The Church family should be the place where we all feel a sense of unity; hold a common vision and purpose; as well as love each other through the trials of life. But sadly, it doesn’t always end up mirroring the ideal family and often we have to really struggle to stay united as the body of Christ.
Fighting to stay together
Do you remember playing a game as kids where you all linked hands together and tried to stay connected as a circle while someone from the outside tried to break into your circle? The bigger the circle, the harder it was to keep the group from breaking apart.
Sometimes this is how Pastors feel in their local church. We try our hardest to keep the body of Christ together, urging everyone to ‘link up’ and fight for unity, but there always seem to be outside factors trying to pull us apart. This part of the ministry is energy sapping and can be very discouraging. It feels as if you preach a powerful message on a Sunday, about loving one another (John 13:34) and being of the same mind (Philippians 2:2), but before the sermon has even finished ‘issues’ and ‘agendas’ are fighting to break the circle apart.
We need one another in the church
Chuck Swindoll wrote in The Finishing Touch, “Nobody is a whole team…we need each other. You need someone and someone needs you. To make this thing called life work, we gotta lean and support. And relate and respond. And give and take. And confess and forgive. And reach out and embrace and rely… Let’s link up!”
And this for me is one of the keys to maintaining a healthy church. We need to lean on one another and stay connected. Just as the circle has to move towards the danger zones in order to offer support to the most vulnerable, so we also need to embrace and rely on those around us.
Jesus alluded to this when he commanded his followers:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:34-35
Peter echoed Christ’s voice, when he urged the early Church:
“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers.”1 Peter 2:17
If we read these scriptures carefully we will note that they are not just suggestions from Jesus and Peter, but rather imperatives. Love is never the ‘nice to have’ ingredient that we can leave out of the recipe, hoping it won’t be noticed. It is the essential ingredient and everything will rise and fall on how we love one another.
Asking for help pastor, for God’s sake!
One of the toughest lessons Pastors have to learn is that we can’t lead a church alone. We need to rely on the support of a team of people – these can be leaders, elders, stewards, volunteers, colleagues or anyone else, but one person can’t form the circle on their own. We have to hold out our hands in surrender and reach out to the closest leader to link hands with them. Now, this may sound easy, but it is definitely not.
Most of us Pastors have leanings towards trying to solve the world’s problems. In truth our self-reliance may be bordering on pride at times. However, as former Pastor and now leadership expert John Maxwell remarks:
“It takes a team to build anything of lasting value.”
And this is the truth we all need to discover in any form of ministry. We need to learn to ask for help, for the sake of God’s Kingdom!
Of course this is not anything new to those in Church leadership. Jesus spoke often about the need for unity in the church and working together towards the same goal. Not only did he speak about it, but he modelled it himself. Pastors have to remind ourselves that if ‘linking hands’ with others was important for the Son of Man, then it surely has to be non-negotiable for us.
We are also reminded that Jesus prayed hard for the body of Christ, especially in the area of unity. In his great prayer in John 17 Jesus asked the Father:
“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.”John 17:20-21
Committing our people to God in prayer is one of the greatest joys a Pastor can experience. By offering up these prayers we are humbly confessing that Jesus is the one who binds us together in unity and His presence is the strength we need in our times of trial.
Let the discontent people go
Sadly, on a slightly different note, there may come a time when one member of the church needs to find their own way and consciously let’s go of the rest of the circle. This even happened in Jesus’ close circle of disciples, where Judas chose his own path. These situations are never enjoyable for Pastors. We often feel a great burden of responsibility and care for each person. We struggle to let people go, but experience tells us that sometimes there is actually nothing one can do to satisfy the discontentment of the member concerned and it is often for the best that they decide to move on.
Our witness of unity to the world
The way we as a Church reveal our love for one another will be a witness to the world and so I strongly believe that unity is worth fighting for. As Rick Warren once remarked:
“We prove our faith in Christ, not by the rules we keep, but by the love we give.”
As the Christian community continues to struggle to hold the circle together, especially in this season of Covid-19, I encourage us all to pray for our Pastors. Their lives are often poured out for the benefit of the local community and many of them are carrying burdens and their own personal struggles. Let us commit to link hands together and remain resolute in the midst of the struggles that come our way as we pursue unity in the church. May God grant us His strength as we fight the good fight of faith.