A Passion for Unity

H.B. London One of the things that concerns me as I observe the church is the fragile nature of the word unity. It does not take much to divide a congregation, eliminate the effectiveness of the pastor and stunt the growth or the influence within the community. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research conducted a study of more than 14,000 U.S. congregations that noted 51 percent of them have had a serious conflict in the previous three years. The study also indicated that lingering conflict was associated with declining vitality and membership.

Until we make unity one of our highest priorities as pastors and people, we will continue to send a negative signal to the watching world. They will avoid us.

Several years ago, Stan Toler and I wrote The Minister's Little Devotional Book. In it, we told the story of a church that was having great success. They were performing miracles and great numbers of people were turning to the Lord. Then problems surfaced. The church treasurer ran off with the money. The leaders in the congregation kept upsetting one person or another. One of the associates always acted impulsively and immaturely. Finally, the situation became so unbearable that many of the faithful moved to another city to worship. Sound familiar? It was the first church — comprised of the people who had most recently been with Jesus!

Someone once said, "Tying two cats' tails together does not necessarily constitute unity." So what does? Please consider the following as you seek to unify your congregation and maintain peace within your fellowship:

  • Bridle the tongue.
  • Don't break a promise.
  • Let praise be the rule, not criticism.
  • Value people more than programs.
  • Make joy and laughter a priority.
  • Communicate openly and fairly.
  • Attack gossip and backbiting with the truth.
  • Accept one another's differences.
  • Live by the prayer that Jesus prayed for us, "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:22,23).

I talk with pastors and their staff members regularly and find that far too often their mind-set is about winning — having their own way regardless of the consequences. That mind-set leads only to bitterness, separation and destruction. It is high time that the world see us practice what we preach.

Taken from the Pastors Family edition of Focus on the Family magazine, August 2002.
Article Copyright © 2002, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Dr. H.B. London is the vice president of Pastoral Ministries for Focus on the Family and the author of numerous books on and for pastors. He served as a Nazarene pastor for over 30 years in several churches in Oregon and California. He and his wife, Beverley, live primarily in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have two sons and four grandchildren.