5 Keys to Seeking Unity in the Church

Insights from John Perkins

In the first episode of Exponential’s Candid Conversations, we heard from civil rights legend and author Dr. John Perkins. The goal of this talk was for us to dive further into what unity is and isn’t. Here are five ways to move toward true unity.

1. Treating every person with human dignity as made in the image of God. Believing that all of humanity bears his likeness. This means we will care about life from the womb to the tomb. Do you see and celebrate the image bearing of God in each and every person? What kind of people do you struggle to see as those who bear the likeness of God?

2. The church rediscovering its role of leading the culture toward King Jesus and his kingdom. We often settle for a lesser kingdom and view power solely from a worldly perspective. We get so enamored by titles and positions that we forget where true and lasting power comes from. The question we must constantly answer is what does King Jesus want of us and will we allow his kingdom to be above all other kingdoms? We are intended to seek first his kingdom and righteousness. Whose kingdom are you seeking first?

3. Getting back to God’s heart, which requires repentance. Perkins goes on to quote 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

He wants for us, his church, to humble ourselves and pray and seek his face and turn from our wicked ways. He promises to hear us, forgive us and bring his restorative touch to our land. We have a part to play and he has a part to play. Often, we try to get to the second part of this verse without doing the first part.

He is waiting on us and wants to partner with us. Church, it’s time to humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, confess any ways we have participated in wickedness, and turn away from them. He will hear us and heal our land. We are sin-making machines, so daily we will need to take inventory of our lives in light of what God has called us to as his people.

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4. Obeying all of what God has commanded of his church, which includes the Great Commandment, Great Commission and Great Collaboration. We must not forget that unity is the language of love. It’s the ability to move past false peace in order to pursue true peacemaking and to know that God isn’t looking for uniformity, but unity. This is what we see with the early church—people of different backgrounds, races, religious upbringings, socioeconomic strata and genders who rallied around something great: Jesus and his mission. This includes the work of justice and equality. What commands of Scripture are you ignoring?

5. Prioritizing discipleship, which happens in friendship. This is the type of friendship where we confess our sins to one another. In order to live these verses out we have to be humble and stay curious. This means we ask more questions and give less opinions. This is what Jesus did when he walked the earth. We seek to understand the experiences of those who look and think differently than us without judgment, but instead with empathy and compassion.

We need to have genuine friendships where we spend meaningful time with them. This will help us to fight against the us versus them mindset, polarizing and demonizing of people. These are all ways that we dehumanize people. It hinders us from working together and pushes us further into our echo chambers. Echo chambers reinforce the narrative we’ve formed and others agree without challenge.

Leaving the echo chamber will disarm the rage we have towards others and help us see them as an image bearer of God. After all, human anger will not accomplish God’s righteous ways. Not that it’s wrong to be angry, but we must give our anger to God for him to turn it into something good. It’s his righteousness that we need and want. It will allow us to experience real transformation. This means a desire to see his kingdom ways in our lives and on the earth. One of the ways we get here is when we are slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to become angry. Who are you befriending that is different than you?

I am reminded of Esther 4:14:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

We have been put in this position to help bring relief and deliverance. She was tempted to not step into the moment and use her God given position to help others. She was told it could come from somewhere else, but her and her father’s family will perish. Isn’t that true for us as well? We can remain on the sidelines silent and we end up perishing just to keep the status quo.

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He has given me this position and positioned me for such a time as this. The same is true for you as well. He is inviting us, his church, to join him in this moment of time. Think about it—you are here in 2020 at the exact moment where the world is falling apart and you get to hold out the one who can make all things whole and new: Jesus, the King of it all. The one who can bring about his restorative goodness. his love and justice will lead us to be marked as people full of grace and truth. This will require us to push through the fear, personal comfort, and awkwardness as we enter people’s pain through empathy and compassion.

This awareness will lead us to laying everything at the feet of Jesus: our sin of racism and prejudice, false definitions of success, power and fame, our giftings and talents, positions we hold, our families, the resources we’ve been entrusted with, and the anger, sadness, shame and fear we feel.

He will show us what to do and say as we stay close to him. You have what it takes in Jesus to join him in the work of reconciliation. May we be the Esthers of our generation and say yes to Jesus and his kingdom work. It will be costly, but anything worthwhile is; isn’t Jesus and his kingdom worth it all?

Click here to watch the video of Dr. John Perkins in Episode 1 of Candid Conversations.

This article originally appeared on Multiplication.org and is reposted here by permission.