- October 20, 2021
Most of my articles are summarized versions of the sermons I preach at church. Currently, our church is participating in a season of 40 days of prayer and fasting as we seek God’s direction for our local mission. During the fast, I have decided to preach on our core values as a way of reaffirming
Most of my articles are summarized versions of the sermons I preach at church. Currently, our church is participating in a season of 40 days of prayer and fasting as we seek God’s direction for our local mission.
During the fast, I have decided to preach on our core values as a way of reaffirming the passions that define us as a church family. Our church has chosen Unity, Clarity, Humility, Generosity, Hospitality, and Liberty to be our core values. We have banners in our sanctuary, one for each value, reminding us of who we are and what is important to us. We talk about our core values often, and I preach through them about every five years.
Every church has core values, whether they are identified or not. Has your church identified its core values? If not, this may be a good time to talk about it, and maybe this series will spark some fruitful faith conversations at your church. Our first core value is Unity:
1. Unity is Powerful—John 17
When you have unity, it’s amazing. When you don’t, it’s awful. Unity lightens the heart and brightens the day. It is inspirational, an abundant source of joy and optimism, allowing even the most mundane tasks to be enjoyable. Productivity can only be fully optimized when unity prevails. That makes unity a top priority for missional Christians and the Church. Psalm 133:1 declares, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” And Jesus’ prayer in John 17 reveals how much He valued unity. It is our first core value because all other values depend on it.
2. Unity is Fragile—Acts 6
Unity can be lost in a moment. A wrong word or look can introduce drama into any relationship. Seriously, it can happen quickly, just like it did in the early church. Disunity steals away joy, creates distraction, and slows productivity. Disunity can turn even the most pleasant task into a chore to be endured.
Why is unity, especially in the Church, so fragile? There are several reasons, and at the top of the list would have to be our human penchant for squabbling, but here’s another reason I find to be rather significant: the Church is both an organism and an organization — and being both at the same time isn’t easy.
The Church is an organism (living, growing, and reproducing naturally without being forced or contrived). Like a plant, the Church must be nurtured rather than manufactured. Participants willingly yield self-interests as love guides, guards, and nourishes the organism.
But the Church is also an organization (a group of people identified by a shared interest or purpose). Like a business, it must be structured around a mission involving rules, beliefs, authority, calendars, budgets, and metrics. Willing participants are required to yield self-interests as the organization pursues the greater mission.
Existing simultaneously as an organism and an organization causes unique unity challenges for the Church. That’s what happened in Acts 6 — something organic got so big it needed to be organized — and when that transition didn’t happen quickly enough, it caused drama.
Confession: There are times when we want the church to be organic and other times when we want it to be organized — and we want our leaders to know which one we prefer at any given moment.
Organic nurturing and organizational manufacturing are two very different processes, yet they can coexist successfully. Jesus often used agriculture (farming and shepherding) to illustrate how both can and should work together. See Matthew 13; Luke 15:1-7; John 10:1-18.
A farmer cannot make seeds grow. Growth is organic. See I Corinthians 3:7. A farmer can, however, through organizational means, remove obstacles that would keep seeds from growing. The organization of timing, nutrients, water, and protection can exponentially increase organic productivity. Growth is God’s job. Our job is to remove any obstacle that would keep growth from happening. It’s a divine partnership between God and us. The church can and must be both — and we must be willing to allow it to be both — even if we prefer one over the other.
3. Unity is often misunderstood—I Corinthians 12, Romans 12
Paul used the human body and its many parts to describe how many different things can exist in perfect unity. Unity does not require that we all agree. Unity does not need to be unanimity or conformity. You can manufacture or coerce unanimity and conformity without experiencing unity. Unity, because it is organic, must be nurtured. This simple truth confounds tyrants and dictators who do not understand unity’s organic nature.
Unity can exist beautifully in harmony. Differences of opinion can still work together — and the sound can be beautiful. It’s OK to disagree and participate in spirited debate, but at some point, a decision must be made. Once the decision is made, it’s time to lay down our differences and work together in unity to accomplish the greater mission. One of my favorite sayings is, “I’d rather be united than prove I’m right.” It’s OK to let someone else be right — and believe it or not — sometimes they are! You’ll never discover that unless you let someone else be right.
4. Unity Creates Resonance—Psalm 45:1
Resonance is natural vibration caused by shared characteristics. Resonance adds fullness and depth to a musical experience. Also known as sympathetic vibration, musicians and architects often work together to encourage resonance in cathedrals and concert venues. Resonance is at work when people say, “I could feel the music.”
In Psalm 45:1, we read about resonance: “My heart is stirred by a noble theme.” Resonance in the church is powerful. Resonance is what causes people to say, “When I came into this place, it just felt right.” But like musicians and architects, church leaders and participants must work very hard at stimulating resonance. This is done through unified vision-casting (a noble theme, vision, mission) and by creating a unified culture of authentic love, worship, servanthood, and humility. It takes work, sacrifice, and discipline, but the beautiful resonance of unity can be nurtured.
Once we understand the organic and organized nature of unity, we can all work together to create and preserve it. We have a divine responsibility to do so. Without unity, we cannot fulfill the mission.