Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.John 17:11
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have love them even as you have loved me. John 17:21-23
So they may be one… whether you take this as each of us is one with Christ or that we are all one – we are all the body of Christ. This is the only thing Jesus prayed for in all generations not just his disciples. We all hold fast to the last words of Jesus “Go and make disciples” but how hard do we hold on to His last prayer – “may they be brought to complete unity“?
I have had the privilege of being with God’s movement for over 40 years having been met in Gainesville at the age of 18. I have seen God crush and revive his movement three times and each time the issues have been the same. Men lost sight of their purpose and they lost unity. Without both, God’s movement ceases to be His movement.
I believe my husband and I hold the title for being shepherds who were “in training” the longest (we often laugh over this) having been in official “training” for over 10 years. However, I believe God trained us our entire lives to get us ready. I will never forget as a young disciple seeing a man who was an amazing preacher that always moved my heart lose God’s Spirit as unity waned, autonomy reigned and he lost his way. It seemed he just started saying words from the pulpit to fill time yet there was no power. I gained deep convictions at that time that God does indeed pour his Spirit out on us. Disunity always crushes men’s spirit and then God’s Spirit departs.
About five years later it was my church that fell out of unity with God’s movement. We were told that the baptisms had stopped because of the great persecution against the church. I was naively so excited as I discovered in the book of Acts that every time great persecution came what followed was great multiplication! I made an appointment with the leaders to show them my great discovery! The response I got was that I should not be bringing a charge like this about the Elders (as they were the men explaining why the lack of growth). From this point on I was pushed out of any leadership and what followed was complete disunity with the church in Boston. We later moved to Boston to be a part of God’s movement, then after five years back to our Florida roots first in Orlando then Tampa.
We were elders “in training” while in Tampa and after many great and fruitful years, once again God put his hand against his movement. We as a movement had lost our purpose and now we were losing our unity. We could not agree on what we believed. At that time many of our teens were falling away because they were dating people in the world and falling into impurity. I asked at one of the leaders meetings if we could at least from the pulpit preach that we only date disciples and there is purity until marriage. I was told that because we did not all agree on who was a disciple this could not be preached. I cry to this day over all the young souls we lost due to our disunity.
After being kicked out of the church Ted and I found ourselves in Portland again following God’s movement. We were so excited to see the spirit of unity and purpose. It was such a time of spiritual refreshment. However when the team left for LA we stayed in Portland as we had teens in High School. Once again we were to be shepherds in training. It did not take long at all for the disunity of the ICOC to attack us again. Our shepherd was not there to keep unity with the movement that we had all come to be a part of – instead independence was taught, that we were all free to do our own thing. Once again Ted and I found ourselves cut off from God’s movement and in a church that was fruitless and disunified.
God however brought Ron Harding to Portland and we were able to once again find fruit and unity. Along with yes – being shepherds in training again! With Ron’s move to DC, we then had the privilege of being with Ricky and Colleen as their shepherd’s in training. Even though they were young, we never had a time that we were not unified and fighting for unity in the church. After a couple of years we had the amazing privilege to come to Orlando as shepherds in training. We have had the privilege of fighting for fruit and unity while here. As shepherds we are called to protect the flock. I have learned just like Jesus prayed, the greatest attack that we as shepherds must guard against is disunity. We cannot let division come into the church but must bring everything into the light so there can be complete unity.
What I have learned is unity comes from first staying focused on our purpose to win the world in our generation, it takes humble leaders that at all times in all situations know that their ONLY accomplishment is that they depended on God. It takes shepherds who have deep convictions on unity just as the women in 1 Peter 3:1-6: Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Women are called to fearlessly submit to their husbands, knowing that God is ultimately in control. In the same way, we are able to submit to the men that are leading the charge for us to fulfill our purpose in winning this world for Christ. Philippians 2:4-11 says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” If we all are obedient to Christ as He was to God seen here in Philippians 2, we will be unified and accomplish winning the world in our generation!