Unity in Christ

Unity in Christ: What it is and isn't 
by Sue Tinworth
PIPES: Partners in prayer and evangelism
E: sue@partnersinprayer.org.au
Please pray God’s Spirit of revelation will open your heart and deepen your longing for unity in Christ as you read this. We’d love to hear your feedback so we develop shared understanding and agreement.
Pray for our unity as the Body of Christ.
 
A Picture of Unity in Christ: Colossians 3:11-17

Context

We have a window of opportunity to press together into a move of God in our cities and nations. In Melbourne we have seen revival and ‘unity’ movements that we can learn from. This paper proposes distinctions discerned through experience. In 2010 we laid down Transforming Melbourne and its citywide organising style - recognising that God wants to raise in this season a Spirit led, multifaceted, grass roots movement, a ‘faceless’ army, a revival that gives all the glory to God. We sought to be humble servant leaders – ‘coordinators’, encouragers led by God. But we saw only in part, and I thank God for His grace in opening our eyes to the inherent risks in assuming citywide responsibility.

We are committed to flow with the Spirit of God to collaborate in healthy biblical unity in Christ that will equip, enable and send us all to make disciples of Jesus in our grass root spheres of influence for the transformation of neighbourhoods, workplaces, schools and universities...

A Definition of Unity

Unity in Christ is born and led by His Spirit in harmony with His Word and characterised by Jesus’ love, compassionate kindness, gentleness, humility, goodness, faithfulness, patience, self-control, forgiveness and thankfulness. Unity in Christ gives our Father the glory! Christ’s Spirit in us unites with His Spirit in others, releasing recognition, peace and joy to confirm we are one in agreement. Holy Spirit confirms whom we are each to love, trust and honour as our spiritual fathers and mothers, servant leaders and partners. Unity as members of Christ’s body enables us to be Spirit led, equipped and released in freedom to fulfill our diverse functions. Unity in Christ enables us to trust each other so we can resist evil together and collaborate to fulfill the Great Commission in our spheres of influence - our neighbourhoods, regions, cities and nations. (1Cor 12:4-13, Eph 1:3-10, & 4:1-32.) When we unite in one Lord, one faith, one hope (Eph 4:2-6), we fulfill Jesus’ will. (John 17:11, 22) “Unity is not the end result, it is a way to prepare the army and the bride.” David Tidy. Ephesians 4:2-6 
 
Unity in Christ is Spirit led. Holy Spirit enables us to:
  • Be secure in knowing our own and other people’s identity as a son or daughter of our Father God.
  • Recognise Christ in each other and be one with Christ in the other.
  • Believe by faith that we are one in holy unity with Christ – part of one body, drinking from one cup.
  • Recognise and agree with what our Father is doing – exercising our freedom of will to choose to flow in God’s purpose, timing etc. The Spirit’s leading will always be in agreement with God’s Word.
  • Know and humbly fulfil our unique, discrete destiny and purpose in life. We each have a small part in what God is doing so we need to hold lightly to our own understanding and assignment. We are to trust that God (and only God) sees the big picture, the finished tapestry from His eternal perspective.
  • Rest lightly in our partnership with God and the body of Christ. (Matt 11:28-30) When we yoke in unity with Christ we are free to love and serve from a place of inner peace and rest.
  • Bless and release each other with the freedom to be who God calls each to be.
  • Bear patiently with one another, dropping all offense and forgiving as we are forgiven by our Father.
  • Love - holding each other in tender devotion, honour, respect and thankfulness.
  • Accept the teaching and admonishment of God’s Spirit through each other. The authority of Christ through others provides spiritual shielding and an apostolic and prophetic foundation upon which Christ will build us as His House of Prayer for All Nations. We all need to cultivate close accountability in personal relationships with wise, trusted Spirit led ‘fathers and mothers’ and small groups who will equip, enable and protect us from erroneous beliefs and actions. Godly leaders will not cut off the leading and flow of the Spirit of God but may help govern our interpretations, applications, timing etc.
  • Be healed from our personal wounding so we can wisely discern the relationships, communities and movements we can safely trust, flow with, serve with, enrich and build on.
  • Align together as the body of Christ to establish the stronghold of Jesus’ sovereignty and kingdom in our city, nation and culture so the enemy’s foothold is loosed and cut off.
Discerning Human Strategies for Unity: Psalm 127:1  

Unity requires human passion, effort, collaboration and organisation but we can unwittingly work against God by being drawn into the enemy’s schemes through ‘religious’ patterns and business models that generate ‘human strategies for unity’. In Babel they said, “Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.” (Gen 11:4) Human strategies and models often draw attention and cooperation to promote the controlling power of a centralised hierarchical organisation or network, brand or franchise that pressures others to unify around set criteria toward conformity, uniformity or majority. There is no support for this in the biblical church. Principalities and powers seek to work through all of us as leaders. Their schemes work behind ‘human strategies’ through coercion, manipulation, control, disempowerment, disrespect and even deception to distract us from what God would have us do; suppressing our individual voices; compelling us to comply, so we are accepted and ‘united’. 1 Corinthians Ch 1-3 (NIV) identifies division in the church when they followed human leaders, human ‘intelligence’ and ‘human standards’ rather than Jesus. 1 Corinthians 2:1-14 

When Jesus drives human strategies out of the temple we become His House of Prayer for All Nations (Mark 11:15-18) - united with heaven in fervent, continuous, combined worship, prayer and mission. (Rev 4:1-11)

Unity in Christ does not:
  • Coerce or pressure others to unify or collaborate toward amalgamation, uniformity, centrality, conformity or majority or unionise for power or bring glory to our agenda, vision or Godly assignment. For example, when a group pressure others to endorse or cooperate with their strategy or requires people to serve them or their vision and so increase the finance, influence or numbers in their own church or network. This indicates inability to trust Jesus to be the head of His church and to trust the Spirit’s leading in each person, church, ministry or network.
  • Draw attention, power, control, fame, numbers or finance to one person, church, ministry or network.  For example, taking over other churches or ministries in order to bring them under an umbrella organisation or denomination or manage their finances.
  • Dominate or control from top down ‘covering’ or authority – in contrast to Jesus’ model of servant leadership that liberates, equips, enables and sends out. Servant leaders will include stakeholders in decision-making and formation processes and will drop initiatives if key stakeholders and partners don’t support them. Servant leaders won’t use their institutional or religious appointment to subjugate others (e.g. ‘lay people’); or turn their godly function into a title which can be used to perpetuate dominance e.g. ‘City Elder,’ CEO, ‘Apostle’, ‘Senior Pastor’.  Rather than waiting on recognition from the body of Christ, some entitle themselves e.g. ‘Apostle’ or even ‘Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher’!
  • Homogenise or impose a model, brand or denomination.  Multiplying or franchising our own ‘brand’ could lead us to wrongly seek to appoint or mobilise the pastors, prayer or worship leaders in another region under our brand rather than recognizing and supporting the Spirit led emergent unity or catalytic  leadership in that city or region.
  • Seek to be comprehensive or completely representative. Servant leaders do not pressure representatives to attend or host a meeting or join a collaborative initiative; or feel insulted about not being informed, involved or invited to approve an initiative or event within a city or region.
  • Rely on charismatic, dynamic, powerful, highly credentialed professional religious, business or political leaders or media or entertainment stars; business models or strategies; media campaigns, publicity, numbers in large meetings, mass signatures or massive budgets.
  • Override our discernment. We must stay vigilant and accountable so we do not unwittingly conspire or collude with schemes of the enemy and the principalities and powers that have hold in our regions.
  • Gain self-worth from work, positions, incomes, ministries, talents and achievements rather than from our identity as sons and daughters of our Father God.
  • Quench the leading and flow of Holy Spirit’s crucial work in our hearts, lives and gatherings or cut off the freedom we need to obey the Spirit’s promptings and assignments.
  • Distract us from our Godly assignment, God's timing and His fruitful harvest. See Full Article: Unity in Christ including Summary Table at:  http://partnersinprayer.org.au/unity-in-christ/
 Your feedback is welcome: Sue Tinworth sue@partnersinprayer.org.au