Unity in Our Diversity

Here are some interesting reads having to do with Unity in the Body of Christ. On His way to the garden of Gethsemane, where He knew He would be arrested and soon after by crucified, our Lord prayed a prayer, recorded in John 17, in which He poured out His heart to the Father asking for unity among those who would follow Him in the future. The Message translates the high priestly prayer as follows: “I’m praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind-just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are-I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me.” vs 20-23

Evangelical Truth: A Personal Plea for Unity, Integrity & Faithfulness (Christian Doctrine in Global Perspective) John Stott  – from Amazon.com: “Recipient of a year 2000 Christianity Today Award of Merit! Evangelicalism has divided into various branches–conservative, progressive, Reformed, charismatic and more. Does any common ground remain that all can gladly affirm? From John Stott, one of evangelicalism’s leading statesmen over the last fifty years, comes a statement that boldly places the trinitarian gospel at the center of faith. Here is an exquisite crystallization of essential beliefs about revelation, the cross and the work of the Spirit. In addition, recognizing that how we live this truth is as important as believing it, Stott calls all evangelicals to integrity, perseverance and humility. Always lucid, always engaging, John Stott directs readers of many persuasions away from their differences and toward the glorious work of the Father, Son and Spirit that God calls us to celebrate in common.”

Basis of Christian Unity by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Christian unity is the result of a shared faith in Christ and His gospel. This is what emerges from Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ consideration of John 17 and Ephesians 4 in the addresses to the Westminster Fellowship republished here. His presentation was given against the background of the ferment of discussion and debate engendered by the ecumenical movement of the time and demonstrated that unity is never something arrived at by ignoring or minimizing truth. The debates have moved on, but this lucid examination of the issues underlying Christian unity remains as relevant as when first presented in 1962. It points to timeless truths which should never be obscured.

Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – After his martyrdom at the hands of the Gestapo in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer continued his witness in the hearts of Christians around the world. His Letters and Papers from Prison became a prized testimony to Christian faith and courage, read by thousands. Now in Life Together we have Pastor Bonhoeffer’s experience of Christian community. This story of a unique fellowship in an underground seminary during the Nazi years reads like one of Paul’s letters. It gives practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups. The role of personal prayer, worship in common, everyday work, and Christian service is treated in simple, almost biblical, words. Life Together is bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship.

Being the Body by Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn – from publishers weekly: “In 1992, Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship International, penned The Body, an important work on how Christians have emphasized individualism to the detriment of the church, or the body. More than a decade later, Colson is back with Being the Body, a revised and updated edition of his award-winning book. It opens with the gripping personal accounts of several September 11 survivors, then states that in the immediate days following the World Trade Center attacks, the church was at last doing what it is supposed to do: it was being the body. As time went on, Christians’ purpose veered off course, and the sense of community that was forged by the tragedy faded into memory. The book draws upon politics, philosophy and religion, demonstrating Colson’s trademark breadth in its quest to foster Christian community. While some nonevangelical readers will likely be offended by aspects of the book (such as its broad generalizations about Islam), it will certainly be as influential and provocative as its predecessor.”

Well Connected: Releasing Power, Restoring Hope through Kingdom Partnerships by Phill Butler – this is one of my (Mike Soderlings) favorite works on unity among believers. Mr Butler is a good friend and mentor on the essential topic of network and partnership building for kingdom purposes. You’ll not find a more thorough treatment of the subject.

Building Strategic Relationships: A Practical Guide to Partnering with Non-Western Missions by Daniel Rickett – a great starter guide especially for churches thinking about partnering with majority world churches. A shorter version of the next book referenced below.

Making Your Partnership Work by Daniel Rickett – another well written book on partnership (our modern word for unity in the church) with first hand and very practical advice. More in depth than “Building Strategic Relationships.”

Cross-Cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Mission by Mary T. Lederleitner – a great book for anyone already involved in or thinking of becoming involved in working with cross-cultural partners.

  • from Amazon product description: “One of the biggest challenges in global mission work is money—not merely the need for it, but working through cross-cultural differences surrounding how funds are used and accounted for. Cross-cultural missteps regarding financial issues can derail partnerships between supporting churches and agencies and national leaders on the ground. North Americans don’t understand how cultural expectations of patronage shape how financial support is perceived and understood, and Western money often comes with subtle strings attached. So local mission work is hampered by perceived paternalism, and donors are frustrated with lack of results or accountability. How do we build financial partnerships for effective mission without fostering neo-colonialism? Cross-cultural specialist Mary Lederleitner brings missiological and financial expertise to explain how global mission efforts can be funded with integrity, mutuality and transparency. Bringing together social science research, biblical principles and on-the-ground examples, she presents best practices for handling funding and finance. Cross-cultural partnerships can foster dignity, build capacity and work toward long-term sustainability. Lederleitner also addresses particular problems like misallocation of funds, embezzlement and fraud. This book is an essential guide for all who partner in global mission, whether pastors of supporting churches or missionaries and funding agencies.”

Leading Across Cultures: Effective Ministry and Mission in the Global Church by James E. Plueddemann. If we are going to be part of a unity movement we must understand the intricacies of working cross-culturally. This book does a wonderful job of helping us all understand this often times tricky topic.

  • again,from Amazon: “The worldwide church is more interconnected than ever before, with missionaries going from everywhere to everywhere. Africans work with Australians in India. Koreans plant churches in London and Los Angeles. But globalization also creates challenges for cross-cultural tension and misunderstandings, as different cultures have conflicting assumptions about leadership values and styles. Missiologist James E. Plueddemann presents a road-map for cross-cultural leadership development in the global church. With keen understanding of current research on cultural dynamics, he integrates theology with leadership theory to apply biblical insights to practical issues in world mission. Savvy discernment of diverse cultural underpinnings allows multicultural teams to work together with mutual respect for more effective ministry. The author shows how leaders can grow from an individualistic egocentric practice of leadership to a more global-centric approach. The future of the global church depends on effective multicultural leadership. God has called people from various contexts to minister and lead in every land for the sake of the gospel. Whether you are teaching English in China, directing information technology in Africa or pastoring a multi-ethnic church in North America, discover how you can better work and lead across cultures.”

There are a couple of new disciplines which are again just reiterations of biblical principles, though the developers would say this is original thinking. They are interrelated and I refer to them hear since they have a lot to do with the complexity of the body of Christ and how we should be thinking about dealing with out diversity. Both these works are by Peter Senge of MIT and who is director of the Society for Organizational Learning. While we cannot agree with the worldview from which he functions (secular/humanist), there are many useful principles in these works.

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge. and

The Necessary Revolution: Working Together to Create a Sustainable World also by Peter M. Senge, plus Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur, Sara Schley.