The question has been raised by many in the church as to why there needs to be genuine unity and connectedness among believers. Dr. Howard A. Snyder many years ago wrote an excellent book that dealt with this entire area. In The Community of the King (IVP, 1977 pgs. 173-175) he gives four purposes for the unity and connectedness of the church taken from John 17:
- The primary purpose for the unity of the Church is that God may be glorified. v1
- The secondary purpose is the authentic communication of the good news. v21-22
- The third purpose for unity is unity with Christ and thus with the Trinity. v11, 21, 23
- This unity is both unity in truth and unity in life; both orthodoxy and orthopraxis. v6-8, 17
Dr. Francis Schaeffer called this “the orthodoxy of community” by which he meant that out in the world the community of the church must function as a united and connected unit, as the Bible directs, in order to be effective. Notice the final point that when there is biblical unity and connectedness there will also be orthodoxy. What that tells me is that where committed and consecrated togetherness is being constantly fostered, the church will be able to meet disruptive, digressive and divergent doctrinal challenges quickly and thoroughly such as the council in Jerusalem in Acts 15. The human reasons for the success of that important, early council were that 1) divergent views were not allowed to fester, and 2) those who gathered were not total strangers to each other; thus solid groundwork for both listening and working together had already been established. We are joined together spiritually whether we like it or not, so let's make the most and the best of it for God's glory!
Now I hope some of you are wondering about just how this unity and connectedness can be shown in everyday practice. Though there are countless ways to show this unity, I’ll share a couple of illustrations.
First, this past February my wife and I made a return trip to the field where we served for a dozen years in the CRC. How good it was to see all the people again! During an afternoon conversation with some of the pastors in the area, I inquired whether or not the pastors and wives were meeting together from time to time as we had in the past. Such times were so helpful and a dream come true for us. To our dismay those times had stopped, for no one was really interested enough to make the effort to continue them. A built-in time for togetherness and staying connected just allowed to cease!
Secondly, Luke 16:8 has been coming to mind often since a long time minister friend of mine suddenly passed away, “The children of this world are wiser than the children of light in dealing with their contemporaries”. He had served faithfully in ministry for many years and was very well known. Countless ministers had served with this man on the committees, courts and assemblies of his denomination for over 40 years. His memorial service announcement was in the paper several days prior to the event. When the day came, only the large congregation which he served and its staff were present. As I looked over the gathering, I counted only five or six ministers present who were not part of the local church or on the program. What I would have loved to see was an entire section filled with fellow ministers there to grieve and celebrate the home going of one who had labored long and hard with them.
Let me speak to the above point. I am so glad that the friend we lost to glory was in a very large church as his dear wife and family were not alone. What about the majority of us? If our Lord should call us home first, will our spouses have to stand by themselves when we go? Or will there be a host of fellow ministers with whom we labored shoulder to shoulder there with them to share both the burden and the joy?
Ministering to each other does not stop with one local congregation, or an official church assembly meeting! We have served and do serve Christ united to each other and to Him. “All one body, we! One in faith and doctrine, one in charity!”
If bikers show up when one of their own has fallen, if law enforcement personnel come en masse when one of their own has been killed in the line of duty, if Shriners congregate at the funerals and gravesides of their members, is it not incumbent upon us as a demonstration of the unity and connectedness of the body of Christ to take it upon ourselves to attend when physically possible the services of those we have labored closely with, who have carried the banner of the cross in our own denomination? After all, we are brothers together in arms: arms of the love of Christ and his church!
Soli deo Gloria.