A quick look at news headlines reveal the prevalence of disunity. There is disunity in the National Party with an MP leaking information, turmoil in the Australian Liberal party fighting over leadership, and family members taking each other to court. Part of our human condition seems to be that we tend to be tribal and find reasons to include or exclude people for arbitrary reasons. It happens in school playgrounds, it is manifest in teenage subcultures and is found in social divisions. At one extreme disunity is revealed in racism.
Having started well, the Christians in Pergamum were no longer united in the faith. Cracks had appeared in their unity as some began to make compromises and become accepting of teaching that was different from the gospel they had begun with. It is understandable that they struggled, given the pressure to conform to the norms of worship in their city. Pergamum was a religious stronghold of the worship of Zeus and the Roman Emperor. The city was so clearly pagan that it Jesus referred to it as the place where Satan lives and has his throne. How should a Christian live in a city like Pergamum? Do you go along with the prevailing culture of the day? It was not easy for these Christians to remain faithful to Jesus. They began to compromise in the way Balaam had revealed in the Old Testament, sexual temptations leading to pagan worship.
Unity is important in the Christian faith. King David wrote, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1 Jesus said, “I pray … that all of them may be one … May they be brought to complete unity” John 17:20–23. Paul wrote, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” Ephesians 4:3 Some, not all, of the Christians in Pergamum had become compromised in their faith and lost the unity they once had. They no longer measured up to the unity Jesus desired them to have.
At our AGM today, we see the fruit of the unity in our church as we worship God together and unite in the mission he gives us. Since the 1980s if not earlier we have united around the key ideas of being Christ-centred, bible-based, mission-oriented and people-related.
Because we are united, God commands a blessing – and we are truly blessed. We are blessed with people, our Christian family. We are blessed with longstanding existing ministries like Playgroup/mainly music – with decades of faithful service to the very young and their families. We are blessed by new ministries that have only been going a few years. Even today we have a team in Mt Eden prison sharing the good news of Jesus. Our children’s holiday programme which began three years ago with only fifteen children registered has grown to having over seventy children registered.
How do you measure success or achievement of a church that is united in purpose?
- Involvement of many volunteers
- Generous giving towards the mission of the church
- Engagement in Prayer through our seasons and day of prayer
- Development of Christ-like character, as we mature in our faith
- Connections with the community through our various programmes
- Participation in Growth group bible studies
Perhaps from God’s point of view one important measure of success is unity which is seen in: the quality of our relationships; the support we give to each other; the friendship we share, the encouragement we offer.
I hope you are encouraged by the reports you read in the AGM and challenged by the opportunities we have in the year ahead.
For reflection: - what could you do to foster unity in your home, your workplace or your church?
Rev John Malcolm