Many years ago, God convinced me about the importance of unity in the Body of Christ around the world. This came out of a time of meditation on John 17–the longest prayer of Jesus in the Bible.
From that moment, I committed myself to be a unifier of God’s Church for the sake of world evangelism.
Two recent events confirmed to me the importance of unity as a means of great blessing. But there is also a devious application as well.
Unity is powerful–both for good and for evil.
In my early years as a follower of Christ, I tended to be judgmental about various parts of the Church. I was raised in a liberal setting that had thrown out Christ and the Bible for various social causes. When I gave my life to Jesus in 1968, it was convenient to look down on the white-washed religion of my younger years.
It was also easy to dislike or suspect others in the Body of Christ that I either didn’t understand or who appeared to have more of God. For example, for a while I looked skeptically at charismatics and Pentecostals who talked about the power of the Holy Spirit. Then I had an encounter with God’s Spirit that broke a bondage in my life and leveled my pride.
Still, in my first decade of discipleship, I remember looking skeptically at Christian unity and having a jaded eye toward those whom I considered weak in their message. To my shame, I even aimed this attitude at Billy Graham–thinking that some of his messages were a bit “light” and oriented toward “cheap grace” which I questioned.
The Holy Spirit spanked me pretty good on that one, convicting me of my arrogance toward a man who’d led multitudes to Christ. When I changed my attitude, and to bring forth fruit in keeping with my repentance, God led our family to begin financially supporting the Billy Graham Association.
When you make a mistake you need to make it right.
Then came the revelations from John 17. Its central theme is the importance of God’s people enjoying a powerful and Trinity-oriented form of unity.
John 17 should really be called “The Lord’s Prayer” in the New Testament. In it you hear the heart of God’s Son cry out for unity in His followers. Here are some of the verses that spoke to me out of Jesus’ prayer:
“20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Let’s break down the central points of this powerful petition:
- Jesus prayed for all of His followers, past and present. That applies to you and I today.
- He prayed that we would have the same depth of unity that He and the Father enjoyed in Trinity love.
- Placing his “glory” in us through the Holy Spirit was key to our unity via the fruits He produces.
- He wants our unity to be complete, or some translations say, perfect. This is not a shallow level of cooperation or oneness but as deep and powerful as He shared with His Father.
- When God’s people act in loving unity, then two incredible things will happen: 1) The world will know there’s only one true Messiah (“you sent me”), and 2) The people of the world will know that they are loved (“you have loved them”).
Out of this passage I became deeply convinced that the humble, loving, heart-felt unity that God produces in believers is the key to world evangelization and combatting low self esteem. In other words, a united Church will see multitudes come to Jesus and know that they are loved.
So, I set my heart to be a true unifier of God’s people, to be very careful to not speak negatively about other parts of the Church, and do all I could do to unite it.
I really believe that the person who does the most to bring unity to the Church will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization (if Jesus’ words mean anything).
Here’s how I recently saw some glimpses of John 17.
I’ve been working in the nation of Mongolia for nearly twenty years helping to train and unite a first generation Church to walk in the Spirit of John 17.
I saw it on full display this July.
The Mongolian Gateway Camp brought together 320 young Mongol missionaries from all over the nation and many different churches. We didn’t care about their style, theology, or social status. Bottom line was, “Do you love Jesus and believe in the authority of God’s Word?”
The diversity of the campers evidenced this biblical truth: unity is essentials, liberty in non-essentials and love in all things.
We had a powerful week of John 17 unity:
1. World Vision provided the buses to bring the young people to the camp.
2. Cru (Campus Crusade) did most of the seminar training for the campers on how to share their faith.
3. YWAM did much of the main session teaching and financially paid for a portion of the camp.
4. The Central Asia director of Youth for Christ (a Korean who was raised in Tajikistan who now lives in Russia) was a major speaker and influence.
5. The Mongolian leader of the camp is a local church pastor and also the national director of Youth for Christ (YFC).
Do you see the power of various groups leaving their egos at the door and doing their part–in unity–to multiply the Church in Mongolia?
It was a beautiful to watch. At the current time, I’m following up on this wonderful experience by trying to help the Mongolian YFC leader purchase his first apartment in Ulaanbaatar so that his ministry can be strengthened and multiplied.
A YWAMer is raising money for YFC!
I believe the heavens rejoice over this Mongolian answer to Jesus’ prayer.
YWAM Together 2016
I just returned from a global gathering of the YWAM family in Kansas City where four thousand YWAMers from over one hundred nations came together to celebrate Jesus and lift Him up in the nations. One day we opened up the KC Municipal Auditorium to the larger Body of Christ and brought 8,000 believers together for God’s purposes.
The power of John 17 unity was seen in manifold ways at YWAM Together:
1. The International House of Prayer partnered with us by housing missionaries and opening their university campus to afternoon workshops. Mike Bickle, the founder of IHOP-KC, spoke to our gathering and committed to bring the global prayer groups fully behind global missions. This is like uniting a rifle with gun powder–for fulfilling the Great Commission.
2. Loren Cunningham shared his passion for “Ending Bible Poverty Now” by taking the next four years to give Jesus a “Christmas present” in December of 2020 by getting a portion of the Bible into the remaining 1776 languages remaining to be translated. Both the heads of the American Bible Society and the Jesus Film Project joined hearts and arms in commitment to complete this milestone. We can only do it together.
3. The week also focused on empowering people called to the seven leadership spheres of society–the domains of the family, religion (church & mission), education, celebration (arts, entertainment and sports), public communication (media), economics (including business, science and technology), and government (law). Uniting believers in all these spheres can lead to the discipling of entire nations.
Both of these events are expressions of how God is uniting His Church around the world to bring God’s will to earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
The key to the cause is biblical unity.
The devil is trying to do the same thing. In the Islamic jihadist realm, the enemy of people’s souls is trying to build a world-wide (united) Caliphate and force all people to convert to Islam. In the Western World, the the United Nations and many aspects of progressive politics desire to see a one world government that will force secular unity on the globe.
Building a form of oneness is key to their plans also. Unity can be used for both evil and good. So what are we to do?
Resist the evil forms of union and throw our hearts into answering Jesus’ prayer!
We can do it through the power of biblical unity (John 17:21-23).