By Gary Rohrmayer, President of Church Multiplication Partners
Disclaimer: Below is an example of a Vision Casting message I shared at the biennial gathering of Converge MidAmerica, a church starting and strengthening organization. This is part 3.
I have been studying and preaching Paul’s prayers for the church. In them we find a great source of vision and encouragement for the church and the greater movement of God. Paul in the midst of his teachings on the strong and weaker brother offered this prayer as a conclusion.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6
In this text we can see what I call the Better Together formula: Grit + Grace = Unity
Many writers and speakers are lamenting over the absence of grit in our culture today. Some would say we are in the midst of a gritless generation of leaders — from pastors to lay leaders.
Grit is a combination of passion and persistence. Demonstrating grit could involve finishing what you begin. Staying committed to your goals. Working hard even after experiencing failures or setbacks. Pushing through quitting points. Sticking with a project or activity for more than a few weeks. Being a person of your word, honoring commitments and being faithful in your relationships. Showing up when no one else does.
Jessy Padilla was a man who showed up when no one else did. Fifteen years ago I gathered together four key leaders among our Hispanic churches to dream about and discuss church planting among the Spanish-speaking people coming to our area. As we discussed, dreamed, prayed and scheduled our next meeting, I challenged each leader to come back with a financial gift to start our Hispanic Church Planting Fund and that I would match dollar for dollar what each of their churches gave. The next meeting was put on the calendar; the reminders were sent out, the day came and only one leader showed up. It was Pastor Jessy Padilla with a check of $400. Grit is showing up when no one else does. The gift from his church started our Hispanic Church Planting Fund that has been the foundation for our new resurgence of Hispanic Church Planting.
The biblical idea for grit is endurance. Endurance is rooted in the character of God and is received through the Word of God (Romans 15:4). We have an enduring God who endures with us. Endurance is the God-given ability for us not to veer off God’s purposes no matter what we are facing. For the follower of Jesus the phrase, “I can’t take it anymore!” need not be in our vocabulary. As we learn to rely on God’s enduring power, his empowering Word and the strength of his presence, we can push through the quitting points in relationships and in pursuing his mission. Enduring grit cultivates a deeper trust in God and a greater reliance on each other (James 1:2-4). Enduring grit shapes our character and transforms our faith (Romans 5:3-5). The rewards of enduring grit are beyond the temporary pain we experience (James 1:12).
When grit is evident then trust is established and unity is experienced because people are drawn to a tenacious spirit and leaders with resolve and courage.
When God extends grace to us he freely gives us what we don’t deserve, in this we see the word encouragement.
Encouragement is also embedded in God’s character and is experienced through his Word (Romans 15:4). We have an encouraging God who speaks perfectly into our life situations. The original word for encouragement can be translated to comfort, to bring correction or to challenge others to a new level of faith. So encouraging one another is the God-given ability for us to get so close to one another that we can confidently speak God’s promises, warnings and concerns into each other’s lives. When we rely on and share the Word of God with others we can breathe life and hope into our souls. When we cling to God’s Word and point others to his promises we can refresh God’s vision in our hearts and increase our faith. Paul wrote early “…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Four years ago at our biennial gathering I challenged our partner churches to increase their ownership in our shared mission by raising their financial commitment to a new level. Not knowing which church would receive that challenge, I believed that at least one church could raise their support to us to $100,000 a year. At the time no church was giving over $50,000 a year. As soon as I was done with that message, Darryn Scheske came up to me and said that by faith Heartland Church was going to be that church to give $100,000 a year in support. For the last four years, they have averaged over $100,000 in support to our shared mission and have experienced the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).
When grace is evident, encouragement happens! The grace of giving nurtures unity and results in thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10-12)
First, I want to say that “unity in not uniformity.”
Mary and I are in a different church over 40 Sundays a year, and believe me no two churches are alike. This fall we have traveled from the southside of Chicago (Compassion Baptist Church) to a small resort town in northeast Michigan (Oscoda Baptist Church) to a multisite church in the sprawling suburbs of Indianapolis (Heartland Church). From there we went to the university town of Bloomington (Redeemer Community Church) in central Indiana to a multicultural church meeting in downtown Indianapolis (Indy Metro). Then we ministered to a new Hispanic congregation in Lake County (Case de Oracion) to one of our historic African American churches on the southside of Chicago (Bellevue Baptist Church) and then onto one of our thriving African American churches in the southwest suburb of Bolingbrook, Illinois (Jubilee Baptist Church).
Not one church did their service the same way as the others. We sang different songs, experienced different orders of services, some have no greeting time and others had extended greeting times. Each had its own culture and traditions, but one thing is evident in them all: We saw the grace of God at work. People were experiencing the awe of God, and they were expressing their love and devotion to Jesus. People hungry for God’s Word and growing in their understanding of the gospel. We heard stories of life change … people for all types of backgrounds experiencing new life in Christ … broken families made whole and marriages saved from the brink of destruction all reflecting the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In our text Paul defines unity as “so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:6)
“One mind” reveals that unity is singleness of purpose. Unity leads us to think the same thoughts, agree on the same goals and to cherish God’s desire for the church above our own agendas.
“One voice” reveals that unity is singleness of affection. Unifying love for Jesus, our commitment to his Word, our passion for his mission and our love for one another.
“Glorifying God” reveals that unity is singleness of resolve. John Piper defines glorifying as the “means in feeling and thinking and acting in ways that reflect his greatness, that make much of God, that give evidence of the supreme greatness of all his attributes and the all-satisfying beauty of his manifold perfections.” The ultimate end of unity is not to make us feel better about ourselves or happier about our working relationships but to bring glory to God. To see his fame spread, his mission proclaimed and his kingdom advance. It is never about us but always about God.
A unified church glorifies God and puts all its focus on the work of his Son and the mission of the church.
A unified network of churches celebrates its differences, lifts up Jesus and embraces its joint mission for the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom.
For this unity to take place there needs to be both grace and grit. An overemphasis on one can lead to disaster. Grace without grit can lead to softness of convictions; it can lead to an entitled attitude or unwillingness to speak the truth in love. Grit without grace leads to harshness of faith, to a merciless religion or an us-against-the-world attitude.
Let’s remember that our text is a prayer. It is an appeal to heaven for the church to know God in a deeper way. In it we see a plea for the church to experience Jesus in their relationships, to follow his example and to seek the unity he desires for the church. Jesus prayed, “…that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23). A unity that is missional in nature reflects our Father’s love and glorifies his Son.