This is part 2 of a 3 part series on why ENP believes that to transform Fresno neighborhoods we need the Whole Gospel, Whole Church, and Whole City.
What denomination are you from? Are you Catholic or Protestant? What do you believe about the topics of the Holy Spirit, Biblical Inerrancy, Women in Ministry, etc?
It is human nature to want to quickly put people into a box or a category. We want to know “are you on my team or are you on the other team?”. We want to know who is in and out is out (I have written here about that issue), but these are questions most often used to divide instead of unite.
As we continue our series of looking how we need the Whole Church to transform our city, we have to recognize the ways we are cutting off the potential to what God would do in our city by limiting who we work with and join alongside.
Jesus was clear that there is one church.
Many great things came from the Reformation, but we have to be honest that a lot of damage and division has also come about from the Reformation. One of the biggest issues is the distrust we have for each other within the body of Christ (for proof check out this list of Christian Denominations).
Scripture is clear over and over that we need each other. But we have to recognize that we often think of the person next to us in our church and not the Christian in another denomination or worship style when we hear Jesus’ message. If we step back and re-read the Bible from the lens of anyone that proclaims Jesus as Lord of their life, the unity the scriptures call us to will encourage us to walk with others outside of our Christian expression.
Taken from To Transform a City, Eric Swanson lays out three helpful ideas of what kind of unity we need to foster city transformation—the unity of the family, the unity of fellowship, and the unity of purpose. (1)
Unity of Family
making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:3-6
Paul encourages the church to make every effort, be intentional, look forward to becoming family. When we dedicate our lives to being like Jesus we are now together across all lines of division. In Him we all have faith and oneness. In Him we are all a part of the same family. ‘So far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.’ (Romans 12:18)
Unity of Fellowship
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15: 5-7
Jesus’ followers have the opportunity and responsibility to welcome others just as Christ has welcomed us. We do this for their benefit and to model and reflect what Christ as done for us. He promises to strengthen and support us as we are inclusive, and the result and end goal is that we will worship the King together. It won’t be easy, but it will be delightful.
Unity of Purpose
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Philippians 2:1 – 4
I love this passage. Paul is using a bit of exaggeration to encourage us to love. He says, “If you have gotten anything from Jesus… any love, Holy Spirit… Please do this… Be of the same mind. Serve. Be Humble. Love well.” We are called together as a body, because of the work of Christ, to look out for the interest of others.
You notice something through these 3 visions of unity? They are all going somewhere. They start with recognizing we are all on the same team. With Jesus as our Lord, we can move forth into this world to serve.
Are we going to agree on all the fine points of doctrine? No.
Can we all agree that we have a hurting world in need of hope, restoration, and repair? Of course.
Let’s link arms together on that mission with the Body of Christ in our city to see our neighborhoods transformed.
*Action Step: Have a learning conversation with someone from a stem of Christianity different than yours. Find common ground and talk about how you can encourage each other to serve your city together.
(1) Swanson, Eric; Williams, Sam (2010-09-07). To Transform a City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City (p. 104). Zondervan.