I will never forget the experience in 1995 when I was gathered with 5000 mission leaders from around the world at the Global Consultation on World Evangelism in Seoul, Korea.
The unity, urgency, and diversity of that gathering deeply impacted me as a young mission leader. The nations were together as one family before God, and we experienced his presence in a powerful way. Our heavenly Father must feel so much joy on occasions like that when his big family meets together!
Our vision for the family of God must be guided by the vision that our Father gave us in John’s Revelation: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10). Is this vision only reserved for the future, or can we view it as our Father’s best plan for us now? With God’s grace, we can live into this amazing vision of diversity within the body of Christ unified in his presence.
How would that be possible?
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he calls them to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). In our Father’s eyes, we are already one body, one family. We often don’t act like that, so sometimes we need to be reminded of the importance of peacemaking within the family of God!
Sometimes it seems that we’d rather make peace with our enemies than with our brothers and sisters from other denominations. The Holy Spirit unites us and fills us with peace. When we meet other Christ followers from around the world, we sense the bond of peace within them, testifying to the presence of Christ. When we experience the reality of Christ in our lives, there is no place for arrogance, defiance or defensiveness. God’s will for us is unity; only the enemy wants to divide us. I think the leaders of the Early Church would be astounded at the fractured state of the Church today. Are we really making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the Body of Christ?
When Jesus prayed for the Church, he said, “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—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me” (John 17:21-23). Jesus was praying that we would live on mission together that the world may know.
The key to unity in Christ’s prayer is God’s glory, his presence. That means not just God’s Spirit indwelling us, but our pursuit of his presence as we gather for corporate worship and intercession before God’s throne. What if Revelation 7 was not just a picture of what heaven will be, but of who we are today – the children of God seeking the face of our Father?
I was in Nairobi, Kenya some years ago, and I was invited to speak at a large church in the Mathare slum. When I arrived for the evening service, I discovered that services had been running every two hours throughout the day since 8:00 AM. This church was attracting some 12,000 people every Sunday. At that time, they were meeting in a large circus tent next to the concrete shell of their future sanctuary. As I walked up the aisle toward the podium, I sensed the presence of the Lord in a way I would never forget. When I found my seat at the front, that awareness only became stronger. As the service began and thousands of Christ followers entered into worship, I was overcome by the presence of the Lord and I found myself weeping. When I got up to speak, the words flowed and my translator seemed to be completing my sentences and reading my mind! There is nothing like the anointing of the Holy Spirit. As the service closed, many responded to the Gospel and came forward to receive prayer. Before I left that place, I pulled aside one of the pastors and fumbled for words. “How is this happening?” I asked, “Why is there such a powerful presence of the Lord in this church?”
He smiled at me and said, “Come here tomorrow morning at 5:00 AM and pray with thousands of people who gather together every day to seek the presence of the Lord before they walk to work. Or join us on Friday night when thousands more will gather to pray all night for the Lord to pour out his presence on our lives, our families, our community and our nation.”
The presence of the Lord was transforming this congregation! I took the pastor’s invitation and joined them for the all-night prayer meeting and witnessed their bold prayers for the Gospel to go throughout the earth. I believe that the Lord is uniting his Body today and pouring out his Spirit in preparation for an unprecedented harvest around the world.
This is the heart behind our new tagline, “together that the world may know.” This is more than a catchy marketing line; it is the prayer of Jesus for us, and the key to greater effectiveness in mission. Let’s make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit and become the family of peacemakers that Jesus is calling us to be. Let’s come together, worship together and work together, as MBs, as the Body of Christ, and as all nations before his throne!