UNITED OR UNTIED? – THE NEED FOR CHURCH UNITY
Dr. David Allen | Dean of the School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
**This article was previously posted by Dr. David L. Allen on his website www.drdavidlallen.com and is used by permission.
Dr. Allen is: Dean of the School of Theology, Professor of Preaching, Director of the Center for Expository Preaching, and George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Two words, “united” and “untied,” have exactly the same letters. Transpose the middle two letters and you can go from united to being untied. The key is the position of the “i.”
Unity is vital in any endeavor. In order to be successful, work, war, and wedlock all need unity among employees, soldiers, and between husband and wife. Jesus desires the same for His Church: in his high priestly prayer of John 17, he prayed concerning his followers: “that they may be one as we are one.”
Unity is the great need of most churches today.
Fifteen years ago in one of my interim pastorates, at the first staff meeting, I handed out 8 index cards and 8 sealed envelopes. I asked each staff member to write down one word on their index card that best described the greatest need of their church. I told them the only word they cannot write is “prayer.”
I then asked each one to share his or her word. Four wrote the word “unity” and the other four wrote a synonym for unity. They had identified the key need of their church. I then asked them to open the sealed envelope I had given them. Inside each envelope was a card with one word written on it: unity. We had our marching orders . . . and as a staff we marched in unity.
Unity is not union. Two cats with their tails tied together by a string and thrown over a clothesline have lots of union, but they certainly have no unity. (Half-hearted apology to all cat lovers.)
Unity is not uniformity. Trying to get people to dress alike, think alike, talk alike, will not bring unity.
Paul said in Ephesians 4:3 that every Christian is to be diligent “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Translate the “of” as “produced by” and you will get the idea. Church unity is not created by church members. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. But church members can either maintain that unity or disrupt it.
If you take 100 concert pianos and tune the first, then tune the second to the first, the third to the second, and so on until you get to the 100th piano, what do you have? One hundred out of tune pianos! But if you take one tuning fork and tune each of the 100 pianos to the same tuning fork, they will all be in tune.
The key to unity in the local church is Jesus. Remember our two questions earlier? Who is the most important member of your church? Jesus! Who is the least important? You!
Try to tune your life to others in the church, and everybody will be out of tune. But if you tune your life to Jesus, and if every church member does the same, there will be unity in that church!
What will it be? United or Untied?