What Being Together Is And Isn’t
What does being together really mean?
Today, the word can mean different things to different people.
So what if we saw the theme of Together in light of Jesus’ John 17 prayer? Just moments before the cross, Jesus prayed for his disciples. But then he prayed for us, asking that “for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21 ESV).
There is a lot in these powerful lines. But for now, I want you to lock into one major take away: Jesus prays that our “together” would be the same unity that exists in the Trinity.
Let this idea shake you up: Jesus believes that the Church can be as united as He is with the Father and the Holy Spirit! So, when we say together, it must carry the mystery and weight of the Trinity. For one thing, this means we can’t ever quit on together. This also means we submit and serve one another relentlessly as we co-create with God the future He wants.
A Little Further
Or, what if we saw this theme of Together in light of Ephesians 1? Paul echoes Jesus’ prayer here and says that “(God) made known to us the mystery of his will…to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:9-10 ESV).
Are you ready for a bold statement? If unity is not a key part of our ministry, discipleship or outreach to love our communities, then we are missing a central part of the Gospel. Jesus’ prayer and Ephesians 1 highlight that unity is absolutely central to being God’s missional community. When we say together we are really talking about a cornerstone element of the Gospel. So, without unity, are we sharing an incomplete gospel?
Unity Looks Like….
In my recent book, Designed For More I use a natural phenomenon of flocking starlings known as a Murmuration to draw lessons from nature and Scripture for how to move in unity. The beautiful flocking formations are a mesmerizing madness that give us a window into what our together can look like. After all, Jesus himself said “look at the birds of the air!”
Similarly to the birds, being together for us means seeing ourselves and our ministries, as part of a larger body. This in no way minimizes denominational tradition or beliefs, but rather celebrates the diversity – for the purpose of collective citywide strategies.
It looks like sharing resources outside of our typical in-group and to care a little less about our brand and a little more about Kingdom. The goal is not to become one mega bird. The goal is to learn to fly in unison.
Unity Does NOT Look Like…
First, unity is not merely in our hearts—it is physical and visible too.
The unity Jesus prayed for was not just for unity’s sake. The greater purpose is for the world to see God through our love and united missional efforts. It is not merely the act of self-sacrifice that will catch the world’s attention, but even more so, who is doing it together. The unity in the Church cannot only be spiritual in nature – it must become an incarnational, tangible and visible expression.
This does not mean we must work on everything together all of the time. Even in the Murmuration there are moments when the flock separates. But the why behind our separation is the critical difference between God-glorifying movements and decisions that grieve the Spirit.
Second, unity does not come at the sacrifice of purity of the Church.
Theologians talk about the tension between the “purity” of the Church and the “unity” of the Church created by believers’ passion for truth and their interpretation of Scripture. We like to make lists of what a pure Church looks like, listing things such as biblical doctrine, proper use of sacraments, and spiritual power in ministry, among others.
While this conversation regarding the purity or unity of the Church has merit, the dialogue is operating from a wrong premise because unity actually contributes to the purity of the church. This is not an either/or scenario, because unity and purity do not stand opposed as if on two ends of a spectrum.
Fighting for “together” is stuff of guts and glory. It can be hard, but following God’s design is worth it. May we fight for unity as the Holy Spirit propels our own Murmurations as the entire world looks up to see Christ as Lord. Let’s fly!
Excerpts taken from Designed For More book, Faithwords 2018. For more, visit www.LucasRamirez.org or @TheLucasRamirez
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.