1. As Christians, we have a responsibility to maintain unity in the Church.
A long time ago, a little child in an African tribe wandered off into the tall jungle grass and
could not be found. The tribe search all day, but could not find the little boy. The next day
the tribal members all held hands and walked through the grass together. This enabled
them to find the child, but due to the cold night, he had not survived. In her anguish and
tears, the mother cried, “If only we would have held hands sooner.”
2. Brethren, I hate to say this, but over the years our fellowship has not held hands very
well. In 1865, The Baltimore American, which was one of the leading newspapers in
the country, said that the churches of Christ were “the fastest growing religious group
in America.” And over the next 100 years, our fellowship continued to experience
rapid growth—for in 1965, the church of Christ had an incredible 2,500,000 members.
3. However, at our present time, our fellowship is in decline. Resent demographics show
that the church of Christ has about one and half million members. Our fellowship is in
4. Why is our fellowship in decline? I believe the number one reason is because over the
years our fellowship has not maintained unity.
a. In (Jn. 17:21), Jesus earnestly prayed that believers “may be one.”
b. Instead of being one, our fellowship has divided or split on such issues as:
(1) Musical instruments.
(2) Whether or not to support orphans homes, & missionary societies.
(3) Lord’s Supper (some demanded that only one communion cup be used).
(4) Kitchens in the church building.
(5) The role of the Holy Spirit.
(6) Dancing, card playing, swimsuits, and Bible interpretations.
5. When will the divisions stop? When are we going to realize that our lack of unity is
destroying the church that Jesus purchased with His own blood.
WE MUST HAVE UNITY IN THE CHURCH.
THIS MORNING, I WILL PRESENT TWO POINTS ON THE CONCEPT OF UNITY.
I. FIRST, GOD EXPECTS US TO MAINTAIN UNITY.
1. Here are some passages that instruct us to have unity.
& "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity
among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you
may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 15:5-6).
& "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree
with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be
perfectly united in mind and thought" (1 Cor. 1:10).
2. Just like a family must have unity to survive & prosper, the church must have unity to
survive & prosper.
& Jesus once said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mk.
3:25). If a church is divided against itself, it will not stand!
3. Let me offer several reasons why I believe that some churches divide.
a. Churches divide because of selfish ambition.
(1) In (3 John 9) we read about a man named Diotrephes who wanted to control the
church. In fact, the Bible says that “he loved to be first."
(2) Churches divide over men who are hungry for power and control. They want things
their way, and if they don’t get it, they start causing problems.
Several years ago, a man in a church wanted to be an elder. However, he was not
qualified. Since He couldn’t be an elder, he along with several other people, left and
started their own church so he could be an elder. That split was all about selfish ambition.
b. Churches divide over believers boasting in certain men.
(1) In (1 Cor. 1:12), the church was being divided because several members were pledging
alliance to different preachers. Some said they followed Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and
Christ. They were dividing the church over human alliance.
n I have heard that some churches have split because some members liked the preacher,
but others didn’t. We must understand that our only alliance must be to Jesus Christ.
We must not divide over human favoritism.
c. Churches have divided because false teachers have turned others from the truth.
(1) In (1 Cor. 15:12), there were some false teachers telling Christians that Jesus was not
raised from the dead. They were in essence telling the Corinthian Christians that
their faith was useless. So Paul wrote chapter 15 to explain that Jesus was
resurrected from the dead. And in (v. 14) Paul said, “and if Christ has not been
raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
(2) There are still false teachers today who distort the gospel message and cause
Christians to divide.
The May 1987 edition of National Geographic included a feature about the arctic wolf.
Author L. David Mech described how a seven-member pack had targeted several
musk-oxen calves who were guarded by eleven adults. As the wolves approached their
quarry, the musk-oxen bunched in an impenetrable semicircle, their deadly rear hooves
facing out, and the calves remained safe during a long standoff with the enemy. But then a
single ox broke rank, and the herd scattered into nervous little groups. A skirmish ensued,
and the adults finally fled in panic, leaving the calves to the mercy of the predators. Not a
single calf survived. Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 that after his departure
wolves would come, not sparing the flock.
(3) Wolves continue to attack the church today but they cannot penetrate and destroy
when unity is maintained. When believers break ranks, however, they provide easy
n There are many reasons why churches divide. We have just noticed three reasons. At
this time, I will share some ways to maintain unity.
II. SECOND, HOW CAN WE ACHIEVE UNITY?
1. The word unity literally means “oneness, one of the same mind, one in thought.”
A. To achieve unity, we must be like-minded regarding the essentials to our Christian
1. Paul provides us with a list of the essentials we must believe in (Eph. 4:4-5).
a. One body (One Church).
b. One Spirit (One Holy Spirit).
c. One Lord (We believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord & Savior).
d. One Faith.
e. One Baptism (Meaning that we are baptized in water for the remission of sins).
f. One God (There is one God, yet there are 3 persons in the Godhead).
2. As brothers and sisters, we should believe alike regarding the essentials to our faith.
We should be like minded on what it takes to be saved. We should be like minded that
the Bible is the Word of God. If we do, we should have unity. If we don’t, then we will
have many problems.
B. To achieve unity, we must have liberty regarding the non-essential beliefs.
1. Too often, Believers are separated because of minor differences on certain issues or
passages. What a pity it is that our interpretation about the millennium, music,
workshops, or even school loyalty has separated baptized believers from one another in
the body of Christ. Surly that cannot honor God. That cannot be the idea that God had
in mind. These issues should not divide a family.
2. I hope that my salvation does not depend upon my interpretation of the second coming
of Jesus; my interpretation of the works of the Holy Spirit; my interpretation of the
book of Revelation; my interpretation of kitchens in the church building. If my
interpretation is dependent upon these things, I am a doomed man.
3. The problem in many churches is that people take matters of opinion issues and turn
them into to mandatory truths that you must believe alike or you cannot have
fellowship with one another. That’s just not true. We must have liberty on non
essential beliefs that cause problems.
& (Rom. 14:1-4, 22) "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on
disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man,
whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not
look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not
condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him… So whatever you believe
about these things keep between yourself and God."
4. These verses assume that there will be differences of opinion in the church on
disputable matters. Paul says we are not to quarrel about issues that are matters of
opinion. Differences should not be feared or avoided, but accepted and handled with
Rubel Shelly, at the Tulsa Worship, gave this illustration or something similar to it.
Two die hard supports of the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins weeks from now
may set on opposite sides of the field and they may scream their lungs out for their
different teams, wave pennants and jump up and down and applaud at exactly the opposite
What you may latter be shocked about is they road to the stadium together. And after the
game they went out to dinner together and picked up their friendship without a beat being
missed. Inspite of the fact that their loyalty is with two different teams.
5. In our churches, we must love one another and be friends with one another although we
disagree on certain issues.
6. Don’t expect everyone, even in the best possible church, to agree on every subject.
Through sharing ideas we can come to a fuller understanding of what the Bible
teaches. Accept, listen to, and respect others. Differences of opinion need not cause
division. They can be a source of learning and richness in our relationships.
1. God expects us to maintain unity in the church. Jesus even prayed that all believers
2. We cannot allow Satan to destroy the churches unity. We must be on guard all the time
for situations that could divide the church. It is a serious offense to cause divisions in
the body of Christ.
& (1 Cor. 3:17) “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s
temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”
3. To maintain unity in the church, we must be like-minded regarding the essentials to our
Christian faith. We should believe alike on how one is saved.
4. But yet, to achieve unity, we must have liberty regarding the non-essential beliefs. We
all strive to know the truth, but at times, we may differ or have different opinions on
certain non essential subjects: Subjects that may not be clear in the Scriptures. If we
do, we should talk about it in love, and if we still have different opinions, we are still
brothers and sisters in Christ and a part of God’s family.
5. This morning, if you are subject to the Lord's invitation, please come as we stand and
Keith Smith, Minister
Elam Road Church of Christ