Someone may ask, “But will not all these little house churches scattered throughout a city cause division and disunity within the Body of Christ in that town?”
The truth is that little churches cause no more division than big ones. Very large churches and very small churches have the same challenge when it comes to unity.
ORGANIZATIONAL UNITY OR SPIRITUAL UNITY
In the late 1970 s I was involved with a new Christian organization called “John Seventeen Twenty-one.” It was an effort to help encourage and promote unity within the Body of Christ both in the United States and in other countries.
This organization was based on the prayer of Jesus found in John 17:21: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
Over a period of several years we tried to bring God’s people together in retreats, encounters, happenings, parades, marches, prayer gatherings and in every possible way. We believed that through our organized “unity” the world would see and believe.
It was one of the most frustrating efforts I had ever been a part of. It was not that these events do not have their place of importance. Surely, they do. But we were trying to organize unity, and unity just was not happening.
Unity will never happen through organization. It must happen in the spirit through an understanding of what unity is.
One day I began to question our understanding of John 17:21. I saw, first of all, that we had not rightly interpreted Jesus’ prayer. He was not praying for organizational unity in that passage. He was praying for spiritual unity.
Moreover, Jesus was not praying for spiritual unity among believers. He was praying for the individual believer’s union with the Father, not for the union of believers with each other.
This whole passage of Jesus’ prayer deals with the individual’s union with the Father and the Son. It does not deal with the believer’s relationship with other believers.
A wrong interpretation of this passage causes much painful frustration. It also misses the true meaning of what Jesus is really praying for.
John 17:21 could be paraphrased as follows: “That each one of them may be one with You, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”
The world will never be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, by means of organizational union. God always uses men and women who have that same united relationship with the Father that Jesus had.
God’s plan is still the same — to fill men with His Spirit and demonstrate His love and power through them. What He did through Jesus, He wants to do all over the world.
He wants to live in us and walk in us. He wants to do works of love and grace through us, just like He did through Jesus. This is the meaning of John 17:21.
ONE CITY—ONE CHURCH
The only kind of unity that is dealt with in the New Testament is spiritual unity and its results. We search in vain to find any word in the Bible concerning Christian organizations, societies, missions or anything that looks like our present organizational structures.