I was scheduled to bring the final sermon at a church that was one week away from welcoming its new pastor. My first thought was to pull out a message I had used before with other congregations that would be apt for this occasion. Then, an idea occurred to me.

Why not ask the incoming pastor what he'd like me to say to the church?

In reply to my e-mail, an hour later I had his answer. One would have thought he had been waiting for someone to ask him that very question since he was so prompt in responding.

He said, "I would love to come into a church that was unified, where everyone loved each other, and they all prayed for the pastor." He even gave a text for each point from Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians.

The more I reflected on it all week, the more I realized any pastor coming into a new church would give a month's salary for these three gifts.

UNITY: Ephesians 4:11-16
"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God...."

The passage ends, "...Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."

Kent Hughes says anyone preaching on Christian unity starts with this passage, and, we add, for good reason. The Holy Spirit speaking through Paul covers the subject as well as we can find it anywhere.

In surfing the net on the subject of "Christian unity" and "disharmony in the church," I ran across a sermon from a fellow of another denomination--one of those convinced they alone are going to Heaven--who said that Christian unity is all of us speaking the same thing, doing the same thing, believing the same way, and such. My main reaction to that is: baloney.

The kind of unity pictured in Ephesians 4 is not the lifeless unity of a brick or a stone, but that of a living body. Our bodies have hundreds of different parts, none of them resembling the others, but each doing its own work and all working together. The result is not sameness, but harmony. When a body functions as it was intended, the result is a beautiful unity.

Think of a congregation singing a hymn in unison. Everyone sings the same notes. There's a certain beauty about it, but by the third verse, it's boring. How much better for some to sing the melody, and others to find harmony lines of bass, tenor, alto, and variations of each. We end up with a full-bodied chorus of voices, some coming in from left field, some booming up from the dugouts, some hovering above in the atmosphere, and others flowing in from the grandstands--all joining in to produce a magnificent blend.

That is not uniformity--which is what the internet preacher was calling for--but unity.

It's the unity of a great football team. Only two or three fellows play quarterback and they alternate with each other. The rest hold down positions with names like end, guard, center, tackle, running back, cornerback, and linebacker. We have punters and kickers and head coaches and offensive coaches and quarterback coaches, trainers and gofers and cheerleaders and front office people. When everyone does his job well, you have unity, even though no two are doing the same thing in the same way.

That's how God has set up His church. It's just fine to have disagreements and we even welcome them, because no one person on a team or in the church has a monopoly on all wisdom. Disagreements helps the leaders to hear all sides of issues and force them to think matters through.