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Activating Genuine Unity
By Paul, Bunty & David Collins
To reach the world demands new priorities
The foundation for all ministry is unity (1 Corinthians 12:12). But unity is presently expressed in the Body of Christ on three levels:
Most Christians acknowledge that we are one church, but it is largely lip-service. This is token unity. True unity, however, begins with an attitude of the heart - heart unity. But the level of unity needed for practical ministry networking working unity - is the subject of this probe.
- Token unity
- Heart unity
- Working unity
The one problem that blocks a working unity in the Body is that of self-interest - often called "kingdom building". Mark 9 reveals three arguments which give insight not only into the attitudes of the disciples then but also of Christians today.
"When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them ...'What are you arguing with them about?' he asked" Mark 9:14,16.
The disciples had tried to cast out a demon and had failed. Yet these same disciples had previously been sent out two by two, with authority to cast out demons (Luke 10:1,17; Mat. 10:1). They had been successful before, yet this time had failed, and afterwards they asked Jesus: "Why?" (Matt.17:19-21; Mark 9:28-29). So the disciples' first argument was a doctrinal one - over correct methods. Their argument had been: You're wrong! We're right!
We're the Greatest!
"They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was greatest" Mark 9:33-34.
The second argument in the Body of Christ remains the same after 2,000 years: Who is the greatest? An attitude of self-ambition will destroy any possibility of a working unity in the Body.
You're Not One of Us!
"Teacher, we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.' 'Do not stop him,' Jesus said. '...for whoever is not against us is for us" Mark 9:38-40.
The third great argument in the Body today is over what is the Body. Christians, then as now, tend to have a very narrow definition of who "belongs to us". God, however, has a much wider definition based on the blood of Christ and the heart-response of people to the Gospel.
These three arguments remain rife throughout the Body. They are the three types of walls Christians put up against each other. For a working unity to grow between Christians, there must be established a reverse attitude.
- A Common identity and purpose
- A genuine desire for another's success
- A respect and love for the Body's diversity
Shape of the Church
The "shape" of the Church - how the Church moves in ministry - is not dictated by visible organisational structures, such as denominations, eIdership boards, weekly meetings. The real shape of the Church is determined by the Holy Spirit, who tends to jump the walls and barriers that Christians put up against one another.
Types of Structure
Two possible organisational structures exist, and each has a bearing on how the members function:
The Pyramid Structure
The "pyramid structure" is a top-down (hierarchical) authority structure. The authority style tends to be elitist and formalised.
The Networking Structure
A network is not a vertical, top-down structure, but a horizontal (cooperative) structure. There are still clear lines of authority, but the authority style is more consultative and based largely on the recognition and release of gifts and ministries.
The Human Body
The classic example of networking is the human body, which is a collection of networked systems. For the hand to grasp an object, it must first rely on the legs to transport it to the object. The legs need oxygen and energy to work, which they get via the respiratory, digestive and cirulatory systems. Once the hand reaches the object, the fingers must then network together to pick it up.
The pyramid structure is recognised today as an inefficient structure. Even in the world, networking between companies, each fulfilling a role and benefiting from the relationship, is in vogue.
What is the Church's heritage? The early Church was not pyramidal, but networked by the gifts and direction of the Spirit (see Acts 6:3-8; 8:4-8,14-17, 25-40; 9:10-19; 11:1-5,18-30; 13:1-4). The Church was birthed as a "network of the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). So when did things change? In the second and third centuries, the Church became institutionalised. She took on the pyramid structure of the world around her - that of the Roman empire.
But then, in the 15th Century, God began to restore the Church's heritage. The First Reformation gave the Word of God back to the people. Now the Second Reformation has begun, giving the ministry back to the people. As we network that ministry as God originally intended, we will again see the Church impact our world.
"From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" Ephesians 1:16 (see also Colossians 2:19).
Each Christian has been positioned by the Spirit to be networked with other Christians (1 Cor.12:18,24). But although we are all related in the Body, there are two kinds of working relationship:
The key to networking is finding those whom God has positioned together, recognising each individual gift, and cooperating according to gifting in order to reach a common goal.
- Peter-John relationship (Acts 3:1-11; 4:1-4).
- Peter-Paul relationship (Gal. 2:7-8).
Types of Networking
There are two kinds of networking:
A sodal network is based upon relationships. Its main purpose is one of fellowship, and it is open to all who meet the fellowship criteria. Local churches are sodalities.
- Sodality - relationship-oriented
- Modality - goal-oriented
A modal network is based on set goals and functions. Modalities are goal-oriented, and membership in a modal network is based not on fellowship, but on the fulfilnent of the common goal. A ministry team is an example of a modality.
God has designed both sodality and modality to operate within the local church and in the Body at large. In the wider Body, apostolic teams operate as modalities. In the local congregation, small "team modules" can operate within the large sodality framework, specialising in evangelism, prayer, pastoral care, worship, etc. Each Christian can be involved in three kinds of network:
- A prayer network
- An outreach network
- A fellowship network
"Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins..." Matthew 9:17.
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Copyright & copy: 1993, 1997 Paul, Bunty and David Collins. All rights reserved. This study may be freely used and reproduced, wholly or in part, by the Christian Church for the non-profit purposes of study and training only, provided copyright and contact information is included.
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