Tim Keller once said about collaboration: “If you are a bridge, you will likely get walked on.” Bridges connect two disparate entities, but it does not always feel good to be the bridge. Welcome to being a bridge builder.
Can I get an “amen”? Or maybe an “AMEN”?
Critics will always be present as leaders work for collaboration between churches. The [theological] reality is, there can be more to critics than meet the eye. Naysayers aren’t the only hindrance to unity amongst churches in our cities.
Satan is against us working together, too.
Bridge Builder: Unity Is Warfare, Not Just Fun & Games
“Unity is witness. Therefore, the enemy seeks to destroy it.” Those are Fawn Parrish’s words. She’s leading gospel movement work (collaboration between local churches) in Ojai, California—a city known for many spiritual things, and not necessarily the Jesus-kind.
If unity is the spark plug for the Church’s witness to Jesus in the world, it is no wonder why Jesus’ primary prayer in John 17 was for his followers to walk in unity. It also makes sense why Satan would want to do everything in his power to prevent unity.
It is essential to remain aware of both Jesus’ desire for unity and Satan’s tactics to divide. Jason Law, leader of Unite My City in Tulsa, Oklahoma said: “Persecution doesn’t stop the church, but Jesus said division could. Division hurts us from within and it diminishes the influence and the power that we have.”
As churches link up, their witness and influence are indeed powerful. This is because when churches work together, they often lift up their heads and begin taking notice of the communities off their church properties. Suddenly next week’s sermon and this month’s budget aren’t the most significant things on a church leader’s mind. Pastors begin to pray and work towards visions bigger than any one of their churches could accomplish on their own. Sooner or later pastors from the same zip code are gathering together to dream about changing the 3rd grade reading statistic at their local elementary school and considering how to shape a citywide culture of gospel conversations.
Dreams expand, witness increases, and the enemy shakes when local church leaders come together in unity.
Bridge Builder: Don’t Be Deceived—Unity Does Not Happen by Default
This type of unity does not happen by default. Jesus knew this. Do we? Jesus understood Satan’s opinion on unity—Satan is threatened by unity. Jesus also saw straight through Satan’s strategy to nurture disunity—Satan pits believers against each other.
Recall these examples of disunity in the Bible?
Paul exhorts churches to welcome back those who repented “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:5-11).
James insists believers do not discriminate between rich and poor. He goes so far as to say that those who favor the rich over the poor are blaspheming the name of Jesus (Js. 2:1-7).
Satan enters Judas before he betrays Jesus (Jn. 13:27).
Dreams narrow, witness shrinks, and the enemy revels when local church leaders dig their heels in disunity.
What Is Genuine Unity?
Genuine unity is marked by two things: (1) relational trust and (2) collaborative action.
Because Jesus destroyed the dividing walls between sinful people and a holy God, He has enabled His Church to be a bridge builder instead of a wall builder. Bridges don’t build themselves. Real relationships are the only bridge strong enough to carry the weight of collaborative action in gospel movements. Relationships are the bridge. Collaborative action is the movement of multiple groups in the same direction over the bridge of relationships.
Idea for a Next Step for a Bridge Builder:
Our invitation to you this week is to ask one of your trusted team members (read: trusted team members) to respond to these two questions:
How do you see me being a bridge builder between our church and other churches in our community?
Is bridge building between churches and other ministries in our city something in which you see me taking an active or passive role? How so?
For more 16 innovative examples of bridge building and churches working together, click here. If podcasts are your thing, listen to 5 worship leaders talk about church unity in Portland, Oregon.