Is your church characterized by unity and love?
Would you consider your church to be a unified group of people who genuinely love one another? That’s not a mark of a super healthy church but is one of the basic foundations for every local church in the world. Christian love and unity are perhaps the 2 main things that set us apart from the world (Jn 13:34-35; 17:23).
This is much easier said than done. When you get a group of sinners in the same room who are from various backgrounds, demographics, etc., how in the world could there not be conflicts? What could make a group like this love one another sacrificially and earnestly seek unity and the good of the whole? Absolutely nothing apart from the gospel!
Unbelievers know that this kind of unity and love is weird. It’s attractive and unique. They ask the questions above because they don’t fully understand it. And this is when we can explain to them the grace and forgiveness that we have through Jesus.
Practical steps to unity and love
There are really simple things that we can do to grow a culture of unity and love in our churches. Here are 5 to get you started, but there are plenty more.
1. Preach the gospel to yourself
It all starts with the gospel. Saturate yourself with the good news of Jesus throughout the day so that grace, peace, and forgiveness are on your mind. When you cultivate the habit of seeing your own sin and need for grace then you’ll be much slower to criticize and much quicker to show grace to others.
2. Pray for the members of your church
Praying for the members of your church will quickly grow a culture of unity and love. Whether it’s hearing requests at a prayer meeting or just going down the membership role, asking for God’s blessing, grace, healing, etc. for each individual member of your local body of Christ will change the way you think about the church. You’ll see it more as a family and will seek people out to find out how to better pray for them.
When people hear that you are genuinely praying for them, especially people that you don’t know well, they will be encouraged and filled with joy. Deeper relationships will begin to develop and they will likely begin praying more for others as well. A church that truly prays for one another is a loving, unified church.
3. Look for the good
It’s so easy to be critical, even in a church service. If we don’t like the songs or music style that morning, or if we think the sermon was too long, we may be tempted to complain about it to others. You know the type of complaining I’m talking about. It’s the sinful type that you wouldn’t say to person’s face.
We are to do all things without grumbling and complaining so that we shine as lights in the world (Phil 2:14-15). Shouldn’t this be all the more true as we are gathered together as the church?
This obviously includes our conversations throughout the week. We must avoid gossip and slander. If we have a problem with someone we should go to him or her directly (Mt 18:15). In Jesus’ church, there is no place for going behind someone’s back. As cliche as it sounds, we should be quiet if we don’t have anything nice to say. Yet, if we are pursuing love and unity, we can always find something nice.
If the pastor preaches too long, you can still thank him for spending dozens of hours studying and preparing the sermon. If there’s a brother who you really struggle to like, you can still thank the Lord that He saves all types of people, not just the ones like you and your friends.
Basically, we just need to do what Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”
4. Get coffee with someone
It’s hard to love and be unified with your brothers and sisters in Christ if you don’t know them well. Unless your church is really small it’ll be impossible to have deep relationships with everyone. That’s okay! But you should still branch out from your group of friends and spend time with others.
Is there a family, college student, etc. that you don’t know? Invite them to get dinner or a cup of coffee. Even if you don’t end up being best friends, just taking the initiative to get to know them will go a long way to cultivate love and unity.
5. Help and ask for help
It won’t be hard to find someone in the church who needs help. Someone always needs a babysitter, a ride to the airport, a lawn mowed, or an extra hand moving furniture. These are practical ways that church members can both serve and get to know one another. Be quick to offer your help whenever you can.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, either. Asking lets others know that it’s okay for them to ask for help, too. Helping and asking for help creates an environment of loving service and sacrifice.
To sum it up, we should love one another as Jesus has loved us. Simple, right? This isn’t optional; it’s how the world will know we are his disciples. I hope this post has helped you see that it’s not as hard as it appears for your local church to be characterized by unity and love…at least among its members. It can be harder when you talk about seeking unity with other churches and denominations. Still, though, it’s what we have to work for.
As you pray that the Holy Spirit will make this happen, there are easy, practical steps that you and each member can take to help cultivate this type of atmosphere in the church. What other ways have you seen work well?