15 Sep 2006

Community of the Kingdom – Its Unity

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bobby's World, Church, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, Personal, Restoration History, Unity

The year 2006 marks the 100th anniversary of a “year of infamy.” That was the year that a secular human government had to point out the obvious to a group of people known simply as disciples of Christ, who had insisted they were going to practice only the religion of Jesus no matter what, were as divided as any sect or denomination in existence. This truly is a moment that shall live in infamy. If this does not make our head hang in shame what will? And if 1906 was bad … what about 2006?

In our quest to parcel out all the correct doctrine of the Bible we forgot one doctrine that ties the Bible together: The indivisible unity of God’s People. God’s family cannot be divided without the admission of serious failure on the part of that family.

The unity of God’s People is an important theme throughout Scripture. The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 emphasizes the oneness of all races because each human comes from a common ancestor. In Genesis 13 we see Abram’s concern for the unity (peace, harmony, love) within Lot. The story of Israel is one of unity until the division occurred in 1 Kings 12 with the disastrous results that followed. Division was recognized as a curse from God as punishment for sin.

Scripture is chalk full of admonitions to keep the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4.3). Paul chides the Corinthian church for their divisions. The apostle says, “I appeal to you … that there may be no divisions among you … Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor. 1.10-13). The same apostle urges the Roman congregations to “accept those whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters” (Rom 14.1). He continues “who are you to judge another man’s servant … Accept one another, then just as Christ accepted you” (Rom 14.4; 15.7). Paul told the Galatians, Philippians and Cretans the same thing. John, the apostle of love, even warns those who are “schismatics” (those who would divide God’s church).

Unity is one of the most important “marks” of God’s church. Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one (united) as he and the Father are one (John 17.10-11, 20-23). Unity is important because our unity validates the message of reconciliation brought by the Messiah. Disunity, according to Jesus, will cause unbelief. Sometimes we in God’s church may be guilty of undermining the very message we claim to cherish – not by our worship or traditions – but by our disunity!

Many of the early Christian Fathers wrote on the importance of unity. Clement of Rome, a first century Christian contemporary with John, wrote that schism (division) is foreign to true Christians. In fact, echoing Scripture, he says that division is the surest sign of “godlessness” (1 Clement 1). According to a recent article on “Unity in the Apostolic Fathers” published in The Patristic & Byzantium Review, unity and harmony were as important as baptism. In fact the validity of our baptism was shown in keeping the unity that fills the community of the Kingdom of God.

One cannot fail to believe the Bible and not believe unity is a mark of God’s family. Yet if this is so, then why are we so divided? It is so bad on the contemporary scene that socalled “progressives” and “conservatives” cannot even talk to one another. Clement answer to the question was pride and jealousy. What ever the correct answer we know that a divide church is less than perfect church. A divided church is less than God desires … is it possible that God sends the curse of division in response to our shameful arrogance and sin of self-sufficiency? I do not know.

But my vision of the community of the Kingdom states that any congregation that values the story of God in Scripture will seek to heal the shame we have brought to the beautiful bride of Christ. Many will use such a congregation or individual for target practice …

Bobby Valentine

19 Responses to “Community of the Kingdom – Its Unity”

  1. Darin L. Hamm Says:

    Bobby, preach on brother.

    I don’t know what this will look like but I believe in the long run it is what the Kingdom must do.

  2. Ben Overby Says:


    Bravo! The anticipated response is, “OK, how do we achieve unity?”

    Before we start asking that question we need to reminded of what you’ve pointed out–unity is important, even as important as something like baptism! Only when we take unity seriously are we then in a healthy position to ask “how?”

  3. Stoogelover Says:

    Bobby: I, for one, deeply resent your implication that we are divided and even more the assertion that we are a denomination. The group that I belong to is certainly united on all fronts. I believe everything I teach and I’m hoping others will soon join Me and my group of one so they, too, can be right! 🙂
    Good blog, brother.

  4. Gary W. Kirkendall Says:

    I do not believe that the unity Jesus prayed for was the kind the we all too often parade. Unity is not finding a group of people who agree on points of distinction and then withdrawing to a corner and patting ourselveson the back for loving ourselves. Jesus prayed for ALL believers to be united, which means that it is possible, and that it should be of major concern to all of us. It is too easy to simply declare that it is not practical and move on like it doesn’t matter.

    Also, unity is not achieved through congregational agreement. It is true that the congregation I serve is, for the most part, united — but it is not true that other “like-minded” congregations in our community are united with us, or one another, let alone the community of believers.

    It makes no difference if we accept the term “denominational” or not. If we do not work for the unity of all believers we are not honoring God’s will and we are a schism.

    Even among ourselves we make judgments and distinctions concerning our colleges, universities, schools of preaching, youth rallies, workshops, our television programs and highly visible preachers. We divide ourselves over worship styles, names on the building, acceptable Bible school material, acceptable authors, English versions of the scriptures, and anything else we can think of. I know of a lady who refuses to worship with us because we use PowerPoint for the songs we sing and scriptures in the sermon — for her, it is a “sign” of a “liberal” congregation.

    I do not know who we think we are kidding, but whatever it is we have, it is NOT unity, and it is NOT what God wants!!

    Unity will not be achieved unitil we find a way to break the economy of religion and the cultural expectations of tradition. It seems to me that this is what Jesus did. He demonstrated clearly that just doing and saying the same old things leaves everyone hungry and thirsty. We have yet to figure out how to break the cycle of our economic and traditional addictions to religion. For many those addictions are morepowerful than the love of God in our hearts or the final prayer of Jesus in the garden.

  5. Velcro Says:

    Great Post, Bobby.

    It’s so ironic that the CofC denomination started out as one trying to unify the entire body of Christ.

    Here’s a question I’d like you to toss around:
    Which is more important: Unity or Theological Accuracy?

  6. Chris Field Says:

    “But my vision of the community of the Kingdom states that any congregation that values the story of God in Scripture will seek to heal the shame we have brought to the beautiful bride of Christ.”

    Strong, strong words, Bobby. Keep preaching the true message of Christ no matter what others may throw your way. Blessings.

  7. Falantedios Says:

    How do we achieve unity? John Dobbs knows.

    IMHO, Jesus asked God for the unity of all believers. He did not give us a say in the matter, for obvious reasons.

    Thus, the blood of Christ has already achieved unity for all those who depend on it for life.

    The problem is not a lack of unity, but prideful rejection of what God has joined together.

    John Dobbs knows what it takes to manifest the unity of all believers. Simply put, it takes a large portion of society getting blasted nearly back to the Stone Age for believers to put aside their petty external markers of justification and allow God to yoke them together in kingdom service.

    How do we manifest unity without violent persecution or natural disaster of epic proportions?

    That’s a whole different question.

    Bobby well mentions that “many will use such a congregation or individual for target practice.”

    Will we eventually be forced to establish some sort of Christian Underground so that men and women of public Christian influence will be able to practice unity safely, while still being able to promote such practice to the laggard divisive ones among the disparate flocks?

    The Apostles and the Fathers knew that just saying “I love Jesus” was not enough. The Gnostics could say, “I love Jesus,” all day long and still not be Christian. Marcion could say “I love Jesus” till he was blue in the face, but he was still as wrong as can be about who Jesus was.

    The basis of unity must be faith in Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of God. The real person, not just a “Hi, I’m Jesus Christ” nametag pasted to some imaginary figure that fits the tastes of one particular group.

    off my soapbox now…

  8. Candle (C & L) Says:

    Bobby – This is the haunting question I have asked for years – I think it is as you suggest — this “divisive” spirit comes from an arrogance of believing “I” understand the mind of God and “I” have to defend his truth.

    It seems tome that at times we will have to do as Paul & Barnabas did– go our separate ways — but we don’t have to break the unity “that they may be one as(Jesus )and the Father are one” to do that

    May God grant us all the humility to accept that we don’t have to be “right”to be “righteous” and the courage to proclaim Jesus and stick to our convictions about how to serve him without arrogance or a divisive spirit. “Someday God may make it clear ..for now ..Live up to what you already know” (Philippians)

    I like Gary K.’s comments. The idea of “economic and traditional addictions to religion” is an interesting one. — new to me– I’ll have to think through the implications of that.

    Stoogelover – I’m withyou (as long as you agree with me!!) 🙂 🙂

    God Bless

  9. rudy Says:

    One poster asked: What is more important: Unity of theological accusracy? This seems a false postion. Unity IS a theologically accurate concept. Neither can be sacrificed for the other – and that is what seems to be happening around us…

  10. Amy Says:

    Bobby, thanks for your comment at the MD blog. I hope my long response isn’t seen as, well too long a response. 🙂

    Great thoughts on unity. I heard Randy Lowry speak on unity this summer, and it was really powerful. Keep on preachin it! This is such an important subject for the kingdom.

  11. Paul Says:

    I think a great verse to consider is found in 2nd John:

    8. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11. for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

  12. Gary Cleveland Says:

    Hey Bobby,

    Another provocative post. You are prolific brother! Keep cranking em out.

    A thought I had on unity a while back came as I read through the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Love and Joy and Peace are easy enough but then that rascally old Paul throws out Patience….whoa…that doesn’t come easy…and there’s kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. No light-weights in that list either.

    That’s quite a list of inter-personal requirements in order to be a “Spirit-tual” person. We need to be a lot more “spiritual”if we are ever to have favorable outcomes to our unity efforts. I have to admit my own struggle with being gentle and self-contolled and kind when I get in to a discussion over unity.

    It’s hard work. Do we have any other choice? And thanks brother for your words (and your Spirit) today at our board meeting.

    It is indeed a pleasure to serve with you in that ministry.


  13. Royce Ogle Says:

    Bro’ Bobby, As per usual for you Awsome!

    What binds us together, (if we are together) and is the only basis for biblical unity is our common faith in Jesus Christ. We are to “maintain” unity, not create it.

    Unity based on how closely you conform to what I want is not unity. (See my post at GraceDigest,

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  14. John Roberts Says:

    Great thoughts, Bobby. A lot harder to implement. While I’m thrilled at the steps toward healing the wounds of ’06 between Churches of Christ and Christian Churches, I’m not sure it won’t be more difficult to heal the widening of the breach between the “conservatives” and “progressives” in the CofC.

  15. MommyHAM Says:

    Hear, hear…Let “anyone with ears” hear nothing if they don’t hear this.

    As put forth here, unity as you describe is defined by the emphasised portions:

    Dictionary.com Unabridged
    –noun, plural -ties.
    1. the state of being one; oneness.
    2. a whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.
    3. the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole; unification.

    4. oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.

    Funny thing too…in the old cliche fashion of, there is no “i” in team, without unity, it’s just “comm—–.”

  16. cwinwc Says:

    Unity is so important to our witness to a lost and dying world as you pointed out. How can lost people believe that Jesus wants to reconcile them into his fellowship when we can’t even come to reconciliation among those already in Christ.

  17. A Former Christian Says:

    You said it my little wanna be jew! God despises anyone who divides HIS CHURCH. The point you and all your little crew seem to miss is that YOU are the ones doing the dividing! I hate to burst your bubble, but I am not dividing anything except the change artists (YOU) from the ONE true church of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.

    Peace, Love and Hot Wings,
    Former Christian
    NOW a NT Christian

  18. Velcro Says:

    One thing we must all remember is that unity is not the same as uniformity.

  19. C D Says:

    No matter the question – the answer is Love.

    Simple, not easy.

    Love is patient, Love is Kind. Love is never envious nor boils over with jealousy, it is not boastful, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride) ; it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s Love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices wthen right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person , its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

    Love never fails.

    I Cor 13: 4-8…(amplified)

    I can’t begin to even think about where to start – except with Love.

    That and the fact that we don’t all have to be ONE – just a part of ONE.

    Good stuff to chew on. Thanks

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