This September, each Monday I will write about the topic of unity. I hope to help bring clarity to what it actually means to be united in campus ministry. There are many misconceptions about unity, and there are even harmful ways of pursuing unity. I hope these four posts can help students and campus ministers move toward unity in a Biblical, practical way.
Last week I wrote about how unity and humility open the spiritual climate of our campuses. This week I hope to clarify what “unity” is not. I start by explaining what “unity” is not, because so many students and ministry leaders have experienced harmful forms of unity and thus, are no longer open to true, Biblical, purposeful, strategic attempts at unity. These thoughts are developed much further in my upcoming book, Campus Renewal – A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission.
Unity Is Not All Inclusive (I Cor. 12:1-3)
Unity does not mean that everyone is invited to the table. If we are uniting around the Lord Jesus Christ and his mission for our campuses, then only those who name Him as Lord and are committed to make disciples of every people group on campus are invited to the table. “… no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Everyone who names Jesus as Lord is invited to seek God together in prayer for a common plan to reach the campus. No one is excluded by denomination, organization, or ministry philosophy. The only questions are: “Do they believe Jesus is Lord, and are they committed to the great command and great commission?” If so, they are welcome.
When we first started uniting campus ministers to pray together at the University of Texas, many asked, “Do you have a statement of faith?” We did create one similar to the Lausanne Covenant formed many years ago. A statement of faith is nice to have, but we found that our vision statement united us even more than a statement of faith. We invite people to pray with us. If they come to prayer, then they will hear us worshiping Jesus as Lord and praying for His name to be glorified by saving students from their brokenness and sin. If that is their heart, they will continue to join us. If not, they will not.
Unity Is Not Uniformity (I Cor 12:4-6)
Unity does not mean that we sacrifice our unique theological and/or philosophical differences in order to work together. In fact, it is quite the opposite. True unity sees the differences in the Body and recognizes them as gifts. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” True unity maximizes the differences we have in the Body of Christ. True unity does not downplay differences, but instead seeks to bring every perspective, every gift, and every strategies to the table because it is convinced every one is needed.
Unity Is Not Mere Proximity (I Cor. 12:7-30)
Unity does not mean that we are meeting together all of the time. Sadly, for many, unity has been based on events. The idea goes something like this: “If we can just get everyone together in one room for worship once a week or once a semester, then we will be truly unified.” While uniting in worship is essential for unity, it cannot define unity, nor can it measure unity. Biblical unity is more easily measured by how the Body is relating to one another (in pride or humility) and to what degree they are strategically working together on a long-term plan to reach the campus. I believe a campus where leaders are humbly praying together and developing a campus-wide strategy to reach every student with the gospel is far more unified than a campus that has one thousand students united in worship once a week.