Summary: Part 1 of this series about how people in the church should work together to be effectively used by Jesus for Kingdom work. Promoting unity on the essentials of Jesus and His mission through the Church is the issue in this message.

Foundations for Healthy Church Relationships

Part 1 – Promoting Unity

John 17:20-23

August 22, 2010




We just finished a three-part series on foundations for healthy personal relationships, and today we’re starting another short series on foundations for healthy church relationships.

Obviously healthy personal relationships will benefit church relationships as well, but there are some things in Scripture that specifically talk about how we should get along as a church body.

I’ve been blessed in that just about every church setting I’ve been in has been positive, and in no case was there a time when there was a bunch of division or dissension or anything like that.

But some of you have been in situations where there has been either a church split, or a nasty pastoral issue where the pastor was removed, or just internal arguing that has kept that church from moving forward because they’re bogged down in their strife.

God: Well, the Bible says that this isn’t supposed to be the case.

The Bible says that we are supposed to be marked by unity, and He specifically prayed for that the night He was betrayed.

John 17:20-23 (p. 766) –

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Now let me just set the stage a little bit:

Jesus is just hours away from being hung on a cross for our sins.

He was about to suffer the most excruciating form of capital punishment ever devised to that point, and some say that still nothing man has been able to think of, and what’s He doing? Praying. For us. For everyone who will believe in Jesus through the message of the apostles about Him.

He was praying for us. And what’s He praying for? Our unity.

That we would be unified in Him just like the Father is unified in Jesus.

That would tell me that this is kind of an important deal for Him.

Jesus isn’t just suggesting that unity would be a good idea.

It’s not something that’s just thrown out there for the sake of everyone getting along in a church.

Jesus is pleading with the Heavenly Father that the Church would be unified.

You’d have to think that when Jesus prays about something, it’s gotta be important, right?

Especially when He’s praying about that right before He’s arrested and crucified.

And yet, so many churches don’t even know the meaning of the word, much less show it in the life of their church.

Church splits happen left and right. Churches right here in Aberdeen have split in the time I’ve been here, and it’s even happened here within the memories of some of you here.

I think Jesus knew how hard it would be to keep this in mind, and that’s why He prayed for the Father to help us with it.

In these four verses Jesus says some things here that we need to keep in mind, and find some lessons about unity.

And before I get too far, into this message, I want to give you what unity really means.

I was going to wait on this for later in the message, but I’m not sure that will be as beneficial, so I’m just going to give you a quick definition, and later in the message I’ll discuss it a bit more in-depth.

But I thought I’d better at least give you something that you can hang onto during the first part of the message.

Unity is basically agreeing on the essentials about Jesus and the mission of the Church that He has given us.

Okay? I’m going to get into that a bit more when we talk about a couple barriers to unity, but that’s the basis of what I believe Jesus is trying to communicate through this prayer of His.

So let’s take a quick look at three lessons about unity from this prayer.

1. Unity in the Church reflects the unity of the Father and the Son.

Verse 21 –

“…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

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