Summary: What does unity in the faith look like? Just as we have a diversity of gift in the unity in the Spirit, so there is a diversity of service to unity in the faith.
WHAT DOES UNITY IN THE FAITH LOOK LIKE?
'Once upon a time there was a mighty river. It flowed gracefully and elegantly across the landscape. Along its banks it gave life and sustenance to the tribes of Aboriginal Australians who camped by it. For many generations this river was a central focus for life. Then, gradually, the river ceased to flow, becoming a stagnant pool. With the heat of summer it started to dry up. Around the banks of the disappearing symbol of their security, the people watched aghast. What could be happening to them? By the dried-up riverbed many sat, waiting for the river to flow once more.
Yet others thought to look around and discovered that the river was not gone. Still flowing, it had simply changed course upstream, creating a billabong on the curve at which they sat.'
(John Drane) Evangelism for a New Age
This is how John Drane introduces his book 'Evangelism for a New Age'. And the imagery he uses describes very well the situation of our day in many churches in the land where the landscape of our culture has altered so much that the maps and the methods we once used are either no longer relevant or no longer effective.
NOT SO A BLEAK PICTURE
But we should not view the outlook as being in any way bleak. God is surely a match for the changes. Worldwide, there are more Christians in our generation than in any previous generation -- and the percentage is about 32% of the world population. (In contrast to 21% Muslim)
The big question is, 'Where do we find ourselves in the big picture?
I suggest that at Westwood we are not content to sit around, like the aborigines, waiting for the waters of our fortunes to return.
* We are on a search to understand how the landscape has changed.
* We are in the process of discovering the new maps that will enable us to reach new generations of people with the Gospel effectively.
Maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
BE MERCIFUL Humility Gentleness.Patience and bearing with each other
BE MISSIONAL But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it
* Apostolic leadership
* Prophetic inspiration
* Evangelism that engages deeply with people
* Pastoring and teaching new Christians
I wonder if you noticed in the Bible reading two weeks ago that Ephesians 4 describes not only 'unity in the Spirit' but also 'unity in the faith'.
What does 'unity in the faith' look like?
READING Ephesians 4:11-32
1. SOUND DOCTRINE
Unity in the faith and maturity in Christ mean that we all recognize and follow the same essential truths -- the fundamentals of the faith.
But the OUTWORKING of the same faith that we have will vary depending on our gifts. And this is part of God's design in the body of Christ.
V16 -- the body of Christ grows up and is built up in love as each part does its work
2. TRUTHFULNESS AND COMPASSION IN RELATIONSHIPS
What would this world look like if the whole world was a clone of you and everyone you met thought exactly the same way as you?
The point is that we are all different.
* Some of us become engineers -- others artists
* Some of us are predominantly thinkers -- others are more intuitive
* And all of us, as the body of Christ, have different functions in the unity of the one body.
* We are predominantly left or right brain developed
* We come from different backgrounds and have different presuppositions.
Ephesians 4 reminds us that we are different, and God has arranged it this way.
THE DIAGRAMS (These can be viewed on www.wwbc.co.uk and and MP3 download is also available)
In his book on the subject of authentic unity and personal wholeness in Christ 'The Core of Christianity' Neil Anderson has included some helpful diagrams that assist us to see where we are placed in the body of Christ.
What he says is true of particular denominations or churches. But it is also true of people in one of four quadrants of a healthy church.
He describes four quadrants in which we may find ourselves as Christians: [DIAGRAM 1]
Between God and nature, man and nature, man and spirit or God and spirit.
[DIAGRAM 2] -- The zone we find ourselves in
[DIAGRAM 3] - X is the desirable place to be in, otherwise we may run to extremes or be suspicious of other believers who are in different quadrants
[DIAGRAM1 again] -- The extremes -- Legalism etc
DIAGRAM 4 -- How we operate
We may move freely from one quadrant to another, but most of us are at home in a particular quadrant -- and that will be the one in which we have been taught, trained, or have come from.