The Pillars of Community XV:
Community & Unity
April 19, 2009
· Sermon 11, Cecil’s conflict sermon
· EDASC notes, notes
· All passages, unity verse (in leftovers)
Intro: Importance of unity
· We are back in our series on community, driven by our mission statement, which I should have memorized now after the video.
Obviously, unity is essential for community. Without it, community is just a farce, like a couple that seems fine till they get divorced – there were cracks just below the surface.
Superficial unity is easy: 1)Keep your group small enough that you never disagree or annoy each other, which is unacceptable to those who genuinely want to engage their culture.
· Unity takes more effort the bigger we get.
· But God is blessing us in both numbers and diversity.
2) Keep things so surface level we never have to deal with differences or disagreements, which is unacceptable to those who genuinely want community.
· Conflict is vital to closeness.
The real question is not “Is unity important?” but “How can we be unified as a church body as we grow and become more diverse?”
· Today we’ll study Phil. 2:1-11 and five key element of unity.
Thank you that the church is more unified in diversity than I’ve ever known it to be. As Jesus said, may we be known for love.
To the Philippians
As I looked at all of the passages on unity, this covers it best, and not just because I’ve preached on this passage.
Philippians is one of my favorite books. Rather than having to deal with dysfunction, they are relatively healthy, but there is a little problem with discord (compared to the Corinthians).
Even in a healthy church, disunity is an ever present challenge, because everything in our sinful nature pulls against it. Pride and selfishness are always at work to pull the community apart, so we always have to pull it back together.
Philippians 2:2-4 2 ...make my joy complete by being like-minded,
having the same love,
being one in spirit and purpose.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
“Be like minded” in a common expression that means be unified. It does not mean that we are a bunch of mindless zombies that don’t think for themselves, but rather that there is harmony within the diversity, as we shall see soon.
Paul describes five elements that are keys for unity:
1. Love and affection for each other
2. Being united in purpose
3. Not building our own kingdom
4. Be humble
5. Serve each other
Love & Affection
“Same love” either means having the same love for each other among yourselves or having the same love as Jesus had. In either case, the first element is love, which is not surprising.
Without love, community is impossible, because love is basically caring for someone else, and community is about the other.
· While love is first of all a choice, and not an emotion, we would be unwise to leave it there.
“Ministry would be great if it weren’t for the people.” I hate that joke! A genuine affection for those I serve is vital. Likewise, mutual affection for each other is vital to unity.
· You can’t just love each other; you need to like each other!
Not only does affection make community more enjoyable, but if we don’t like each other, it easy to assume the worst, spread gossip, and be impatient. It’s easier for Satan to sow discord.
· Affection is to disunity what vitamin C is to the cold season: It makes you less likely to get sick and you recover quicker.
Q Who in this community rubs you the wrong way?
Here are a couple of tips:
1. Pray for a change of attitude, see as God sees.
2. Pray sincerely for well-being and growth.
3. Look for the good.
4. Be patient with the progress.
5. Remember someone is going through the same process for you!
Bottom line: Strive to like everyone here!
The next element is “being one in spirit and purpose.” Unity does not mean uniformity, rather it is a common goal and purpose, like a body under one head.
Ephesians 4:15-16 ...we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
· It is like a symphony, with many instruments, but one goal and one conductor.
When all of our different skills, abilities, and perspectives are united by a common spirit to achieve a common goal, we find that the more powerful unity within diversity, “uni-diversity”!
· It doesn’t mean we agree on everything or always get along.
Where this is life there is conflict, and that is okay. A cemetery is the only conflict free gathering of people. Where there are differences, there will be disagreements.
· To a point, we are better and stronger for our difference.
Are you IN harmony?
I say “to a point” because there’s a point when the differences are too great to allow folks to work together. There has to be harmony in the church, agreement in spirit and purpose.
Unity occurs on two levels and crucial on both: 1) all believers and 2) in each congregation.
In both areas, unity means we recognize that we’re part of the same family, we’re on the same team, and we have the same objectives. The difference lies in the degree of harmony need:
· Unity with Christians from other churches only requires agreement on the main points – Jesus being Lord and Savior.
· Unity within a church requires some level of agreement on core theology, the church’s mission, core values, and methodology.
In order for us to be a unified community, we need to agree on these core elements. If you think that Christians should isolate themselves from the world, you might have a hard time here!
· There is lots of right ways to do church, this is one.
· We have had several folks leave the church in the past year because the church no longer fits them, and that’s okay.
Building the right kingdom
Next Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit...” Few things can destroy unity faster than selfish ambition. Elsewhere in context of the church body, Paul says:
Colossians 3:5 (NIV) Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality...and greed, which is idolatry.
The main emphasis is on “Greed”. Our Greek prof. said “greed” was a reference to a lust for power. We though it strange that Paul put more emphasis on that then on sexual immorality.
he said, “That because you’re not married and all you can think about is not having sex. Sexual immorality is damaging, but nothing compared to damage from power struggles in the church.”
· Whenever we are more interested in building our personal kingdom than God’s, we will destroy unity.
pride & Humility
Selfish ambition and vain conceit are driven by pride. Pride hates everything about community and is perhaps its greatest threat. Humility is antidote to pride and the next key to unity:
Philippians 2:3 NIV...but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
A good definition of pride is the need to compare oneself to others. Humility is the freedom to be ourselves without comparison, being confident in God’s love and acceptance.
C.S. Lewis said humility is the ability to build the greatest cathedral in the world, know and rejoice that is the greatest, yet care no more or less than if someone else created it.
· Imagine how much more unity there would be if we all strove to do our best and didn’t care who got the credit!
Serving one another
Finally, unity requires that we serve each other. Community is on mutual service and interdependence – we all need each other.
Philippians 2:4 NIV Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
I have defined community as a place we belong, grow, and serve. Service is a vital part of community and building unity, both for the sake of the individual and the community.
You need to serve
The individual becomes stagnant without because we have been designed to give and serve.
· The only difference between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea is that the Dead Sea receives but doesn’t give.
I say we’re designed to serve because we’re made in God’s image, and God is a servant. We find our greatest joy when we serve.
· Even secular authorities recognize this (EDASC speech).
This includes both serving in specific capacities and attitude of serving and helping in small ways.
We need you to serve
The community falls apart without it since nothing gets done. When I took over, they too few people were doing too much. There are a lot more people, but there are still many needs unfilled:
· Sunday school
· Scripture reading
· Coffee shop
· Potluck set up/clean up
· Pre-service set up
· Opening/Closing building
· Ground keeping
· Building maintenance
· Website updating
· Sound & PowerPoint
· Bulletin prep.
If you want to help in some of these ways, talk to Peter. As the Lead Deacon, he oversees these. He is also looking for more deacons to help oversee this.
Each of us have a skill to offer that the rest of us need. Being a community means that (like a family) each of us need to do our part for the sake of the whole.
Q & A
Christ our example
In the end, we want to act like our master and savior:
NIV Philippians 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When we are unified, it brings glory to God by showing the world what God is like: loving, giving, serving, and humble. In the loving, unified community, the world sees how good God is.