June 13, 2013

Unity of Believers

Sometimes it can be discouraging to be at a small church. You wonder why it doesn't grow. You wonder if what you're doing is making a difference. Maybe you even begin to feel isolated, like you're the only ones left serving the Lord - much like the prophet Elijah felt in 1 Kings 19. The truth, though, is that you cannot measure the impact of your work - especially when you work together with others - and you are definitely not alone. Just as God reminded Elijah that there were thousands of others who had not bowed to false gods, so we know there are others around the globe who also serve our God, and this can be a great comfort to us at times.

One of the great blessings of the Church, I think, is the knowledge that there are so many different kinds of people all around the world - folks from various races, cultures and nations - and yet we can be joined together through our common faith in the Almighty.


This is something beautiful God has really highlighted for me over the past few years, as Amber and I have had opportunities to occasionally worship and work with believers from other churches and cultures. I've been reminded of it when we've visited other churches while on vacation, or when people who normally attend other churches have come to visit ours. And it's been on my mind a lot this week, as Amber and I just came home from the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

At Conference, we celebrated together the various ministries of churches across the state, we saw new missionaries commissioned to work in far away places, and we came together as one group - not just to worship, but to BE the Church by doing holy work in union.

One way we worked together at Conference was through our "Afternoon of Service". This is something they started doing a few years ago, where those attending Conference are asked to volunteer an afternoon to do acts of kindness for others. There are various projects you can choose - anything from giving blood to installing ramps for the disabled, visiting people in the hospital, or organizing food for the homeless.

Amber and I joined a group writing letters of
encouragement to soldiers and their families.
In all, 900 volunteers this year worked on over 40 separate projects, and it cheers my heart to see so many people coming together to work in the name of Jesus.


Another sign of solidarity was shown at our Missions Celebration, Tuesday night, when representatives from each of the churches in the Conference came forward to give an offering to benefit Imagine No Malaria, an initiative aimed at eliminating death in Africa caused by malaria. I was overjoyed Wednesday morning to learn that together we had given $108,000 for the cause. Then I was thrilled Wednesday afternoon to learn that the West Ohio Annual Conference has made a pledge to raise $3.5 million!

I am so encouraged as I remember that the Church is not small, and the Church is not limited to the people I see every Sunday or even the people I see when I go to Annual Conference. It isn't even limited to the UMC - large as it might be - which I think is wonderful! Millions of people around the world are part of this one great family!
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all."
- Ephesians 4:4-5
It's a sad thing for a Christian or a church to feel alone. You are not alone! You are never alone! You are always surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. You are always part of a great body of believers that stretches around the globe. And God himself is always with you!

Sadder still is when a Christian or a church chooses isolation or division. We are meant to be together! We are meant to encourage one another and to spur one another on to love and good deeds! We are meant to strengthen and sharpen each other! We're meant to show the rest of the world that peace and unity are possible with God's help!

When Elijah was depressed, God reminded him that he was not alone, and the next thing he did was to put him back to work.
How can you get back to work for God today?
How can you show unity with others who are also serving God the best they can?
How can you just reach out and love on somebody today?
There are so many painful divisions in this world, but I am blessed as I remember that God loves all of us, and he has called us together to be one people with the one purpose of glorifying him. Though each individual may have his own unique personality and skills and story, still we are one perfect whole together. And we can express that by welcoming people, by learning from them and by reaching out to help others in a variety of ways in Christian love!

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