the shape of leadership

The Catalytic Power of Unity

How coming together multiplies giving, serving and sharing

Throughout the Book of Acts, we see a number of catalysts that thrust the gospel forward and mobilized the Early Church to make an extraordinary difference. The power of the Holy Spirit, prayer and fasting, and an unrelenting focus on evangelism were crucial to the Early Church’s success. But another essential ingredient at play was the undeniable power of unity.

The Early Church came together around a common vision — united for the purpose of Christ. That unifying purpose was expressed in at least three ways:

United Giving

Acts 4:32-35 declares, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (emphases added).

Notice how emphatic this passage of Scripture is. “All” the believers were one in heart and mind. They shared “everything.” There were “no needy persons” among them. How could this happen? Unity.

Eighteen months ago, we launched a major two-year vision initiative at 7 City Church (Assemblies of God in Fort Worth, Texas) with a focus on the church, cities and culture. While the vision included a huge financial goal, our primary objective was not money, but participation. Why? Because unity around a bold vision produces extraordinary impact.

People often have a mentality that because they can’t solve the entire problem, they don’t have a responsibility to contribute to any part of the solution. But the extent of a problem should not dictate our engagement in the solution. Instead, we must view ourselves as partners, collectively united to steward resources for a vision greater than any one of us.

United Serving

Historians estimate that in A.D. 250, Christians were feeding more than 1,500 destitute and hurting people in Rome every day.

Unity increases the speed of the spread of the gospel.

When Emperor Julian — who was an opponent of the Christian faith — wanted to reintroduce paganism in the mid-300s, he said, “[Christianity] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers and through their care of the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar and that the [Christians] care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help we should render them.”

How were the early Christians able to make such a difference and build such a reputation? They were united in serving. We see this willingness to serve in Acts 6 when the Church was rapidly growing. With such growth, widows were overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So, the twelve apostles called a meeting of the believers, and appointed seven men to assume this responsibility.

What was the result? Not only did the Church meet the need, but Acts 6:7 says, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

The apostles identified a problem, mobilized a group of people to solve that problem, and everyone engaged in the fulfillment of God’s purpose.

United Sharing

In the opening verses of Acts, Jesus made it clear that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was all about being witnesses. Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, emphasis added).

The commission to share the gospel is amplified by unity. In John 17, as Jesus prayed for His disciples, He said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (verses 20-23, emphases added).

Simply put: Unity increases the speed of the spread of the gospel. When we are united, there is an unstoppable momentum that makes it possible for more people to hear and encounter the grace and love of Jesus.

What would happen if the Church united around these three priorities today — giving, serving, and sharing? What difference might we make in our world if we rallied to give toward the most pressing needs, served as a united team to solve our community’s biggest problems, and made sharing the good news of Jesus our greatest mission? Unity is a multiplier. It catalyzes forward momentum beyond the efforts of any one person.

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