By Rick Warren
Unity within our churches has been stretched and challenged over the past few years. The world has become more polarizing, causing people to take sides on a whole host of issues.
Pastor, you need to guard the unity of your church.
For God to move in your church, it needs to be united—no matter what’s happening in the culture and around the world. I’m convinced that when we have the unity of the church in Acts, we’ll have the power of the church in Acts. Then we’ll be able to set aside our petty differences and unify around one thing: the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:32). 8
So how can you maintain unity when the surrounding forces are trying to tear it apart?
Here are five ways you can protect the unity of your church.
Develop an attitude of acceptance in your church.
Accept people where they are, not where you want them to be. Don’t major on minor issues. You don’t need to insist that everyone agrees on every minor detail.
Romans 14:1 says, “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters”(NIV).
Notice that Paul recognizes there are “disputable matters.” You won’t agree on everything, and you don’t need to do so in order to have unity in your church.
Focus on your common purpose.
First Corinthians 1:10 reminds us, “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose” (NLT).
Focusing on a common purpose leads to unity. That’s why, at Saddleback, we encourage everyone to go through our membership CLASS. In that class, we clearly lay out the purpose of our church. I wouldn’t want to join a church unless I knew where it was going. I shouldn’t expect others to do so either.
Control your tongue.
Don’t let gossip fester in the church. When someone walks in with a problem, tell your leaders to ask themselves: “Is this a legitimate concern?” If it is, they need to know where to direct the concern. If it’s not, they need to stop the other person from gossiping.
The Bible says gossip is sin. When you listen to it, you become a partner in it. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV).
What is gossip? Gossip is when you’re sharing a problem or criticism with someone who is neither part of the problem nor part of the solution.
Encourage the support of leaders.
Hebrews 13:17 should get the attention of everyone in ministry leadership: “Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit” (NLT). It’s not the part about people obeying leaders that concerns me. It’s the part that says, “They are accountable to God.”
One day you and I will stand and give an account before God for the people we lead. He’ll hold us accountable for the direction of the church and the spiritual maturity of those we lead.
Practice God’s method of conflict resolution.
Matthew 18:15-17 gives us a plan to follow when the unity of the church is under attack. When you have a problem with someone, go directly to that person. If that person doesn’t listen, bring along another witness. If the person still doesn’t listen, bring them before the entire church.
What happens if the person still doesn’t listen? You treat them like a pagan, an unbeliever. You still love them, but you don’t treat the person like a member.
If you’re a church leader, unity is your responsibility. Jesus tells us that our unity will be a witness for him (John 13:35).
What does your church’s unity tell the world about God?