by Sara L. Paine
Area pastors were interviewed regarding their vision for unity in the church community in Northeast Ohio. The responses were expressed from their unique perspective but a silver thread linked them and their vision together like a fine tapestry. The pastors who participated were Pastor Louis Kayatin, Church on the North Coast, Lorain, Ohio; Pastor Joe Terry, Palace of Praise, Cleveland; Pastor Joey Johnson, The House of the Lord, Akron and Evangelist B.J. Issacs, Cleveland. These men of God make it exciting to envision what awaits the church, the faithful followers of Christ. "How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of them that bring good news" (Isa.52:7).
Pastor Louis Kayatin, Church on the North Coast, Lorain, Ohio
Unity is important because Ps. 133 talks about unity of the brethren "How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious ointment upon the head that ran down the beard and onto the borders of Aaron's garment." Harmony is as refreshing as the dew on Mount Hermon, on the mountains of Israel. And God has pronounced this eternal blessing on Jerusalem, even life forevermore." Blessing is critical in the life of the believer because it can be interpreted as empowerment to prosper. Prosperity not necessarily relegated to finances, but prosperity of your welfare, your well being, your health, your deliverance and your salvation. That's why unity is critical, because without the release of God's empowerment, we have to work on our own to achieve these qualities and without Christ it is impossible.
The number one factor that hinders unity is personal agenda. Personal goals, a desire to achieve notoriety, etc. Self promotion, self exaltation-the old life-keeps us apart. It is critical that the old life be removed, that it find its rightful place which is the cross of Calvary
The Bible says the flesh is at enmity with the spirit. Walking in the spirit brings the blessing of unity, but the flesh of the old man resists. Self-promotion, notoriety, your own goals and achievements, hidden agendas, all disrupt the flow of unity. Unity is not an entity that can be described as much as it is manifested. When you have the empowerment to succeed you know there is unity in place. When a husband and wife are able to restore their marriage; when children give their lives back to Jesus out of a rebellious state; when an individual can get a better job or find health when they were sick and frail, then you see the power to prosper manifested. It's like the wind in the trees. You see the leaves blowing and you say, "there's the wind." No, that's the effect of the wind. What we really need is the wind and Jesus said that His spirit was like the wind.
To achieve unity, one has to make the Word (the Bible) the final authority. People today are vacillating, they are fluctuating. If something is applicable to their situation, if it's convenient and comfortable, they can agree with it. However, if it disrupts their lifestyle, if it causes chaos, an uneasiness, an uncomfortableness, they tend to shy away from it and say "That's not for me", but something comfortable and familiar is for them and it's called "redefining Christianity".
Unity is achieved when we declare God's word is His final authority. God loves us and the favor of God is upon us. Christians must realize this.
We can't do anything to become righteous. Therefore, if I sin as a righteous person, that's not the devil's business. When I was a sinner, it was the devil's business, but when I'm in right standing with God, it's God's business and He said, "if any man sin, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins". We walk around with so much guilt, so much condemnation, feeling unworthy. When we have that mentality, we cannot achieve unity. We achieve unity by recognizing and receiving that we have been made the righteousness of God.
To promote unity, I'm doing everything stated above. My message is celebrating the righteousness of God...that we have been made righteous and therefore have all the rights and privileges of a covenant relationship with the living God. When people begin to understand this and receive it, they will be liberated from the disunity factors.
Hurting people hurt other people. Have you ever tried to help a pet who has a thorn in his paw? It's more than likely that pet will snap at you because it's hurt and trying to protect itself. When we realize that hurting people try to hurt others, we won't be vengeful. We will understand and have compassion on them because they have a thorn in their flesh and it's our duty, even if they snap at us, to continue to love them, to bring them to a place of holiness.
That's really the door to try and promote unity in the body of Christ. And you realize that when you do this, they too will be empowered to prosper. They will be empowered in life to have success in every thing they do. They will have trials and tribulations, but the Lord delivers us out of them all. We realize we have a covenant with God, that we are the head and not the tail. I'm trying to promote unity by propagating that message and if we succeed, people are going to find liberation in their spirit. When that happens, revival will hit this region.
When you get people confident in God, there is revival. Hebrews 10:35 "Do not throw away your confidence which has great reward". When you get people confident in the righteousness of God, that they have been made righteous in Jesus by His blood, then they say "I don't have to take this; I don't have to live like this" then we all come together like an army, marching in sync and moving forward into the kingdom of darkness to take back what the devil has stolen from us. It's exciting, and if it's not exciting, it's not Christianity.
My vision for the church community is to network, to link up with other sections of the body of Christ who are propagating this message, who are preaching this message. I want to link up with them because they are declaring the same message, which bears witness in my spirit and gets me excited. I want this networking so that we can edify each other.
I want to be where people are flowing in the Holy Spirit. I'm trying to be open and sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. I'm drawn to those who I can celebrate what God has done in them by the Holy Spirit. If we can start celebrating what God has done in our lives, in other communities, in other churches of faith without feeling insecure or intimidated, that is my vision for the church community.
Insecure people criticize and judge others. When I'm secure and confident and you tell me you just got a $15,000 a year raise, I'm ready to say, "Hey Sara, that's wonderful, you go girl" but if I'm insecure I'll ask God "Why didn't I get that raise". All of this is vital so that we can network, celebrate what God has done in our lives and encourage one another in the faith. Our goal is to help one another be as successful in God as they possibly can be and then learn to celebrate their success. That is what I am trying to achieve.
Pastor Joe Terry, Palace of Praise, Old Brooklyn, Ohio
On the day of Pentecost, God told the disciples to wait in the upper room so that they could become of one mind and one accord. When the Holy Ghost fell upon them in that room, they all came into agreement. That is why it is important to have unity in the church.
One thing that hinders unity in the body of Christ is the flesh. When we have fruit of the flesh we have self. We need the fruit of the spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance (Galatians 5:22&23). That is what unity in the spirit will produce, which creates unity among the brethren. Denying the flesh, having the fruit of the spirit is to agree with the word and come into unity. Unity can only be achieved by agreeing with the Word of God, evidenced by the fruit of the spirit. Living to please the flesh hinders unity.
Submission to God is the key to having unity. The Bible says. "Your adversary the devil, walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8) That is why submission is so important to have unity. James 4:7 says "Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you". Jesus said "You will know them by their fruit". The whole key to being in unity with one another and with God is to produce the fruit of the spirit in our lives. To be as He is, to be Christ-like, we must bear the fruit. That is how Christ is seen. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. That is how we can have unity, we must come into agreement with God.
One thing we are doing to promote unity is by encouraging God's people to look inward and see the bad fruit that needs pruning. We need to produce the fruit that is Christ-like. We must let the fruit that produces discord and division to be pruned away, then it will be possible for the good fruit to increase. The good fruit of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance brings unity.
Yes, my vision is for all God's people to come together as in the day of Pentecost in the upper room. They all tarried (waited) and came into agreement, for the manifestation of God was there. The Holy Spirit came in power and demonstration of His consuming fire. The Holy Spirit came for the 120 believers in the upper room. Then they went forward in His power, His love and His fire. It was evident that their obedience in the upper room brought the manifestation of God. Unity brought the very presence of God to them. That is my vision for the church community in Northeast Ohio.
Pastor Joey Johnson, House of the Lord, Akron, Ohio
I believe God says that unity is one of the crucial elements of His church. Paul's exhortation to the Philippians would be appropriate for our times. As he wrote in Philippians 1:27, "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel."
A hindrance to unity is sectarianism, which is another word for denominationalism. Sectarianism is rigidly adhering to a particular set of doctrines, while being intolerant of other views. I believe sectarianism grows out of pride. There are three "isms" I believe God is working to destroy: racism, sectarianism and feminism.
There are two things, which can help bring about unity. The first thing is the filling of the Holy Spirit. God is love and those who are filled with God's Spirit are filled with love and walk in love. Love will not operate in pride, but in acceptance and compassion. The second thing is exposure. Provincialism or narrow-mindedness is easier to maintain when one has not been exposed to other cultures, other mindsets and other situations.
My idea to promote unity is to create forums where pastors can get together and get to know each other. When we get to know each other, we realize that we are not that different, regardless of our denominational distinctiveness. This is not as easy as it sounds. If pastors can get to know each other, this will begin to impact their members.
My vision for the church is that I believe unity is possible but I don't believe unanimity is possible or necessary. "Unity" is being of the same mind. Unanimity is total agreement, or being unanimous on all issues. The early church had a remarkable unity. The Bible says in Acts 2:44-47, "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." If unity was possible for the early church, I believe it is possible now. I don't think it is likely or easy because the American situation and the Bible situation are vastly different. Nevertheless, through the power or the Holy Spirit, I believe unity is possible-but it awaits a movement or encounter from God.
Evangelist B.J. Isaacs, Parma, Ohio
There are several reasons why unity is important. In John chapter 17:21-23 Jesus says, "that the world may believe that thou has sent me" and "that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou has loved me." In Psalm 133:1-3 we are told, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!...for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life forevermore." Notice from these passages that there are four reasons why unity is important.
Reason One - When there is unity in the church then the world will know that God, the Father really did send Jesus.
Reason Two - When there is unity in the church then the world will know that God loves the church (the people who are believers).
Reason Three - When there is unity in the church, then the world will know that God loves the church just exactly like He loves Jesus. No more! No less!
Reason Four - When there is unity God will command a blessing where that unity exists.
HINDRANCE TO UNITY - One of the biggest hindrances to unity is the very sin that brought disunity in the first place. It is the sin of pride and the sin of trying to build our own kingdom instead of the Kingdom of God. In Isaiah 14:12-14 is recorded what many scholars feel was satan's rebellion against God. This passage shows the first disunity in the universe. This passage is filled with the 'I will's of satan, among them is this "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God". Satan was on a kingdom building mission of his own. When a pastor or a church is out to build their self, their church or their denomination above the Kingdom of God they are hindering unity.
FOSTERING UNITY - We must recognize that our church or organization does not know it all. There are things that each denomination and group has learned from our head that could benefit the church at large. We must be willing to learn from others. (Invite ministers from other groups that are in the body of Christ to teach you about their views. Do this with a gentle spirit). This way is covered in Ephesians 4:11-18, where we are told that it is leadership's responsibility to help us come to the unity of the faith. The leadership of the church covers more territory than just our group. I do not have to swallow everything someone else believes. Nor do I have to be unkind to them if I disagree with them. I do have to be a Berean and see 'whether those things were so.'" (Acts 17:11)
MY VISION FOR THE CHURCH IN NORTHEAST OHIO
What God is showing me about Northeast Ohio - There is a group of people that God will not allow to leave this area (especially Cleveland). God at times has allowed them to leave for a season but He keeps bringing them back. He keeps bringing them back because they are part of His plan for the next wave of renewal that is coming to the church in this region. There are church leaders that have been displaced for one reason or another and they do not understand why God keeps them here in the Northeast Ohio area. God will not let you go because you are part of what God is about to do. God is beginning to realign this leadership. The day of your wilderness wanderings are about to end. You are in a time of adjustments that God is making to your character.
I will close with two quick things that it appears that God is up to in Northeast Ohio.
God is establishing a prayer base from which to launch His next move in Ohio. He is drawing people across denominational lines to become part of prayer groups that have nothing to do with any one church and everything to do with the body of Christ as a whole. These intercessors can sense the growing anticipation in their hearts of the coming move of God. They are beginning to travail to pave the way for the birth of the spiritual child that is about to be birthed. If you are one of this prayer base you will say "Amen" to this.
God is gathering and preparing leadership for His next move. This leadership is more concerned about The Church and not the church. They are yearning to minister to the wounded of God's flock. God is even beginning to bring a new stirring into the heart of leaders who have been displaced as I mentioned above. This new leadership is forming alliances and fellowships across the traditional lines.