The conviction of ACT3 Network, which grows out of my personal experience of John 17 in 1992, is that the church universal should pray for reconciliation and unity. This conviction is modeled by our Lord in John 17:20-23 and taught by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:1-16. There is one Lord and one faith. There is one baptism and one God and Father of us all. We should be known–when we are faithful–by the mark of divine oneness. This is not a minor point of doctrinal emphasis in the Scriptures. It was not considered minor in the early church either (Acts 15).
Historically the church has not always done a great job in working for reconciliation and unity. In fact, the evangelicals I grew up among, as well as the evangelicals who taught me my theology and ministry, never made unity a high priority. Most hardly ever talked about it at all. They were very comfortable within their “tribes” and didn’t want to be bothered by discussions about how we could reconcile our churches and ministries in the one Christ. We were so blind about the scandal of our disunity that we simply did not see what the New Testament says about the church and her inherent unity in Christ. We accepted things as they were and then defended them by various contorted explanations, explanations that one could easily see were poor excuses if they were studied at all.
It is my conviction that the Holy Spirit is working in the early stages of the 21st century to raise up a growing wave of worship and prayer. Much of this new wave of worship and prayer is directed towards asking God to heal the wounds of the church and to create a visibly unified Christian community that loves and serves people freely. Many of us are weary of “culture wars.” We are tired of interdenominational infighting and rivalries. We believe that we can do better and we believe that Christ wants this to happen.
When I first “saw” the power of unity I was not prepared to do any more than embrace the simple, clear teaching of John 17. The Spirit asked me, “What will you do with this prayer for the oneness of my people?” I have tried for more than two decades to live out my answer to this question. Now, at age sixty-four, I have seen that this vocation/calling will mark the rest of my days until the Lord Jesus calls me home to himself. I conceive of this as something like the calling of John the Baptist. I am just a single (weak) person, a human finger pointing each of us to the only person who can bring us together–Jesus Christ our Lord. My work is to “point” faithfully and then to empower those who hear and respond to the vision.
There are a number of ways that I seek to point Christians to their unity. One is mentoring young leaders. I do this on a daily basis. Another is to lead ACT3 Network Cohort groups. These are intensive learning groups of 12-20 adults who are ready to invest their lives in this vision and commit to an eight-month process of active missional discipleship. Another way that I do this is through an introductory sample of this vision in a Unity Factor Forum. We have reached almost 90 people in our first two Unity Factor Forums in 2013. We trained 35 leaders who graduated from our ACT3 Cohorts last year.
Our next Unity Factor Forum will be in Findlay, Ohio, on April 13. Another will take place in Washington, DC, May 11. You can see what these events are about and sign up for one at http://www.act3network.com/unityfactorforum. If you live in central, eastern, southeastern or northeastern Ohio then you are close enough to attend our next Unity Factor Forum on April 13. Please check it out and sign up a.s.a.p. If you live in or near Washington, DC then I hope you’ll join us on May 11. We will be announcing other cities soon. Our website changes almost weekly so mark it in your favorite bookmarks for online sites and keep reading about these opportunities at www.act3network.com.
Tomorrow: How ACT3 Network partners in unity and empowers movements.