Recently I walked away from our Church Family Night reflecting on King David’s observation in Psalm 133:1 – Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! That evening we had discussed a possible change in our church constitution, processed four challenging church discipline cases, and even reviewed the conflict of interest policy each of our elected officials signs and follows.
Each of those situations could have resulted in drama, dissension, and division. However, in our case, while there were plenty of solid questions and observations, everyone stayed joyfully engaged in a way that was healthy, positive, and productive. David’s words were and are true – it is good and pleasant when people dwell together in a unified way. I believe this unity flows out of four key commitments.
1. Remember that Jesus is the head of our church, even in the way we conduct our discussions and deliberations.
Our Lord prayed before going to the cross that we would be unified (John 17:20-21). His death, burial, and resurrection makes it possible for us to be transformed in the way we relate to those around us. We would say with the apostle Paul – He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything (Colossians 1:18). When we all remember that Jesus is the Head of our Church, it helps us place our views and opinions in the proper priority. Even when we see things differently, we want the way we express those views and opinions to honor our Savior.
2. Solve problems quickly before unsolved issues take on a life of their own.
Paul told the Ephesians – Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger… (4:26). As I discuss church challenges with pastors and leaders from other churches, I am amazed at how hard it is for some groups of people to decide anything. Even a discussion about the color of the new carpet in the foyer sets off a minor war. When you start peeling the layers from the onion, you often find that the carpet disagreement erupted because of an affront at a previous business meeting years ago that was never addressed and solved. It is never easy to face problems head on, but Paul’s command not to let the sun go down on our anger is clear and powerful.
3. Let our interactions be characterized by biblical love.
In the great love chapter in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul explained that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (verse 7). In other words, love gives the benefit of the doubt. That does not mean that we should never ask hard questions or challenge one another’s beliefs, positions, or assumptions. However, there is such a thing as loving deliberation that solves problems, improves proposals, and still results in stronger relationships than when the meeting began.
4. Stay focused on the “majors” instead of becoming mired in the “minors.”
Also at Church Family Night, we had the privilege of seeing a number of men and women follow the Lord in believer’s baptism. Then we heard testimonies from a number of other people who were becoming members of our church family. We were able to hear about and pray for Faith Christian School and the upcoming Passion Play. We enjoyed several tremendous songs from our school’s worship team and then celebrated the Lord’s table together. All of us would say that those elements were more important than the business items we had to process. Yes, it is all important, but activities that are most closely aligned with our core mission is what interests and excites us.
Let’s never take our unity for granted. And let us redouble our efforts to, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).