A WORD ABOUT UNITY
Two years ago, when I was here in Rwanda, to train pastors, the Lord woke me up one night, and stressed how important it was that I speak about unity. And the unity that I speak about is not the unity that needs to exist within your own congregation. It is obvious that unity within a local fellowship is very important. But it is also strategic that there be unity in the Larger Body of Christ in a specific region or city.
Let me ask you a question: When Almighty God looks down from Heaven on a particular city or town, how many churches does He see? The answer is: ONE CHURCH! There are many congregations but really, one church. And when pastors in a specific region discover that they all belong to the ONE CHURCH that Jesus died to establish, God starts to bless that work.
Turn in your Bibles to John, chapter 17. A few things to note about this prayer of Jesus. First, it is the longest prayer by Jesus that we find in the Bible. Also, it references us, down in the year 2010 more than any other prayer that Jesus prayed, and perhaps any other prayer in the Bible. Think of it this way: when Jesus looked down the corridors of time, on the last night of his earthly life, before He suffered and died on the cross—what do you think that He would pray—what ONE THING would be so important to Him? Let’s look it up and read it. John 17:20-21— “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Here is what Jesus is saying: when all of his followers start being unified, and act as one, then the world will believe that God sent Jesus—in other words, people will believe our message!
Let me quickly give you one more passage. Look up Psalm 133. This psalm is all about unity: verse one says “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” Look at verse three: “For there the Lord bestows his blessing….” In one older English translation, it says “For thereGod commands the blessing.” And here’s the message: where unity exists, God commands that a blessing come into that situation.
Let me quickly share with you some of my own testimony about unity. When I was at a church in central California, I identified with pastors in Modesto, California. We reached out to every Christian pastor, who believed the Bible, and we started to meet together. Later on, these pastors started to pray every week together. Wonderful things happened. When I was there, they had an evangelist, Luis Palau, come, and there were 2000 people who accepted Christ. The opening service was on a Sunday night. Churches dismissed their services to attend. There were 13000 people who came, the largest Christian audience in the history of Modesto. Years later, one church hosted an evangelistic outreach involving a drama that presents Christ very forcefully. Many churches got involved, and Christians all over the region, started to attend the play, bringing their non-Christian friends and neighbors. When it was all over, 53,000 people had accepted Christ. Many churches doubled in size, and had to add more services, to accommodate all the new believers.
I moved to Oregon, to a place called Klamath Falls. Again, the first thing we did was to bring the pastors together in unity. I started a prayer meeting and ten pastors from all kinds of Christian churches came. Some were Pentecostal. Others were Baptists or some other church. We started to pray together once a month. Then they moved it to every week. Then we started to have lunch together once a month. Again, my church and two other churches, sponsored an evangelistic outreach. Many churches joined in, and nearly 1000 people accepted Christ. I remembered that I baptized 56 people in six weeks in just my church! In later years, the churches of that town took a Sunday and dismissed their own services to all meet together in a large arena, to demonstrate unity to their town. And now, in the city where I preach, Woodland, California, we have pastors meeting together each month. We eat lunch together. We get to know each other. There is also a weekly prayer meeting. It is so important for pastors to pray together! I believe that God will bless the growing unity in my town!
So my encouragement to you is that you strengthen and enlarge the unity that you probably already have. It is wonderful to see you here together at this seminar, and I commend you for all of you being together at this seminar. And I want to take a moment to give several copies of the “Jesus Film” to the pastors of this town. Rick Warren has called the Jesus film the greatest evangelistic tool in the history of the world! And as we present these to you as a gift, we pray that God will have all churches that believe the Word of God and who love Jesus Christ, to work together for His glory. Amen and amen!