Tag Archives: Humility

United We Stand

The United States of America was formed by a group of citizens united in their response, united in their purpose and united in their defense of their beliefs. Woodrow Wilson once said, “We cannot be separated in interest or divided in purpose. We stand together until the end.” Even Benjamin Franklin realized cohesion was necessary when he declared, “We must hang together or assuredly we shall hand separately.” Americans are famous for sayings such as G. P. Morgan’s “United we stand, divided we fall.” Even naming our country embodies a reliance on one another for survival. What happened?

The church was united in beliefs, purpose and goals. As Jesus disappeared into the clouds from the Mount of Olives, the disciples remembered His reminder to be unified in their witness to Jerusalem, Judea and the ends of the earth. Together they returned to Jerusalem to share, as one, the greatest message the world would ever hear. What happened?

No sooner had the early church organized than dissension arose. Why do believers, seeking the same Savior, yearning for the same heaven, proclaiming the same Gospel continue to chip away at unity? Who cares? God cares. Lets look at this ubiquitous word and see how deep the implications dig into our theological stances.

First we need to understand the prefix “uni.” Webster defines this as simple “uni-prefix: one: single.” (Uni, Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, G&C Merriam Company, 1979.) Nothing complicated, nothing debatable, just a single unit. Logically we would assume all words built on this prefix contain a sense of one, not multiple. As believers we are called to unity in the church. John 17:23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (New International Version of the Bible, Zondervan Corporation, 1989. All scripture quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

What does it mean to be in complete unity? Simple, we are to be working together toward the same goal. We are to be striving as one unit, complex in structure, to proclaim the Gospel and encourage one another. An old Aesop’s Fable stated, “In union there is strength.” As the church presses toward another century of service we need strength. God provides strength and also expects us to work with one another for strength.

The NIV Bible Dictionary describes unity: Used in the O.T. in the sense of togetherness of persons (Genesis 13:6), fellowship (Judges 19:6), and praise (Psalm 34:3). Isaiah 11:6-7 tells of a future time when there will be a togetherness among animals. The NT word speaks of the unit of faith that binds together the people of God (Ephesians 4:13). (Bible Source NIV Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, M.C. Tenny eds, Zondervan Corporation, 1989.)

In Chronicles, during Hezekiah’s reform the people of Israel turned back to God. Hezekiah sought God and serve as a King seeking God. He reopened the temple and encouraged the people to return to God. God provided the unity of purpose to accomplish this reform. 1 Chronicles 30:12 Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD.

The psalmist reminds us of the good effects from unity. Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! God is pleased when we get along. I’m reminded of a pleasant aroma which rises to God and how that might be seen in this statement.

As Christians we have a pressing need to seek unity with one another. Our relationship to one another has a direct, perceptible impact on our witness to the world. John 17:23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Unity is a sign of God’s work in our lives. When we are splintered we present the wrong message to the world. This reminds me of Paul’s admonition. Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

How do we accomplish such unity? Our frailties make us prone to stand up for our point of view. We want to be right at all costs. Often we create division, not by design but as a result of our desire to be seen and accepted as correct. Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. Paul recognizes we cannot achieve the peace and unity called for by God. It’s only when we rely on God and rest in His hands and allow Him to do the work that peace and unity will actually come to bear in our lives.

It’s difficult for us to be humble and humility is the starting point for unity. We don’t like to give in to another point of view. Saint Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” A good passage to contemplate and memorize is Philippians 2:1-4. When we can live this passage with one another we will have unity.

Will we always see what we are convinced is correct come to be? No. There are many Biblical Imperatives which cannot be soiled with compromise. There are many more Personal Convictions which need to be weighed carefully before being applied to others. Liberty in Christ is one of the most difficult concepts for us to understand and live.

Are you unified with your brothers and sisters to proclaim the Gospel or are you at odds on how to proclaim the Gospel? Are you unified with fellow believers in discipling new believers or arguing over the proper methodology? Are you on a tangent or on target with the body of Christ?

Let us work together. Let us consider more than one point of view. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus as the goal of our life. Let us bring unity back to the church.

Colossians 2:2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.

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Venture Capitalist Missions

Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:3 WEB)

I know I’m not young so when I think to myself, “I miss the way things were,” I feel even older. But I must admit I do miss some things from the past. I miss some of my old music, my hair, and other things I don’t want to talk about. I do want to talk about the old approach churches took when considering new missionaries for support.

I remember going from church to church presenting the work of the ministry, presenting how we were called to the ministry and presenting our desire to bring God’s love and grace to a world in need of salvation. We were looking for opportunities to share the work of the ministry with the people of the church to encourage their prayer for the impact of the ministry. Yes, we were also hoping God would lead the church or people in the church to support our financial needs in the ministry.

guam97God touched their hearts and they did partner with us. In those days you shared your calling with the body of Christ and received prayer, encouragement, financial support whatever was needed for the ministry. Of course, folks had to be convinced that you were sincere about your calling and they received assurance when they prayed on your behalf for clarity and confirmation. If your life reflected the calling and commitment and the body was convinced through God’s reassurance, then you were sent off.

Folks expected to hear now and again about how God was working in your life and the lives of those where you ministered. Just sharing a story or two of how things were pressing forward and how God was helping your spiritual growth in the process was enough to encourage the church and continue to affirm your ministry and calling. It didn’t take an analytical demonstration of the efficaciousness of your particular style or methodology weighed against the numeric counting of those claiming conversion to understand God was working in and through your life and ministry. People wanted to simply know that God was working and you were still committed to obedience to God’s call to ministry.

The definition of a call to ministry has changed. It isn’t that I’m called by God to server where He leads. It’s that I’m called and here are the spectacular, awe inspiring, facts, figures and examples of how you’ll be impressed with my calling. Support (financial, prayer or spiritual) has changed from trust in God’s calling someone to ministry to become man’s statistical analysis of a person’s potential. Just ask any missionary trying to raise support in the accountant guided world of church administration. Numbers and spectacular new methods are the guiding indicators of whether someone should be supported or their support should be continued. Like venture capitalists trying to convince potential investors (aka supporters), those in ministry must come up with a new and spectacular methodology for presenting an ancient simple message to a complex and technologically advanced world. If my story isn’t better than your story then I lose. It has become a competition for those called by God in the human arena of predictive bang for the buck. They must convince the body of Christ by presenting a new flashy ministry, complete with astounding numbers, that they are called. If we can’t quantize it, then it isn’t sustainable and thus unworthy of the church’s backing.

Why should someone feel guilty and need to apologize for not having large numbers, personal encounters and spectacular stories of salvation? People usually come to the Lord in the simple, everyday ways of life. Even with the increasing number of avenues for proclaiming the simple Gospel message people still respond in simple humility, not spectacular world shattering declarations. But that’s what we came to hear about. That’s what the church and the mission committee wants to hear, the spectacular.

But God, spectacular as he is, isn’t looking for spectacular people but humble people who recognize their need and turn to him. He’s not looking at the bottom line of a ledger but the end of a pathway that leads to salvation. God’s not calling workers into special ministry based on their high tech approach or their book sales or their ability to captivate an audience with spiritual literary quotations. God is calling humble servants willing to follow him wherever, whenever, and however he needs them.

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