by Jason C Dukes
As you cultivate for a new local church expression, what if you went into it asking, “How will we cultivate for one new expression while ultimately cultivating for oneness among the many local church expressions in town?”
If you don’t include this question in the shaping of your vision, then you are not in line with how Jesus envisioned His church. He prayed that His followers would be uniﬁed around mission in John 17:18-23.
In Jesus’ prayer there, He declared that He was giving a mission to His followers just as He was given a mission (18). The Sent One now sends us (John 20:21). As we unite to live sent, people will believe in the One who was sent.
Jesus also prayed that He was being set apart (consecrated) in order to set apart His followers to be involved in this mission of God. The implication is that anything less than this ideal of unity is less than what He intended through these consecration eﬀorts.
Do you sincerely think that Jesus hung on a cross with the dream of a redeemed church in His mind that involved isolated, consumer-driven, non-proﬁt organizations? Me either.
Jesus then declared the goal for His followers – “…to become one heart and mind.” It’s as though our oneness with God is seen by the world via our oneness with each other (read 1st John).
Jesus next prayed, “The same glory you gave me, I gave them.” When the Scriptures refer to the glory of God, the reference is always about the revealed presence of God among us. Jesus then speciﬁed what that revealed presence would look like AND what the ultimate impact would be.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me (23).
That revealed presence will be demonstrated through the unity of His followers ultimately resulting in people believing that the One who was sent actually loved the world (John 3:16). Jesus’ prayer indicates that the work of God will not come alive among us without unity, since people actually believing that God sent Jesus is the work of God (John 6:29).
The conclusion is that the work of God comes alive among us through the Holy-Spiritenabled unity of a typically selﬁsh, divisive, my-agenda-seeking people around a selﬂess, reconciling, restorative, His-Kingdom-seeking mission on which we’ve been invited by a loving, near, sanctifying Savior.
Many expressions of His church is a good thing. But based upon His prayer in the Garden, Jesus wants people involved in those many expressions of His church to actually follow Him having been reconciled for a unity of purpose and mission TOGETHER (read 2nd Corinthians 5:14-21).
No more of this MY church stuﬀ. It’s not my church. It’s not your church. She (the bride of Christ) is His church.
As we cultivate for new expressions, may we surrender the success-of-MY-one-church mentality and instead live as an answer to the prayer of Jesus.
It’s what He intended.
[if you’d like, you can read more about this topic in the book beyond MY church.]