Unity in the Church

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.”

Q&A Continued from 'The One Movement' Launch Event in Pittsburgh, PA - Nov. 2017

Question from an attendee of the Nov. 2017 'The One Movement Launch Event':

"For the family that relocated to the city - have you ever experienced prejudice from your own race?  If so, what types of things have been said?"

Answer from one of the panelist, Julie McCabe (bio below):

"Since terms such as prejudice and race can be highly subjective, allow me to define my understanding of these concepts before I answer.  Prejudice is defined as a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience,” while race is “a group of people with a common physical feature or features.”  In light of this, it is a common reality to regularly encounter prejudicial comments when choosing to live in an environment where one looks different than the majority culture.  And these “opinions without experience” have come from many people regardless of their race.

Since the question addressed “my own race,” I will answer that specifically here.  Most comments that I deal with are founded on hearsay.  We live in a neighborhood that is featured on the news for it’s high crime rate, so our safety is often questioned.  With seemingly good intentions, people will ask, “should you really be putting your children at such risk?”  We have also encountered friends who refused to visit us or allow their children to play here with our children due to their fear of our neighborhood … although to my knowledge they have spent no time here.  Other people conjecture that living in low-income, high-crime communities is a poor use of personal resources.  People have said, “But you’re on the wrong side of the tracks” or “I love you guys but you’re crazy.”

These comments are simply opinions based on limited perspectives.  Without the experience of living in such a different environment, one can only believe what they have been told.  There is no authentic foundation from which to draw a more educated understanding of truth."

Answered by: Julie McCabe

 Julie McCabe, alongside her husband Bryan and their two daughters, relocated into the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 2009 after working in and with the community through a local school mentoring program since 2006. Since this transition, she has studied urban ministry in cross cultural contexts with at risk populations while living it out on a daily basis. “Fun and flexible” is their family motto. “Without relational investment, intentional investigation and authentic reflection, I might never have realized that my heart needed transformation regarding racial reconciliation and unity. I was oblivious until my vantage point changed ...”

Julie McCabe, alongside her husband Bryan and their two daughters, relocated into the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 2009 after working in and with the community through a local school mentoring program since 2006. Since this transition, she has studied urban ministry in cross cultural contexts with at risk populations while living it out on a daily basis. “Fun and flexible” is their family motto. “Without relational investment, intentional investigation and authentic reflection, I might never have realized that my heart needed transformation regarding racial reconciliation and unity. I was oblivious until my vantage point changed ...”

12 Ideas To Foster Unity in the Body of Christ

As I was putting my bags of groceries into the trunk of my car on Monday my cart started to roll away when a middle-aged African American woman stopped it for me. My smile was automatic as I thanked her for her caring act. She said to me, ‘We need some kindness in this dark world.’ I responded, ‘Yes, we sure do, and I so appreciate you helping me! Do you happen to know Jesus?’ ‘Yes!’ she replied with a big smile. That was the start of a sweet conversation my newly discovered ‘sister’ Pam and I had about the need for us to show Christ-like love to one another to make the world a better place and to point people to Jesus, the Source of our light. We both left that parking lot full of joy knowing that we were one in the Lord!

What is it going to take to bring about the unity in the Body of Christ that the Lord longs for, and that will be such a blessing to us who are His? There are some ‘big’ things we may need and wish to do, but I believe there are many ‘small’ things we can do that will make a big difference too. The list below is certainly not exhaustive, but hopefully it will provide some ideas for you as a starting point.

To bring about unity in the Body of Christ will require agape love, and love necessarily involves sacrifice. It likely will require you getting out of your comfort zone; speaking up when you might prefer to remain silent; perhaps traveling to a different part of the city than you ordinarily frequent; giving of time in what I am sure is an already full schedule. But we have been called by God to live in unity so that the world will know Him and His love for them; we can be assured that whatever the cost to us, the rewards will be more than worth it!

1. Pray! Pray that you will have the Lord’s eyes to see people, His ears to hear them, His heart of love to respond to them, and the courage and boldness to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and ‘die to your will’ and be consumed by doing the will of your Father in Heaven. Pray that you will be clothed in humility and prefer others over yourself; that all prejudice and pride will be rooted out of you; that you will have an ‘unoffendable’ heart; that you will forgive others and not allow a root of bitterness and resentment to arise in your heart when others misunderstand or treat you in a way that does not reflect the love of God for you. Pray for the Body of Christ to come into unity and ‘be one as Jesus and the Father are one’ and to open you eyes to opportunities where you can foster that unity.

2. Confront--in a spirit of love--acquaintances, friends, or family if they tell off-color, discriminatory ‘jokes’ or make derogatory comments about an ethnic group, people of another denomination, or say or do anything else that might divide the Body of Christ, breed animosity, or in any way harm the people that God loves, whom He has created, and whom He died to save!

3. Refrain from using ‘us’ and ‘them’ statements that stereotype and polarize people from different ethnic groups, cultures, and denominations. Be careful when you listen to the media that you do not make judgments about people groups; lift people up in prayer rather than labeling or criticizing those with whom you may disagree on issues. Remember, only God has the corner on truth! Seek to listen and understand those whose lifestyles and worldviews may be different from yours. Keep in mind you have FAR more in common with other people than you do differences! Look for ways to celebrate all that God’s people have in common—and also celebrate the differences that make us all wonderfully and uniquely created in the image of our Father in Heaven.

4. Stand up for righteousness and come alongside those people who experience discriminatory or unfair treatment, even if it costs you. For example, if a youth in your child’s school or on their sports team or a co-worker is called a racial slur and you are aware of it, go to the proper authority and make it clear that you consider such behavior and name-calling unacceptable and intolerable.

5. Smile at all people, and especially at people of a different ethnicity or culture from yours so they will sense the love of Christ in the warmth of your response to them. Look for ways to connect with them--such as with a sincere compliment or in other ways to assist or affirm them—so that you can brighten their day and extend to them the grace and love of God. You may receive the kind of blessing I did when I met my sister in Christ Pam who stopped my roll-away cart in the parking lot, or perhaps you will have the blessing of sharing the love of Jesus with someone who doesn’t yet know Him.

6. Seek out opportunities to get to know and better understand someone of a different ethnic group than yours. Invite a co-worker, a neighbor, a member of your church or bible study, someone from your gym, a family from your child’s sports team, etc. who is of a different ethnic group than you over for coffee, dinner, or other social occasion so you can dialog with them for the purpose of gaining increased understanding of one another and to demonstrate the love of Christ to them.

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7.  Host a home-based Bible study that intentionally includes women from other ethnicities and church denominations. Or start a service project with people from diverse backgrounds where you can interact and get to know one another while you serve other community residents together, perhaps a service project like Habitat for Humanity.

8. Attend community and religious events where you know there will be diversity of ethnicities and denominations. Look for opportunities there to fellowship with others who may not look, act, or think like you.

9. Invite international students (perhaps ones who attend a local university/college) to your home to get to know them and to build a relationship with them so that you can share the love of Christ with them. Take in an international student for a semester or a year to expand yours and your families’ understanding of people from other cultures.

10. Volunteer with a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters; the Fresh Air Fund or the Pittsburgh Project in Pittsburgh; the Dream Center in Atlanta or the Atlanta Youth Project or Atlanta Youth Adademy; or a similar community service organization in your city that mentors under-resourced youth and adults. Volunteer with a summer camp program—like Pine Valley Camp in Pittsburgh—that has as diverse group of attendees.

11. Volunteer to serve and feed the homeless and hungry. If you live in Pittsburgh you may wish to participate in the city-wide 'Amen to Action' event being held Friday, November 24 from 9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence convention center where they need 2500 volunteers to pack one million ‘Meals of Hope’. In Atlanta, there are numerous opportunities to minister as well, including The Atlanta Mission and 7 Bridges to Recovery. Wherever you live, I am sure there are established ministries where you could volunteer and be a blessing to others in need. 

12.  Read books and watch programs/movies to help you better understand others’ cultures/situations. Suggested reading on the subject that may challenge as well as inform you include: One Race One Blood by Ken Ham and A. Charles Ware; What God Says about Race by Donald O. Clay Jr.; Roadmap to Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNeil; Same Kind of Different as Me (a book and a recently released movie) and What Difference Do It Make? both by Ron Hall and Denver Moore; Race Matters by Cornel West; Gracism by David A. Anderson; Divided by Faith by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith; Uncle Sam’s Plantation by Star Parker.

We are interested in hearing your suggestions as well, so please feel free  go to True View Ministries’ Facebook page and under The One Movement Event give us your suggestions. Praying all of us will be committed to being about our Heavenly Father’s ‘business’ and seek to be one as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one!

Written by Julie Van Gorp