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.
A Picture of Unity in Christ
Colossians 3:11-17 “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
We have a window of opportunity to press together into a move of God in our cities and nations. In Melbourne, Australia we’ve 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 Progressive Journey to Mature Unity in Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built upuntil we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”
We are one with God in love by grace through Christ, and at the same time we are becoming transformed from glory to glory. We can each only ‘do our best with what we can see’ but we can’t stay in sincere ignorance and naivety because this falls short of the full and complete standard of maturity in Christ.
The principalities and powers that currently hold sway in our culture have entitlement because of our personal and corporate sin. When we choose to sin, we come under their life draining reign. We cannot recognise and stand together against the schemes of death, darkness and destruction (Eph 6:10-12) until the hooks that the enemy has in us are broken. To progress toward mature unity in Christ our habitual, unrecognised sin must be exposed, stripped and replaced by humility and love. When God’s will rules in us (Luke 17:20-21, 18:16-17) we can stand together in co-discernment, trust and obedience and see the influence of evil schemes dissolve and Jesus’ kingdom reign on earth. Let’s each invite Jesus’ rule in our lives so we can be one with Him, for His glory… and so those around us see the choice they have been given to enter abundant eternal life through Christ.
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 fulfil our diverse functions. Unity in Christ enables us to trust each other so we can resist evil togetherand collaborate to fulfil 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 fulfil 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 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
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 in freedom and liberty 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 “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”
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’.
Please Read 1Corinthians Chapters 1- 3 (NIV) which identifies division in the church because they were following human leaders, human ‘intelligence’ and ‘human standards’ rather than Jesus.
1Corinthians 2:1-14 “…I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.For I resolved to know nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power… What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God… This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit… because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”
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.
Mature Spiritual Discernment
We need to discern maturely (1Cor 2: 14, 1Cor 11:27-31, 1Cor 12: 4-11 esp. 10) so what we do is birthed by God’s Spirit (John 3:3-6) and not by human ideas and schemes of the enemy. (Heb 5:11-14)
Philippians 1:9-11 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
These are some safeguards for mature spiritual discernment:
- Listen and journal what the Spirit is saying and reflect on this with trusted mentors or advisers. Stay open, teachable and reliant on God as you overcome internal and external resistance and obey His will.
- Learn to discern the quiet voice, stirring and leading of God and distinguish this from your own inner voice and sources that are not of God.
- Ensure that what you discern is supported – not just by random texts but by solid theological understanding of the written Word of God.
- Ask for and wait on specific confirmations by God through others who have prophetic revelation or a deep understanding of you and the project.
- Act only in the specific steps of God’s timing. Discern very carefully who you are to partner with; when you are to wait and when you are to step out in faith.
- Don’t water down the Holy Spirit or your faith in the supernatural work of God or reduce your use of the spiritual gifts in order to collaborate or be accepted. Some people do not have a Biblical understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit or believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in full operation today.
- Recognise the warning signs that something is not of God: e.g. coercion, manipulation, confusion, torment, coercion, conflict, compulsion, urgency, stridency, reactiveness, frustration, anger, shame, embarrassment, indebtedness, pressure to conform or please others or be accepted.
- Maintain close accountability to the Holy Spirit and each other so your heart is not blind to sin that can be an anchor point for the life draining schemes of the enemy to gain a hold in us, generations of our families and across regions. Such schemes give authority to the enemy of God manifesting through principalities and powers. Spiritual warfare must be Spirit led and not arise from human strategy.
- Let your decisions, words and actions flow from who you are in Christ –froma place of inner peace, assurance, trust, hope, faith, joy, love, gentleness, kindness, patience and self-control. (Gal 5:22-26)
Unity in Christ
– His Spirit and Word in harmony-
People Pushing Human Strategies for Unity
may tend to have some of these characteristics
|Gives glory only to God Luke 10 schemes:27Holy Spirit led Ro 8:14Focusses on God’s purposeWaits on God for revelation & confirmation
Agreement Matt 18:19-20
Gives liberty Gal 5:1,18, 2Cor 3:17
Creates diversity 1Cor 12:11, Eph 4:7
Produces humble servant leaders
Listens to others’ perspectives and thinking.
Honours each other
Discerns good & evil spirits & of enemy
Loving, kind, gentle, peaceful, patient Gal 5:22-22
Repentance and Forgiveness Matt 18:21-22
Teachable, open to correction & discipline
Spiritually wise 1Cor Ch1-3
Integrity, honesty, truth, transparent, open, authentic
Accepts accountability relationships
Life building; healthy; light yoke; easy burden Matt 11:30
Grass roots, equality, empowerment, enables leaders
Produces disciples mature in Christ
Plants churches, Sends missionaries Luke 10:3
|Gives glory to us or our creation, mission, organisation‘Good’ rather than ‘God’ ideasDistracts from or conflicts with what God is doingCompulsive, reactive
Construct the appearance of substance; support
Takes control over others, centralises
Creates uniformity, branding, franchising
Produces proud, dominating leaders
Pushes own perspectives, opinions & strategies
Assumes titles, authority and disrespects others
Naïve in discernment, subject to enemy’s schemes
Confusion, torment, shame, anger, impatience
Resists repentance, holds offence, blames
Lacks self-awareness, defensive, denies responsibility
Human intelligence; ‘know it all’
Covert agendas, misleads, deceives, manipulates
Resists accountability, is independent
Life draining; burdened; stressed; burnt out
Top-down hierarchy/power/ideas that disempowers
Produces growth measured in numbers and dollars
Takes over ministries and gather others to themselves
Romans 15:5“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Recommending teaching by Ps Peter McHugh on Growing in Maturity.
See link below for a table comparing the relational characteristics
of those with maturity (sons) and those who are growing in maturity (orphans).
A podcast on this teaching from 20 July 2014 will also become available at http://www.stairway.org.au/#!downloads/c1u07
Acknowledging David Tidy, Mature Unity @ www.partnersinprayer.org.au
Your feedback is welcome: Sue Tinworth firstname.lastname@example.org 0418 389 419
Rod Schneider email@example.com 0412127442