Tim Keller and Simon Sinek are saying the same thing. Simon works with businesses. Tim works with churches. Both leaders challenge organizations to create realities that don’t yet exist. Our team—City Gospel Movements—works with a unique breed of Christian leader who believe the church can be more than she is today by living in a church unity that causes the world to do a doubletake.
These leaders equip and inspire the church of their city to pray, serve, and share the gospel in a collaborative way so onlookers positively reconsider the people of God and the God whom they follow (John 17:23).
This type of church unity is a reality that does not exist with regularity and consistency…yet. Our team gets a front row seat to creative, sacrificial expressions of church unity (check out a few here) around the world. We aren’t content with these stories being anomalies; we want them to be the new normal. But, creating a new normal isn’t easy.
Creating what does not yet exist is called innovation. And as Simon Sinek reveals: “There is nothing efficient about innovation.” The end product may be sleek and shiny, but the road is wrought with potholes, pitstops, detours, and U-turns. Tim Keller adds his two cents about the long road of innovation pertaining—in his case—to culture change: “[culture change] is never a simplistic process…it has a kind of erratic inertia. It doesn’t change easily or without a fight. But it can, in the end, be changed” (Center Church, 225).
Throughout history, innovators have challenged the notion of what is normal and were often seen as mental; that is, until a tipping point occurred and what once was considered an oddity becomes ‘just the way we do things around here.’
Our team is suggesting that the conventional way of local congregations operating in silos is the old way of doing things. We exist to encourage unity in the citywide Church so more people in the city encounter Jesus. This looks like 150+ churches in Seattle, Washington agreeing on the same citywide metric for small groups to make one new disciple in the coming year, or pastors in Charlotte, North Carolina agreeing to teach the same sermon series for four weeks, or 30 pastors in New York City agreeing to reduce poverty in 10 zip codes over five years.
People may think we’re crazy to consider that the Church could live in such a way. But we think we’re in good company…because Jesus promotes the same unity (John 17:20-23). Jesus wants His Church to live in unity that astounds and compels onlookers. Unity astounds when it remains strong in a world known more for division than togetherness. Unity compels when it proves that togetherness solves issues that were previously unsolvable—like failing local schools, blight-ridden inner city communities, or an overwhelmed foster care system.
It is important to note that unity in the body of Christ differs from historic innovations. Church unity is not a humanistic innovation. It is not contrived in the mind of man. It is a theological reality of the church whether she practices it or not. Jesus prayed for church unity not because He saw the Church already embodying unity but because it was this theological reality He knew would come under fire from every side because of its God-revealing potential. Jesus knew that if the Church walked in this unprecedented, Spirit-empowered unity she would invite onlookers to taste and see what this was all about.
And yet church unity is not singularly supernatural. It is a divine and human innovation. God partners with the faith-filled and willing. Tim Keller elucidates: “It is the unified people of God whom the Spirit uses to reach the far ends of the earth with the gospel—even Rome! In other words, unity is not simply the work of the Spirit but the very instrument through which the Spirit works” (Center Church, 368).
The vision of radical church unity may seem impossible now, but we think a radical vision of the future is to our advantage. To quote Sinek once more: “To really inspire us, we need a vision of the world that does not yet exist. This is what leaders of great organizations do. They frame the challenge in terms so daunting that literally no one yet knows what to do or how to solve it…if [leaders] offer their people a challenge that outsizes their resources but not their intellect, the people will give everything they’ve got to solve the problem. And in the process, not only will they invent and advance the company, they may even change an industry or the world in the process.” We’re not here to make the Fortune 500 list, but we are here to imitate their innovation and belief that the impossible may indeed be possible.
Here’s to church-shapers, world changers and waymakers. Find your people at citygospelmovements.org.