Pursuing the Unity of the Gospel: Introduction

Monday, July 16, 2012

Introduction to the Series

One of the most fascinating things in sports for me is the interpersonal aspect.  How one man is able to get so many different people, with different issues and personalities, together, on the same team, on the same field, using the same ball, using the same plays…it’s all very fascinating.  It’s teamwork.  It’s great coaching and leadership.  It’s so many awesome things combined at one time in one place.

I used to coach girls basketball.  And any coach will agree with me when I say that the single most difficult part of coaching is teaching a bunch of people who are very different from each other to learn to like, depend on, and trust one another.  The typical athlete has an attitude, an air of superiority.  They come on the team with a chip on their shoulder, trying to prove something.  And when you get a bunch of guys like that together, you’ve got a recipe for a disaster…unless there’s a great coach.  

The coach is the key to the game…not the quarterback.  The quarterback simply carries out the plans of the coach.  He provides leadership to the players on the field.  But the coach provides leadership to the whole team.  In his mind the strategy for the entire game is already figured out and is being applied play by play.  In the end of every single game, only one coach can win.  And his victory is a reflection of his ability to get those players to learn to depend on each other…to be unified…to play as one person…with one mind…with singularity of focus, vision, and purpose.  The coach who does that usually wins most of the games.  

What’s always been odd to me in my twenty years of church leadership ministry is that you can get a bunch of guys or girls together on a sports team, and accomplish a victory together in a much shorter time span than the average church leader can get a bunch of Christians together in a local church, and accomplish something great for the kingdom.  I coached for just one season.  And I was able to get a bunch of girls to play well together and take home some wins, but I was never able to do that with the Christians who attended the church I pastored.  How weird is that?  

A lot of it has to do with the object.  In basketball, the object is to score baskets and win the game.  In the local church the object is to win souls, make disciples, and expand the kingdom.  And here’s the point.  The goal of the local church has eternal consequences which brings with it supernatural forces of wickedness as our opposition.  In basketball, the game has consequences that last only one season, and each opposing team are simply human beings.  Yet with this singular, massive difference, we get more excited about our sports team than we do about our local church.  The devil has successfully distracted our attention away from the most important place on earth to arguably the least important place on earth.

In the “game” of the kingdom, the single most difficult aspect of quarterbacking, or pasturing, is getting Christians to play together.  And not just play nicely in the sandbox.  But play together on the field as one man, with one purpose, one strategy, one goal, one vision.  No doubt the apostle Paul had the same issues, as we derive from reading both letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, etc.  Division in the church is the enemy’s most oft-used weapon to degrade the effectiveness of the local church.

But when I come to John 17 I see a different picture that gives me the greatest hope for what I desire.  I see the coach, King Jesus, praying to the Father, the owner of the team, asking Him for the unity of His team.  I see Him getting the answer to His prayer, because after all He is the Son of the Father!  I also see myself, as the quarterback of this team, answering to the coach, using HIS plan, His strategy, His vision, His mission, His empowering, His Spirit, His everything to “win” the game by maintaining our unity.  

That’s why it's important for me to help envision us in our own local churches for a greater love for and commitment to the unity of the gospel.  Unity is the natural and necessary outflow of the gospel of Christ, as I’ll explain later.  And by God’s grace we will pursue that unity wholeheartedly until we die or until Jesus comes back.

In the next post, I'll introduce the text of John 17 in order to lay the foundation for this series.

About the Author: Rob is a entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA, where he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 18 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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