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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

18 Jul '11

The Power of Unity and the Cost of Disunity

A spirit of unity is one of the most powerful forces that any team, organization, congregation or board can foster. Unity includes a common direction, great cooperation, knowing that others will support and protect you and a refusal to allow situations or people to divide you. 

In the ancient armies of Sparta, the unity of the troops gave them a powerful advantage over their foes. The lines would be closed, shield tip to shield tip. Behind the front line, the second line of shields literally fit in the small of the back of the soldier in front to support him and keep him moving forward even in the collision with the enemy. The lines could go twenty or fifty deep, moving in lockstep forward and there was no surrender and no retreat. The only way to win and survive was to fight side by side with those on your right and those on your left while being supported by those behind you. No army in the ancient world wanted to meet the Spartan troops! Even if they were to win, the cost was going to be very high.

This real life picture of a unified front illustrates the power of unity. Here is the team that sets aside its differences to move forward together toward a common goal. Here is a congregation that is willing to live up to the admonition of Ephesians 4, living in unity and love in the power of the Holy Spirit in order to see the cause of Jesus advance and His reputation held high. Here is the board that forges direction, relationships and common commitments rather than members insisting on their own way: humble cooperation rather than needing to win. 

Disunity can be characterized by lack of common direction, a higher concern for my interests rather than the interests of the group, a spirit of independence rather than cooperation and often, critical spirits toward others in the group. Disunity diffuses momentum, elevates personal agendas over a common goal and hurts rather than protects others in attitudes and words. It destroys missional momentum and is a sign of immature and pride filled believers. At its worst, Paul describes the characteristics of disunity as quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder - and he is talking about church members and leaders (2 Corinthians 12:20).

Disunity need not be malicious to be dangerous. The lack of unity is by definition, disunity. And whether caused by lack of cooperation and independent spirits or by the unwillingness to do the hard work of forging unity, the result is the same: a diffusion of impact.

If anyone doubts the theological issue inherent in unity one only needs to look at the picture of the Godhead - three in one where unity and love always reign supreme. When we live in disunity we not only hurt the mission we are committed to but we dishonor the Lord whom we serve who is the ultimate example of unity.

Paul puts the issue of unity this way. "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your interests but to the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4)."



Here are some indicators of unity:
  • We have a common direction
  • We are moving together
  • We don't allow anyone or anything to divide us
  • We will never hurt those we serve with
  • We submit our will to that of the common good and goal
  • We cooperate with one another
  • We pray for one another
  • We guard our attitudes toward one another
  • We look not only to our interests but to the interests of others