi ethnic environment. Her neighborhood was multi- ethnic. Her elementary and high schools were in an international setting. As an undergrad she even attended a historical Black College, which was multi-ethnic, with students and faculty. Her only uni-ethnic experience outside of her immediate family of origin was in the denominational church in which she grew up. Toni writes: “In the Bible, I see a vision of the Lord which includes every tribe,nation and tongue. Jesus prayed and continues to pray for our unity. Racism and division should not be named within the true Body of Christ. I choose to align and intentionally work toward that vision — ‘On earth as it is in Heaven’, so that the power of God will shine through His children.”

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How to Find Hope in a Divided World

We are living in a day and age that is more polarized than at any other time in my lifetime. That is a refrain I am hearing from many others as well. The divisiveness is causing strife within our communities, the Church, and even in many families.  Recently I sat at a wedding reception where a friend poured out her heart to me that at Christmas, in exchange for the gifts she sent to her sister, she received a letter notifying her that her sister no longer wanted to have anything to do with her. Her reason? Their political viewpoints were so far apart that she thought it was hopeless to think they could have a relationship.

It is almost impossible to tune into any news outlet without hearing caustic comments, discord, and dissension. Facebook--which initially helped friends to connect-- has become a vehicle that now is separating those same ‘friends’ due to views expressed and pictures posted that align the person with a particular ‘side’ of our increasingly fractured culture. Instead of healthy, respectful discussions about the differences in viewpoints, the modus operandi all too often seems to be pride-filled personal attacks that stir up fear, prejudice, and hatred, creating barriers that separate people rather than building bridges that unify them.

Is there any hope for our fragmented society and world?

Yes, there is! However, we must keep in mind that our fight truly is not with one another: we are wrestling against the powers and principalities of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). We are in a spiritual battle with Satan and his demonic hordes, whose goal is always to ‘rob, steal, kill and destroy’. Satan is using his age-old method of‘division’; first, dividing us from God and His Word, and then working to bring division among God’s most treasured creation, mankind. Satan has blinded people to his schemes and the reality that he is the one behind the divisiveness.

Regrettably, even within the family of God—those who have received the free gift of salvation that He offers--we appear to be oblivious that it is Satan who is behind the schemes to divide us from one another, and we frequently play right into his plan to 'divide and conquer'. All too often we live in apathy toward and divided from one another-- if not outright conflict-- misrepresenting the heart of our Father in Heaven Who longs for His children to live in harmony with one another and to love one another as He has loved us.

We have allowed sin—particularly the sin of prejudice that is rooted in the sin of pride—whether it be racial, denominational, or socio-economic--to divide us as the Body of Christ.

But He, [well] aware of their intent and purpose, said to them, Every kingdom split up against itself is doomed and brought to desolation, and so house falls upon house. [The disunited household will collapse.]  Luke 11:17 AMP

Our sin of pride is not only playing into Satan’s scheme of bringing division among God’s children, it also grieves the heart of God Who longs for unity among those who have put their faith in Him. He desires that they experience the joy of oneness in Him, and He also wants the world to come to know Him by seeing the love and unity that Christians share in Him!

 I do not pray for these alone [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for [all] those who [will ever] believe and trust in Me through their message, that they all may be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe [without any doubt] that You sent Me. John 17:20-23 AMP

Our Heavenly Father longs for the world to know Him by our love for one another. The trinity is one, and He longs for His disciples to accurately represent the triune God's love by our love for each other and our living in unity with one another. 

I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another. John 13:34-35 AMP

As His children, we have the opportunity--and the commandment--to bring glory to God and to make His Name known by our loving one another as He has loved us.

This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you. John 15:12 AMP

John 15:12

John 15:12

As stated, we are in a spiritual battle, so a spiritual solution is necessary to overcome our enemy Satan. That solution is to be found: first, in our receiving God’s love; then, in our loving God; and lastly, in our loving others as He has loved us. God, Who is love, (1st John 4:8) demonstrated what true, unconditional love looks like by sending His Son Jesus to earth to die for us ‘while we were yet sinners’ (Romans 5:8). Our sin had separated us from God, who is holy, and the only way that we could be reconciled to Him was through the atoning work of His perfect and beloved Son Jesus who took our sin upon Himself and died in our place on the cross. Jesus is the ‘bridge’ whose death and resurrection enables all who put their trust in His atoning death to be reconciled to God the Father. The Holy Spirit is the priceless gift that is given to all who put their faith in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to be reconciled with others, to love them as He has loved us. Sacrificially. Selflessly. Unconditionally.

Jesus lived out 1st Corinthian 13 love:

Jesus endured with patience and serenity, Jesus was kind and thoughtful, and He was not jealous or envious; Jesus did not brag nor was He proud or arrogant. Jesus was not rude; He was not self-seeking, He was not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; He did not take into account a wrong endured. Jesus did not rejoice at injustice, but He rejoiced with the truth [when right and truth prevail].  Jesus bore all things [regardless of what came], He believed all things [looked for the best in each one], and He had hope in all things [remained steadfast during difficult times], He endured all things [without weakening]. Note: the name Jesus or “He’ was inserted in place of the word ‘love’ and the verb tense was changed where appropriate in the above passage taken from the Amplified version of 1st Corinthians 13: 4-7

If you inserted your name into the above passage, would the statement be true of you as it is for Jesus? What would your relationship with your family, friends, acquaintances, the Body of Christ, the world at large, and especially those with whom you differ, look like if you demonstrated Christlike love to them?

You may wonder, ‘Does love mean accepting everyone’s viewpoint and condoning their beliefs, even if that means endorsing what is unrighteous before God?’. No, not at all! Jesus is not only the epitome of love, but He is also Truth. Love and truth are inextricably linked together. If we truly love others as Christ has loved us, we must share the truth with them, but we will do so in the spirit of love. We will also follow Jesus’ example and intercede with prayers for those who have been deceived and taken captive by Satan to do his will, praying that the eyes of their heart will be opened and that they will have the faith to comprehend ‘how wide, long, high and deep, is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God’. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

How different our world would be if we who claim to be Jesus’ disciples demonstrated our love for Him:  by obeying His command ‘to love one another as He has loved us’; by living in obedience to 1st Corinthians 13:4-7; and by praying for those with whom we differ! We would be lights shining forth in the darkness of this world, pointing the world to Jesus, the Source of our Light and all Love, who is able and longs to set the world free from its enslavement to pride, fear, prejudice, and hatred, and Who alone is able to empower us to love one another as He has loved us so that the world will come to know Him and receive Him as their Savior and Lord!

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