Unity and Mission

Last night I spoke at the Tarrant Area Community of Churches along with Commissioner Roy Brooks (a member of Morningside UMC). I could not help but be struck by the fact that when I was a child such events were unheard of. Today they are so common place that they are taken for granted.

I made the glaringly obvious case that unity is for the purpose of mission. Jesus’ prayer for the disciples (that us!) in John 17 lays out the importance of unity in and for mission for all Christians everywhere. In fact the biblical theme for the evening came from the resurrection story of the road to Emmaus in the 24th chapter of Luke’s gospel. “You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:48) This theme was chosen in Scotland during the planning phase of the anniversary of the 1910 World Mission Conference which marked the beginnings of the modern ecumenical movement. It was chosen rightly for it calls us to something central to the gospel –our essential unity in Christ. But it does not call us to unity (“oneness”) because that is nice or good thing (though it may be both of those). Instead we are called into unity by the very resurrection of Jesus who rising conquerors the powers of sin, hell, and death. We are to be one for His mission “so that the world may believe that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”(John 17:23

In my reading of the gathering, the auidance was far more interested in mission than in unity. Unity in mission seemed virtually taken for granted. A part of me celebrates this and a part of me is deeply concerned. My childhood taught me that it should not be taken for granted. My adult life in ministry constantly reminds me that when our theological and biblical underpinnings are not constantly reinformce we gradually drift from the convictions that once made us strong.

I thank God for the work in Christian unity going on through groups like the Tarrant Area Community of Churches. I also believe there is much more careful and thoughtful dialogue needed about genuine deep unity as Christ followers.

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