Editor’s note: From time to time, we include sermon outlines from members of the Replant Team. Please take special note of this one from Steve Dighton, our Large Church Campus Specialist. We pray it’s a blessing!
John Wooden, the Hall of Fame basketball coach at UCLA who was the gold standard in collegiate coaching for two decades, said a successful team needed three things.
- Proper conditioning
- A clear understanding of the fundamentals
- A willingness to play together as a team
That formula brought Wooden’s teams 10 National Championships in a 12-year period. Interestingly, those same traits are needed for every church to function properly.
In my years of pastoring, I came to believe that compatibility is a greater virtue than competency. It doesn’t matter how much a person knows, if they can’t get along with others.
Psalm 133 is one of the fifteen Psalms of Ascent declaring the beauty of God’s people living peacefully together.
If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:1-4 CSB)
I. The pursuit of unity (1)
Three things unite people:
- Common devotion
These people are coming together on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the religious feasts in Judaism. Their commonality was a devotion to Jehovah God. So it is in the church. We are to be likeminded and bonded together because of faith in Jesus Christ. The world will remain polarized over political affiliations, philosophical differences, and allegiances to universities or favorite sports teams; however, the trait that unites each group is their loyalty and devotion.
A. Common danger
The first-century church lived in constant danger from pagan, political, and religious adversaries. So it is today with danger and threats to Christianity in much of the world (China, North Korea, Yemen, Syria, etc.)
In the face of imminent danger, pettiness in the church ceases. Marginal and insignificant concerns pale in contrast to the threat of danger.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attack on America brought national unity virtually overnight. President Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed to 90%. We were brought together by danger.
B. Common dream
David expressed his dream here, that God’s people would come together in unity. A common vision unites people. It happened Aug. 8, 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. stood at the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his famous, “I have a dream” speech.
The church either develops toward a common vision or it eventually declines toward an organizational death. (Prov. 29:18)
II. The picture of unity (2-3)
David develops the simile of unity by mentioning Aaron’s anointing. He paints a picture of consecration to the Lord’s service as the High Priest labored as a go-between — to God from man and from man to God. As believers, we’ve become a kingdom of priests and our anointing is the Holy Spirit, who enables us to build bridges (not barriers) and compels us to love, give, and forgive.
III. The problem of unity
What is it that sabotages people living in harmony? What demolishes the desirable commodity of unity?
Stephen Kendrick wrote in his book The Love Dare that almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. Pride is the trait we hate in everyone else and justify in ourselves.
This is first cousin to pride, and these people — hungry for power — will do anything and everything to have their way. In the church, no one is indispensable, no one person is essential, and yet prideful people and those who pursue a position of authority see themselves to be elite and better than they really are. (Rom. 12:3)
When you live in close community, as in the church, relationships inevitably become strained, people get their feelings hurt, somebody misbehaves, and inevitably sides are taken. Unity always is contingent upon people being able to forgive. (Prov. 19:11)
IV. The possibility of unity
The psalmist concludes with the second simile, unity’s blessings are compared to the dew of Mt. Hermon, that 9,000-foot peak on the northern border of Israel and Syria. There the dew is plentiful, and the hydration makes plants fruitful.
So it is with the church. When the church operates in unity, fruitful things occur, and as growth happens, bitterness and unforgiveness cease.
Peace replaces turmoil and suddenly we find a new potential for growth, for reaching the unchurched and living in harmony. (John 17:22,23)
On the wall in the airport of Johannesburg, South Africa, a proverb is written that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We always can accomplish more together than we can apart.
Published August 6, 2020