Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!
We’ve all heard stories (too many stories) of organizations, companies, and churches that disintegrated into bitter conflict. Quite often, the conflict began with some shifting blame for a failure, petty gossip that caused hurt, envy that someone else was treated better, or fierce competition that produced genuine bitterness. Whatever the cause, people took their eyes off the common goal and started protecting themselves. That’s no way to build a team.
But unity isn’t the goal. Rather, unity is a result, one of a shared vision and cooperative efforts. In families, companies, churches, or any other organization, leaders can build unity by living for and pointing people toward purpose that transcends each individual. With that goal in mind, they can identify and affirm each person’s abilities and contributions, overlook petty issues, and communicate with clarity and compassion. When each person feels valued and included, incredible things can happen! People develop their skills, grow more committed to the cause, and encourage one another. In that environment, they grow as tall and strong as redwoods!
What’s the temperature of your family or organization? If you aren’t “”dwelling together in unity,” don’t try to force it. Instead focus your energies on clarifying purpose and enlisting cooperation to achieve a common goal. It’ll make a difference in those around you…..and in you.
Leadership is the ability to organize the spiritual gifts and limitations of others.
J. Oswald Sanders
In John’s gospel chapter 17 we read what is called the “High Priestly Prayer.” Jesus prayed this prayer in the hearing of the disciples as they were together just before He was crucified. In this prayer, Christ spoke of how His mission had been and had accomplished the goal of glorifying the Father. Laced within that prayer was the request that the disciples and us become one- united. There is no concept in this prayer of perfect agreement in everything but a focused mission and vision that draws every participant away from their own goals and directs their attention and energies toward a common goal. For the church that goal has already been defined and given- to seek and save the lost.
Not too long after the inception of the church, conflict arose for there were those who felt that their needs were being overlooked and others were receiving an over abundance of supply. It was at this point that the ministry of deacons was created. Sometimes in reading about this we miss the important point. The apostles realized that while ministering to the needs of widows and orphans was important, it had become a distraction from the main purpose. They saw the conflict as a result of the main goal becoming less of purpose and they knew that what had created unity was that goal. So they did a reset by involving those who would continue the work of caring for widows and orphans, and they would refocus their energies on connecting with God (prayer) and preaching the gospel (Word). Once they returned to their focused goal, the church experienced inner peace and outward success and growth.
The struggle groups often have, whether family, organizations, or churches is the lack of a main vision. Many have lots of ideas concerning what the family, organization, or church is supposed to be doing. Each feels sure that their purpose is the right and best one. When this is multiplied the resulting conflict is the result. What the apostles knew and what they had been taught by Christ and witnessed by His conduct was that a single purpose can unite but a multitude of purposes divides and conflict results.
As a people we find that it is in a catastrophe that we come together for that seems to cause us to lay aside our differences and to work toward a common goal. Sadly it seems that once we get past the catastrophic event, we migrate back to disunity and conflict.
Often the church will rally and unite during times of pastor search only to return to the same actions that caused conflict. Often a nation will come together to face a common challenge only to return to being divided as soon as the danger is past. Families operate in the same manner. When there is a crisis in the family, they will unite and work together but as soon as the crisis leaves, they return to the old division.
When we speak of being united, we must understand that it’s not some magical moment when we think the same or act the same as though we are robots. Unity is the work of everyone focusing their abilities, their energies, their skills toward a common goal. It’s not as though we have forgotten our personal desires, but we choose to set them aside for focused goal and vision of the whole organization. Unity is the work of sacrifice and service, the work of giving up our personal things for the sake of others. Consider Christ who gave up His glory and became flesh for the purpose and vision of reconciling men and God. That goal became the goal of the apostles and even in the great conflict between faith and works, the church came together, united in the single purpose of taking the gospel to every person and every place.
There’s incredible power in unity hence the devil will do all in his power to divide. May we choose to set aside our differences and give place to the common goal of continuing the work of God.
Dr. John Thompson