Last month, I posted two stories from my late-teenage years where God gave me a heart for “Gospel Movements,” or unity in the Church and the community-transformation that follows (You can read those here: Part 1, Part 2). Though as much as the idea of God transforming cities is thrilling, it’s not what keeps me given to a unified Church.
Part Three | The Love that Keeps me
I went to a pastor’s funeral last week.
Family, friends and church members filled the seats, but the standing room section echoed into eternity.
Pastors lined the back wall. They weren’t from the same denomination, some of them don’t even “do church” on the same day of the week. They pastor down the street and the next town over. They all showed up to remember Pastor Ken.
They joked about how many times Ken pastored them, and fondly recounted his commitment to prayer, to them and to our community.
Ken valued their love so much that they were included in his obituary. It’s safe to say that’s not just friendship; that’s family.
His love for pastors created a culture where other leaders learned to love one another. He helped create an atmosphere that thrives today, where love runs deeper than denominational lines.
Truly, together they pastor our community.
A LOVE THAT PRECEDES US
Remember when I used to hide behind the name tag table? Read the story here. It was Pastor Ken, and a few of his friends, whose delight spilled through their eyes and ‘welcome’ poured from their smiles, that brought me into the love they share.
Four years ago, I stepped into a continuum of love that was forged between pastors long ago. They’d been meeting to share life and pray together for more than 20 years before I entered the scene.
Beyond that, the unity those pastors cultivated a few decades ago precedes their time too. They stepped into an eternal circle of love.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God [the triune God], the LORD is one [united].” Duet 6:4
God, the Father. God, the Son. God, the Spirit. They are Three in One: perfect in unity, bound together in unbroken love (For more on the theology of this stuff, I’ve included a video below from a local Bible teacher who’s given to this movement).
The oneness and love that is found in God is what Jesus prayed we would be brought into in John 17:
“I pray also for those who will believe in me…
“…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
“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 – so that they may be brought to complete unity.”
“… that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Perfect love. Complete agreement. Unbroken Relationship. This is our God. This is the relationship we were made for – with God and with one another.
What Jesus prays, God answers through a willing people.
Ken and his pastor-friends were willing. They stepped into the unity of the Spirit that didn’t start with them (Ephesians 4:3). For unity is as eternal as God Himself.
A VISION CAPTURED ME, BUT LOVE KEEPS ME
I still geek-out about the promise of community transformation: its ever-increasing fulfillment in my day and all the potential lay hidden in the Church of our community. It’s thrilling. But it’s not what keeps me.
John Piper said, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is.” When Jesus returns, missions will cease, while worship carries on forever.
I’ll add this, “Community transformation will cease, but our oneness will last forever.”
Collaboration, movements, and great works of justice will come and go. But the love and unity that’s found in God and can be experienced in His people – that remains forever.
We’ll worship forever, and all will be right. Nothing will stand to divide us, for oneness will be our eternal state of being. Unbroken relationship with God – and all the redeemed – is written into our ultimate destiny.
Growing up in a Gospel Movement, I treasure unity because it’s a reflection of God and the future we share.
In a Gospel Movement, oneness is an end in itself.
It’s the nature of a family. It’s the nature of our God. And it’s what keeps me ruined and given to the unity of His people.
It is this love that keeps me.
Our unity is a reflection of a heavenly reality. It’s a reality that naturally brings others into that same love when it’s expressed on the earth.
Eternal love expressed through a unified people, always brings community transformation. That’s why Jesus’ John 17 desire is connected to a promise.
A BAPTISM TO CLOSE THE FUNERAL
Yes. Before the ceremony ended, the baptismal door slid open and a man stepped into the water. It was a funeral “first” for me.
Ken prayed for the man in the water for twenty years, and in the final days of Ken’s life, he chose to follow Jesus. The family thought it would be fitting to honor Ken, the Lord, and the man’s new commitment in baptism at the funeral.
In a Gospel Movement, community and life transformation always happen in the context of love.
Some may squabble about secondary matters, or wonder why some gather with the saints on a different day of the week. Though at the end of our days, we’ll be remembered by our genuine love, commitment to the Gospel, and the fruit of changed lives that extends well beyond our time on earth.
We might as well live in the love and oneness that will be ours in eternity now.
Walking + Working in the Trinitarian Blessing
– Pastor Ben Cross
Teaching: The God who is One and His unified people