From the Archives: The Purpose of Unity

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Columns, Op-ed

By Edward L. Foggs

When I turn on my computer and click to sign on the Internet, the first message I get is “Connected, not signed on.” As the process continues, I finally get the message “Connected, signed on.” That experience triggered for met the thought that in church life there are often those who claim to be connected but who are not signed on. They claim to be a part of the fellowship, that is, connected, but they are not engaged—signed on—in what the fellowship endeavors to do. They function tangentially or independently on the fringes of the fellowship.

Unity is a prized doctrine of the Church of God. We talk about unity, we preach unity, we teach unity, and we write about unity. Yet in practice, we too often fall short of experiencing or modeling the unity we prize.

There is a scriptural givenness to unity as expressed in Ephesians 4:4–6 (NIV). “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” In the preceding verse (3), we are admonished to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (italics added). Although God has given us the foundation for unity, from our human side there is work we must do if the unity we profess is to find optimum expression.

Relationships are essential to life and unity. We really cannot thrive or even survive in a healthy state without relationships. In order for us to sustain the relationships we have, we must nurture them. Relationships do not grow stronger automatically. Unattended, relationships eventually become distant—sometimes even to the point of total separation. We must invest in our relationships if we are to be healthy and productive citizens of the kingdom of God.

Edward L. Foggs

It is an often-quoted axiom that we need each other. This also is one of the unifying principles of Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 12:12–27 we are reminded of how interrelated we must be as the body of Christ. Every part of the body needs every other part of the body. No part of the body can declare itself to be independent from the other parts of the body. No part of the body is so gifted or endowed that it can do the work of the whole body. Likewise, no part of the body is so ungifted that it has nothing to contribute.

There often is the lurking temptation to believe that we can function on our own with little need or regard for others. The attitude is much like that of a small child attempting to put on a coat or tie a pair of shoelaces. How often have we heard a child say, “Do it myself,” when a parent or adult offers help? Sometimes after much frustration and even tears, the child consents to adult help.

This may be altogether suitable for a child who is learning new skills, but it is hardly acceptable as a lifetime attitude. We need each other! Not only do we need each other, but we need to be engaged with each other for maximum ministry effectiveness.

Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 (NIV) instructs us: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to hep him up!… Though one may be overpowered, two can quickly defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I pose the question: How shall we be engaged with each other?

  • In settings where we come together to worship.
  • In settings that allow us to support, resource, and encourage each other, e.g., conventions, camp meetings, ministers meetings, retreats, forums where iron sharpens iron, and whenever the opportunity presents itself to engage with others in good, positive, and accountable ways.
  • In accountability settings that protect us from our sense of self-importance—settings where we look beyond our own press reports, setting where we can be helped to overcome the dark side of leadership, thus decreasing our potential for self-destruction.

Who is there who asks us the hard questions that may help us understand the impact of our decisions and behavior on the body of Christ? Who is there who encourages us when we are tempted to become disillusioned or to give up?

As a part of the body of Christ, not only do we need each other, but we owe something to each other. We owe it to each other to join in common cause to support these ministries that none of us is capable of doing alone. It can be tempting to chart our own course, build our own little kingdoms, and do our own thing without regard to the impact we may have or the messages we may send to the body of Christ.

Unity does not imply the idea that we are all the same with respect to every idea, method, and procedure. It does imply, however, that we really do care about each other and are eager to strengthen the whole body as we seek to model the unity Christ intended. What a wonderful opportunity we have [each year during the Church of God Convention] to engage each other in strengthening quality relationships that engender unity at its best.

Rev. Dr. Edward L. Foggs is general director emeritus of Church of God Ministries in Anderson, Indiana. Article originally published in the May–June 2010 issue of Communion. Republished by permission.

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Feature (top) photo: Convention 2019, Orlando, Florida.

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