Unity in the church, amongst believers, was an essential thing for Paul the Apostle. On multiple occasions, he either wrote about the need for unity directly or it was implied through one of the many "one another" passages. Many a church leader has pondered this need for unity, have taught extensively on its practicalities, and worked tirelessly with members of their churches to promote it -- all to be met with tension in the church, relational strains with their members, and sometimes disunity that leads to division.
Well, I want to offer some hope to church leaders everywhere. Right in the middle of my own unity prepping, studying, teaching, and training, I accidentally found that there are some people who have already solved the unity problem. They were right around us and were probably there all along but went unnoticed by us pastors and teachers. There are at least five types of unity I've discovered with these unity triumphant people who have made themselves manifest to their own unity. Here are those five types, in no particular order.
Disclaimer: any resemblance to actual people is mostly coincidental. This is meant to represent conglomerations of people, not any one person in particular. I've met multiple people in each of these categories... and most likely, so have you - that is what makes it funny.
Number One: The Durable Unity of the Free-Rangers
The free rangers are the ones who would claim a love of Jesus and a love of His church, but haven't actually set foot in one for, well, they aren't sure how long. A Free-Ranger will usually still consider themselves a part of or even a member of a certain church, but they may not know anyone who is actually currently attending. I don't know how the Free-Rangers don't get more credit for their contribution to unity in the body of Christ. Not only have they removed themselves from any potential relational conflicts in the church but they have also removed themselves from the majority of those pesky things like doctrine and teaching.
Number Two: The Articulate Unity of the Shareangelists
The unity of the Shareangelists is exquisite and rare, at least to the Shareangelist. You may have never heard of a Shareangelist because I just made that title up, but I believe that most of us disunified church congregants will be familiar with their articulate unity because the Shareangelists are the ones who bring a unique piece of unity with them wherever they go.
The Shareanglists exist in their own solitary bubble of Biblical unity. They are their own teachers and preachers. Other teaching and preaching will regularly be broadcast into their self-sustaining unity bubble, usually from an internet or radio source, but never apart from the brilliant insight of the Shareangelist.
On certain occasions, the Shareangelist's bubble reaches an internal pressure that requires an outlet. It is usually in conjunction with this need of a pressure release that the Shareangelist will make their way to a church, preferably one with a praise and testimony time. This is when their articulate unity gets its opportunity to present itself in all its glory. Through a personal story, a scripture reading, and a pithy quote from a childhood preacher, the Shareangelist's unity blooms in the church. In that moment -- with a twinkle in their eye -- the Shareangelist knows they have imparted a level of Biblical Unity and understanding that is exactly what the church needed. Bless you, Shareangelist.
I try to leave a plate of cookies out for the Shareangelist on Shareanglist Eve.
Number Three: The Evasive Unity of the Searchers
The unity of the Searchers has revealed itself in a very different way. This unity is usually less of an obtained or achieved unity, and more of a vision of unity that has been captured by the Searchers. The Searchers are usually identified as larger family and/or friend units and often times travel in packs. The pack has most likely made their way through most of the Evangelical churches in any particular 30-mile radius, sometimes more than once.
The Searchers haven't officially landed at any particular church, at least not in quite a while. As a church that has been graced with their presence, I am quite familiar with the joy that they bring upon their arrival. Along with so many other churches, we've longed to touch the hem of their spiritual garments. We do everything we can, hoping that we will be counted worthy and fulfill their vision of unity. But alas, they have moved on again. Hopefully on their next pass through we will have our act cleaned up and be able to check all of the unity boxes of the Searchers.
Number Four: The Whimsical Unity of the Populace
It is easy to confuse the Whimsical Unity of the Populace with the Durable Unity of the Free Rangers. There are many similarities between these two unities. Neither group is overly concerned with things like doctrine or teaching ...or Bible study, for that matter. Both groups have very short confessional statements, statements that neither group would ever consider putting down on paper... that is part of the magic of their unity.
The Whimsical Unity of the Populace is most easily found in larger churches. If you would like to experience it, allow yourself to float into a larger church. Pick one with a talented praise band, that will help. Immerse yourself in their music service. If you're lucky, the preaching will be surrounded by music, both before and after. Permit yourself one quick glance around at the happy faces of the populace, but don't look too long. Not only will you risk making eye contact with another person and burst the whimsical unity you're experiencing, but you may also realize that what you are experiencing is identical to what you experienced at that Grateful Dead concert... minus the drugs, of course. (At least most of the time.)
Number Five: The Profound Unity of the Home Church Dudes
This final unity is the one that hits the closest to home. To be honest, the Profound Unity of the Home Church Dudes is the one that I have looked at the most with nearly envious eyes. You see, the Home Church Dudes are the ones that have finally figured out that they are the only ones who have actually got everything figured out. So, rejecting 2,000 years of church history, they throw off the shackles of the Christian Community, in all of its glorious messiness, to establish their own church of one. Would they be open to others joining them, sure, in theory... but that never works out. People are stupid. Right?
No judgment from me. I've thought of it many times myself.
If I have stepped on your toes with this, that isn't entirely on purpose. If you are interested in giving up the dream of A Christian Community and actually experiencing one. Pick a church. Take your time, make sure they are preaching the word, but then pick one. Then go to it. Attend it. Invest in it. Get to know it. After you get to know it, don't leave. Stick it out. Strive for unity. Bear with one another. Exhibit humility, patience, and gentleness. As Paul says,
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1–3 ESV)