– If a baseball (or any sport) team is unified, it does not mean that every player functions in the same position.
– If an orchestra is in tune, it is not because the musicians are all playing the same instrument, but rather because they are playing from the same sheet of music.
– If a choir is harmonious, it is not because the vocalists are all singing the same parts, but rather because they are adding their various parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass / or mine is gusto: the key of let it rip!) to the same song.
– If a nation is unified, it is not because the citizens have all the same culture (race, language, politics, religion, personality, lifestyle), but because they share the same goal of surviving and thriving in society.
– If a church is unified, it is not because its members all have the same spiritual gift or even same culture, but because they share “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).
– Unity is not uniformity; it’s not sameness of identity but togetherness of purpose.
EXAMINE John 17 Unity for Mission
John 17 is a lengthy prayer of Jesus that is worth the time and investment to read the entire chapter. I have a 10-Day prayer guide for those who want to go deeper in the chapter.
For today, my aim is to
1) Highlight the prayer itself by reading it in full.
2) Highlight one of Jesus’ prayer requests: unity for mission.
3) Highlight the importance of unity and one way SPBC seeks to implement unity for mission.
Unity and Urgency For Mission (John 17:20-21)
Jesus prays for us.
One of the most unique features of Christianity is that it moves beyond religion to relationship. Our religious activity (church attendance, praying, reading, serving, giving, etc.) is not out of duty but delight because it grows us closer and deeper in relationship with our God and Savior. Even more humbling is that God reveals Himself and relates to us in prayer.
John 17 shows us that Jesus not only prayed for the disciples then, but also prayed for us today – “those who will believe in me through their word” (17:20). Additionally, other Scriptures affirm the Spirit’s intercession for us (Romans 8:26-28), and the Son continues living to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).
So, if you ever doubt God’s love you can look to the cross for the death of Christ, but we can also look deeper into the gospel for God’s continued care and comfort with us in the presence of prayer.
◊ Jesus calls God “Father” six different times in this prayer encounter (17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25).
◊ Prayer is a two-way relationship where we share our heart and submit our will to God but also God speaks through His word and Spirit. Prayer isn’t just a religious act but about an authentic relationship with God. For Jesus, it was natural for Him to look up and have conversation with His Father. As Christians, we must learn the idea of “praying without ceasing,” in communing with God in all our circumstances.
◊ One of the practical ways we can commune with God throughout the day is by praying before/during/after our meals. Meals are mercies from our God. Prayer at meals expresses gratitude for God’s provision of our “daily bread.” If your meal time prayers are becoming rote, consider breaking the monotony by rotating who prays, including Scripture and/or thanksgiving testimonies, etc.
o This practice would assume and encourage family meal times. Eating as a family has significant value for the family spiritually (Deut 6), as well as physically and emotionally.
Jesus prays for unity.
One of the at least five requests that Jesus prays for His disciples is for their unity. He prays “that they may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us…” (17:21). This profound unity is a reflection of God’s identity in Triune relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit. Unity is reflected in putting others first, the essence of love, service, and sacrifice, which the Son ultimately displayed for the Father’s will and the glory of the kingdom on behalf of the disciples (cf. Php 2:1-10).
When it comes to unity, it is cultivated slowly but quickly broken. Scripture shows us examples of Satan active in destroying church unity:
– Judas (Jn 13:2, 27; 18:3-5)
– Annanias & Saphira (Acts 5)
– Peter & John (John 21)
– Peter & Paul (Acts 15; Galatians 2:11-14)
– Paul with Timothy AND Barnabas with John Mark (Acts 15:37-40)
When it comes to unity, we must be vigilant and persevering to preserve the church fellowship.
◊ Conflict ABC: Anger at problems not people. Benevolence in all things. Contrition in wrongs. (Eph 4:25-32).
◊ In a time of a divided nation, we need a united church…
Jesus prays for urgency of mission.
The purpose of Jesus’ prayer for unity goes beyond fellowship to mission: “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (17:21). Disunity among Christians is often a reason why the world is repelled by the church and what is labeled as Christianity. When Christians dispute and divide, they miss an opportunity to show the world the power of the gospel to reconcile across differences and disagreements. To be clear, disunity among Christians does not excuse unbelievers from God’s judgment of their own response to Christ and following Jesus.
A comic strip of Charlie Brown and Lucy reminds me of the power of unity: Charlie is the typical male watching television with remote in hand. Lucy enters the room and asks Charlie for the remote. Charlie asks Lucy why he should hand over the remote power. Lucy says, “I’ll give you 5 reasons,” as she points and counts each finger and then clinches a fist. She says, “Individually they aren’t much, but when you put them together they make a powerful punch.”
Likewise, as Christians we may not be able to reach the world alone, but united together we have the call to reach the world for Jesus Christ.
◊ SPBC mission is growing godly generations through loving God, living Jesus to others, and leading generations. An important element of accomplishing our aim of unity and urgency in mission is our Bible Groups and Deacon ministry. Today we want to recognize 3 men rotating off of Deacon ministry and introduce our current Deacons.
o Introduce name, family, work
o Identify Deacon Groups (rotating: Fred, Curtis, Jason)
o Favorite/Challenge in Deacon ministry
o Testimony (Prayer/Praise)
o Hopes for SPBC in 2017+
◊ The gospel is about reconciling us to God and relating us to His church and people. God may be prompting you to take a next step in membership and ministry service with SPBC. We would like to pray for and help counsel this decision.
◊ In the gospel is the presence and power of God. Jesus forgives sin, heals hurt and heartache from the effects of sin, and Jesus sustains us in every circumstance. It would be our joy to pray for you whatever your burden or rejoice in blessing.
 http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/outreach/upload/Family-Mealtimes-2.pdf; https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/01/12/the-most-important-thing-you-can-do-with-your-kids-eat-dinner-with-them/?utm_term=.eb6b0d71be54; http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/25/living/family-dinner-h/; etc.