One of the big points that is made in the book “To Transform Your City” by Eric Swanson and Sam Williams, is that unity in the Church must be unto a purpose. Unity for unity’s sake will eventually get stale and breakdown. I have seen this many times over the last 20 years in cities and towns across Canada. We have been given a “co-mission”. It is as we cooperate on this mission of sharing the Lord and his love with a lost world, that we are guaranteed the backing of all the authority and power of heaven.
Unity, then, is a means and not an end. This helps us understand why most ecumenical movements fail. If unity is our primary goal, we will never arrive at our destination. Phill Bultler, in a paper titled, “Fifteen Key Principles of Success in Kingdom Collaboration” writes, “Successful networks/partnerships develop in order to accomplish a specific vision or task. Cooperation for cooperation’s sake is a sure recipe for failure. Warm ‘fellowship’ is not enough. This means lasting cooperation focuses primarily on what (objectives) rather than ‘how’ (structure). Form always follows function. – not the other way around”.
God’s intention, as evidenced in the John 17 prayer of Jesus, is that we would be unified through a shared mission – helping people understand, through words and deeds, that Jesus is sent from God and that God loves every person on earth as much as He loves his own Son.
I like the way that the 3rd Lausanne Council has described “mission” in the newly released Cape Town Commitment.
The mission of God flows from the love of God. The mission of God’s people flows from our love for God and for all that God loves. World evangelization is the outflow of God’s love to us and through us. We affirm the primacy of God’s grace and we then respond to that grace by faith, demonstrated through the obedience of love. We love because God first loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.