Leading in Unity, Through Everyday Life
Are you unifying your church, or are you contributing to its division?
It’s an important question, and one we don’t ask ourselves as often as we should. I recently wrote about the importance of unity, through the lens of the church. But there’s a second part to the conversation I want to get into here today. It’s how we, as pastors, either strengthen – or annihilate – unity by how we live our lives outside of the pulpit.
Who are You in the Dark?
If there’s one thing that destroys unity, it’s hypocrisy. If you’re saying one thing when you preach but then doing the opposite when church members see you in your “normal life,” your credibility will be destroyed – as will your ability to impact people. What we preach, we have to live out.
All eyes are on us as leaders, always. We don’t get to pick and choose when we’re a pastor, when were a husband or father, and if we are men or women of God. We’re always in the role. And that’s a beautiful thing! It’s a blessing that God has put us in this position, and given us the privilege of changing lives for Him. But we must be aware of how we’re living, so we don’t fall prey to hypocrisy.
So… who are you in the dark? When the spotlight isn’t on you in the pulpit? Is that who God has called you to be?
Humility Rules All
Romans 12:16-17 says: “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” These verses hit on the extreme importance of humility, which is a key underpinning of unity. I’ll never forget when I was a 17-year-old intern. My 65-year-old mentor was outside in Arizona in July, in 100+ degrees under the scathing sun, and he was picking up trash. Nobody else was watching, and he had no idea I was. But there he was, bending down, sweating, picking up garbage. He had a lot of people who could do that for him, but he chose to do it himself.
This taught me a great deal about the importance of humility for unity’s sake. “Do not be wise in your own opinion.” When we choose to put our own needs and thoughts ahead of others, and think we’re right all the time, we stab unity in the heart. But when we remain humble, we grow unity.
Called to be Peacemakers
The next verse, Romans 12:18, says this: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Here’s the thing – it is possible and it does depend on you. It depends on all of us as pastors. So we can’t pretend we don’t see factions growing in our churches, or simply ignore the aftermath of arrogance and fighting. It’s our job to address it and make peace.
I take this seriously in every situation. Remember Matthew 5:9? “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” This verse talks about peacemakers, not peace-lovers. Everybody loves peace, but who is responsible for actually making it? My desire as a pastor is to make peace. Sometimes that means swallowing my pride, yielding my rights or saying “I’m sorry” before the person who wounded me does. But it’s worth it because the peace, and unity, of our churches does depend on us.
I want to leave you with some final thoughts around the following verse from Proverbs 19:11: “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” But how many times have we overlooked someone’s offense for the greater good of the church?
There was a time when I walked into my church on a random Monday evening and found one of my leaders doing something he clearly shouldn’t have been doing. He was incredibly embarrassed, and I was disappointed. But I remember looking at him and saying, “Hey dude, let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again. I love you.” He kept asking how he could fix it and what he could do, but I just said, “It’s fixed.” By overlooking this offense, even though it was hard, it bonded us together. It also opened the door for me to work on the heart of it all later. And it ultimately furthered unity within the church.
So take a step back. Take a long, hard look in the mirror. Are you living a life of hypocrisy or consistency? Are you being proud, or humble? Are you intent on making peace, or do you look the other way when conflict arises because it’s uncomfortable? And finally… are you willing to overlook an offense when it’s in the best interest of unity? None of this easy. But all of it is essential. Where do you stand?