What’s the easiest, most effective way for pastors to create and maintain a spirit of unity in their congregations?
It might be easier than you imagine!
First, let’s consider the biblical admonition.
Diligent to Keep Unity
The New Testament says Paul prayed that we would be “”¦ eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” ÏƒÏ€Î¿Ï…Î´Î¬Î¶Î¿Î½Ï„ÎµÏ‚ Ï„Î·ÏÎµá¿–Î½ Ï„á½´Î½ á¼‘Î½ÏŒÏ„Î·Ï„Î± Ï„Î¿á¿¦ Ï€Î½ÎµÏÎ¼Î±Ï„Î¿Ï‚. (Ephesians 4:3).
“Eager” (from the Gr spoude) refers to something that requires intense effort and motivation. The same word is used in Romans 12:8 “¦ “”¦ the one who leads, with zeal”¦” Titus told by Paul to do his best to get Zenas and Apollos started on their travels (Titus 3:13). The overall sense is “Do your best. Work hard.” In other words, extend effort to get something done. Effort is expensive, it is emotionally and physically costly, but it produces powerful outcomes.
People learn unity from their role models
Leaders model behavior. People copy the behavior modeled by their leaders. Thus the bible says that church leaders are to “”¦ set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12).
When it comes to establishing unity in the congregation no one has more influence than the pastor.
When a pastor or church leader shows favoritism or backbiting or unresolved controversy, he models what he believes to be true about unity. But in these behaviors contribute to disunity. Showing special care toward someone or a group of people, intentionally or not, harms the unity of the church. People watch the Shepherd’s actions and will follow his lead. Pastors who have been taught “peacemaking” may belie its value by their actions.
Unity is based on integrity of actions far more than on words
Integrity in the matter of unity is more important than a plenitude of sermons. You may be extremely frustrated with someone because of what they’ve done. But your verbal assault (even if it is well deserved) will pollute your effort to bring unity – especially with your leadership team, because they will take their cue from you As difficult and costly (sacrificial?) as your effort in maintaining unity today may be, it will slowly shut down the fires of struggles between people.
In practical terms that means taking great effort toward the goal of unity by personally avoiding controversy and squabbling. The moral high ground you gain from a powerful example allows you to make requests of others built from observed integrity in your own life. That’s the beginning of unity. You can do that today.
In 1950, a routine Indy car pit crews consisted of four men””including the driver! No one was allowed to get near the car except this small crew of specialists. A routine pit stop to replace two tires and fill the tank back then took more than 60 seconds.
Today, a crew consists of 11 members””excluding the driver””that works together with practiced harmony. A pit stop to replaces all four tires, adjusts the wings, and tops off the tank takes less than eight seconds!
When church crews work together in a spirit of unity and cooperation they can accomplish amazing things. But when there’s disunity the work falls on the shoulders of a few, often the pastor himself. The work is slow, the hours are long and the results are discouraging.
Some questions for reflection:
- Would people say you have surrounded yourself with a ‘clique’ of people who rarely challenge your thinking?
- Are you able to relate the truth of a situation with a church member without damaging or disparaging the person?
- Looking back over the past year, have your speech and actions fueled the fire of disunity or brought grace and peace to bring unity?
- Are you the example you expect of others?