In a nation that is as riven with divisions as ours, it’s refreshing to hear calls for unity growing ever louder. This is especially true of the UK Church. What better contrast to the apparent drifting apart of a nation than the coming together of the Church?
However, one of the challenges with ‘unity’ is that while the intent behind it is honourable, it can so easily succumb to hysteria & rush. This is something which is never healthy for the long term. In the desire to model an alternative to the divisions of society, Church unity can end up being shallow, lacking authenticity & even appearing pretentious in the eyes of the very people it is meant to be reaching.
When the surface of ‘unity’ doesn’t honestly acknowledge & address the deep undercurrents of toxicity lurking within it’s own waters, it accomplishes nothing. Unity is not an event. Nor is it even about church leaders meeting together for coffee, cakes & conferences. Great unity has everything to do with great culture, something which starts in the heart. It’s a lifestyle that genuinely champions & provokes others to greatness, far beyond the monotony of mere platitudes. It builds an environment where others can thrive instead of being suffocated by the self-righteous disapproval of religiosity.
No relationship can ever truly flourish in a culture that lacks affirmation. This tends to produce unhealthy unity, the kind that is more about what it’s against than for. Gossip is the glue that holds this kind of unity together. It is the most subtle killer of great culture in the Christian Church today, more so than is ever realised. Yet too often, it is given permission & acceptability, excused as mere small talk. Wise leaders understand that careless words are corrosive to great relationships. So they create a new normal in their everyday conversations, one that is disciplined in the art of building up rather than the crassness of tearing down. Ultimately, you reap what you sow.
The only way healthy church culture can ever truly develop is when leaders grow it in their hearts first. This challenges everything…demeanour, outlook, gossip, generosity, words, conversation, vibe. The weeds of cynicism get uprooted & replaced by the seeds of authentic faith. They take a while to plant and the growth can be slow, but what matters is that God looks at hearts, not gestures. This is where it all really begins and blessing is commanded.
When great culture grows on the inside, then great unity flourishes on the outside. The result? The city receives great life.