You & Me & Unity

This past Sunday, I shared some thoughts on unity. For the Church to be what Jesus calls us to be, unity must be a priority of everyone. It’s my job, and it’s your job — because unity only happens when every one of us takes seriously our responsibility to do the hard work of loving, challenging, and encouraging one another.

When we work hard at unity, we not only become the family of God we are called to be, but we also show the world what God looks like. For God is one. And in Him, we are one. And we live this out so that the world might be won. That’s not my idea; that’s Jesus (John 17.20-23).

So, let me challenge you to take unity seriously. Whether you are old or young, male or female, a leader or a follower — do your part for unity. Roll up your sleeves and help Fern Creek (or whatever church is your family) grow together as one.

Specifically, let me reiterate three ways I mentioned Sunday that you can help build the unity of our church:

  1. Deal with stuff. If there is something going on between you and someone else, take the initiative to deal with it. Talk with them. Listen to them. Allow God to bring understanding and grace and healing where there was frustration and hurt feelings. Don’t sit on stuff; or gossip about it; or pout about it. Take the step of dealing with it.
  2. Get to know someone completely different than you. How cool would it be if in our church everyone made a point of getting to know someone who is on the opposite end of the spectrum: whether it is age difference, or language, or economic situation, or even how you think church should be done. The way we break down walls of difference is not pretend like they don’t exist, or ignore them, but learn to love through them. And the only way to do that is to get to know others who are very different than you. Not to change them, but to love them.
  3. Remember that church is not a consumer relationship, but a covenant relationship. On Sunday I shared the story of a man who used Close-Up toothpaste for seven years but is now suing the company, because in all those years, not once did he get a date. (Well, I guess you could sue over that, but it might just be easier to switch to Crest.) Now, his expectations might have been skewed, but his is an extreme example of how a consumer relationship works: I buy something, and it meets my expectations. If it doesn’t, then I move on to another product. That mindset may work when it comes to toothpaste; it is deadly when it comes to the Church. We are called into a covenant relationship — one where our wholeness and restoration come through the death of Jesus. A covenant relationship means we belong to Him — and each other. And unlike a consumer relationship, we don’t trade each other in for a newer model. Instead, we recognize that we are family — and family grows best by sticking with each other through the months and the years, and through the good times and the bad.

Remember that what binds us together is not what you feel, or even what you feel about others in our church. Church is not simply a collection of preferences, and our unity is not dependent on all of us liking the preaching, or the music, or the programs. Church unity is not even about us agreeing on everything.

Instead, what holds us together is not any of those things. It’s Jesus. And if you are holding onto Jesus, then you are holding onto His Church. After all, isn’t that what unity is all about?

From June to January

Last June, I took a week-long ministry class in Tennessee. It was a really good week, where we talked about current trends in ministry (who wouldn’t be excited by that?). But it was a good week even beyond the class. For that week, I roomed with a friend of mine. It gave us an opportunity to talk, commiserate, encourage each other, and laugh together.

At some point during the week, as my friend and I talked, out of the blue I asked him: Would you ever consider coming on staff at Fern Creek Christian? It was a “what-if” question for a position that didn’t exist.

Or so I thought. The next month, I found out that our staff was changing, and the month after that, my role changed. All of this opened up a position on staff for someone to join us in the area of discipleship. Cue: the friend I talked with last June. His name is Rich Teske, and he will be with us at Fern Creek on Wednesday, January 22. He will be here to speak for our 6:30 midweek study, and to talk further with our elders about the role of discipleship minister.

I hope you’ll join us January 22. Even if you are not a regular Wednesday night person — that’s ok; join us anyway. It will give you a chance to hear from Rich, and meet him, his wife Connie, and their son Isaac. For over 20 years, Rich has served as the director of Reach Out on Campus — a ministry at Ohio University in Athens.

I am excited about what Rich would bring to our church, and to our ability to help people grow to become more like Jesus. It’s why I first talked with him last June; it’s why we are talking with him now.

The Church Is…

I heard once about a church that went by the name: Nothing Fancy Holiness Church. And it was truly that; the church met in what looked like half a garage. That gets me to wonder: what does the Church look like when it is stripped down to bare essentials? If you had to take away the frills and the extras, what would church involve? If there really were “nothing fancy” about church, what would it look like?

First off, we know that “church” is “people.” No matter the building or the size, church is the people whom God has called together as family to live out his mission — together, and for the sake of the world. The word Paul uses for this in 1 Corinthians 1:2 is “saints.” This means that if you a part of the family of God, His Church, then you are a saint. You may not feel like a saint. You may not always act like a saint. But Paul says you are. We are. Together, the people of God are the saints of God. Despite our failures, foibles, and fumblings. Despite our struggles and sorrows. We are God’s people. And somehow God, in his infinite grace, chooses to use us for His purposes in the world. Despite our weaknesses.

But maybe that’s the point. Because another essential aspect of the Church is that we are rooted in Jesus. And His strength. So perhaps we are at our best when we recognize our weaknesses — and they are many — and trust in the One who calls us, restores us, and sends us out. Broken people, for a broken world, following a Savior who was broken for us.

On January 19 at Fern Creek, we begin a five-week series on the Church: “Foundations: Growing a Church from the Ground Up.” We will look at what the “essentials” are that make a church. We’ll be reminded what church is, no matter where it meets or how big or small it is. And we will be challenged to be the saints we are, rooted in the strength of the One who has saved us.