After a morning men’s bible study led by one of our core group folks, I headed over to Atlanta Bread Company. While trying to have a morning devotion, I overheard some encouraging conversation a few tables over. I don’t want to unthinkingly baptize nosiness in Christian terms, but I think there is a place of “holy eavesdropping.” Paul walked through the towns and looked, and was distressed. I’m pretty sure he also overheard conversations where he wasn’t immediately involved. Since I don’t have “spidey-sense” and can’t look into people’s hearts like Jesus, this is all I have. I guess it probably depends upon the intent of the eavesdropping. Is it for selfish gain or to discern how best to minister?
Regardless, I overheard some encouraging conversations today. Now I was across the room, but I clearly heard the words “pastor” and “message” and “discipleship.” Some good words to hear. From all appearances, it seemed as though an older dude was mentoring a younger lad.
That’s a good thing.
Whether it be a discipling/mentoring relationship or an informal bible study from whence I came just 15 minutes prior, we were experiencing unity. Even before Queen Latifah sang, “U.N.I.T.Y.” Jesus prayed for unity. Since I started writing this post I took a break and introduced myself. The younger lad happened to be the local mega-church campus pastor. Even if we hadn’t connected personally, we were in some ways truly expressing the unity Christ prayed for in John 17. Now perhaps not to the extent that Christ prayed, but this is a big deal. I would much rather be unified in that we are both using local breakfast establishments to move people toward maturity in Christ than I would come together for a big rah-rah meeting. I’m not arguing against these meetings, but I think folks reduce unity to different denominations getting together.
But is that necessarily the unity Jesus wants? Wouldn’t he rather His people be unified across denominations in making disciples than a bunch of denominations getting together for the purpose of unity? Now I think we need to get together cross denominationally in order to learn how to better make disciples. I have much to learn from different denominations. I really enjoyed learning from different folks at the G.C.A. church planting conference and will probably take advantage of more such conferences next year.
Yet I don’t feel unified with those same 30 or so denominations represented because we met together and sang some great songs and heard some moving messages. That’s good. But personally I feel more unified with them because we are going out to a hostile world and starting new gospel centered churches. I feel more unified when we are across the street-or even better, at the same restraunt-making disciples than getting together for “unity meetings.”
I’m not arguing there is no place for such, nor am I arguing that unity in mission is the only unity we should ever seek. But I do think we need to recognize unity in mission as substantial, legitimate, encouraging, and part of what it means to really have fellowship as we participate in the Great Commission with folks who look way different than each other. If we are encouraged to see discipleship happening in our area, then Christ’s prayer “that they may be one” is being answered. If we are jealous of someone else “on our turf,” then we know unity is lacking, regardless how many “unity” meetings we attend.