The Local Comm
- from Make a UTurn by Lyndsay Jacobs
ian unity may seem distant and abstract. In fact the local church is the ideal
place to emphasise its centrality and importance. The local church can think globally and act locally. Here are ten reasons why an effective local church will focus on unity:
1. An effective local church will focus on unity because the unity of the whole church must be built on grass roots unity if it is to be real. To use another metaphor, a sound building cannot be built with weak bricks. We must always be intentional about building community in our congregations. The grace and presence of God must be evident. Patience, tolerance and understanding must constantly overcome arrogance and being self-centered.
2. An effective local church will focus on unity because enthusiasm for unity needs to come from everybody. Leaders cannot create unity if local folks don't see the point.
3. An effective local church will focus on unity because
unity is at the heart of the gospel
. The gospel is about good relationships with God and others.
You shall love the Lord your God...and you shall love your neighbour a
We cannot preach reconciliation and practise division. We must practise what we preach. A good place to start is with those Christians we see most often.
4. An effective local church will focus on unity because
Christian unity is the will of God, the prayer of Christ and the primary sign of God's presence
. What God sees as important, we make important too.
5. An effective local church will focus on unity because
the world desperately needs a model of community
and the church is intentionally that model. A picture is worth a thousand words. A local church in action is a picture. St. Francis challenged us to preach the gospel - but using words only if necessary, he said. In comm
we must model the truth of the gospel.
6. An effective local church will focus on unity because
unity is a key New Testament theme
. We are well aware of Jesus' prayer for unity (John 17), the body of Christ image (1 Corinthians chapter 12) and the
one Lord, One faith, one baptism
emphasis of Ephesians 4. But we need to remember that unity is a constant New Testament and early church theme. To be biblical Christians we must take the Bible very seriously.
7. An effective local church will focus on unity because at parish/congregational level
we can learn about ( and practise) unity in diversity. There is a great range of opinion, attitude and expectation within virtually all congregations. Here we can practise tolerance. We need to hold our diversity - even in tension - as we resolve the way forward - together. Here we can practise being the body of Christ where every part matters.
8. An effective local church will focus on unity because here
we can learn that fellowship doesn't depend on agreement
. With any 'issue' congregations need to develop the approach of identifying what is agreed on, and what needs continuing discussion, understanding that we are a people who remain bound together. This is where the hard stuff needs to be dealt with if we are to be credible witnesses for Christ. Here we can learn the skills, develop policies and set up procedures to prevent and deal with disagreement and diversity. Above all we must recall that being related is more important than being right.
9. An effective local church will focus on unity because
the church is there for others
. Barriers between church and community cannot be overcome if the congregation does not model comm
is the base for effective service and mission.
10. Finally, an effective local church will focus on unity because
we are people of the table
. Here we can understand that we all belong around one table. The Lord's table. The invitation to attend is Christ's. He is our host and he is inclusive. We are family here. As they say, you can choose your friends, but not your relations.