The Power of Unity

As we continue to consider “What characterizes our movement?” from The Navigators Vision Statement, we come to a fourth characteristic: sacrificial unity embracing diversity.

Anne was a very happy atheist—a graduate student living with her best friend in New York, her dream city. She didn’t think much about God and didn’t sense a need for him. But she began to hang out with a few ethnically diverse, creative, and loving new friends whose faith intrigued her. They invited her to Brooklyn Tabernacle. 

What she found there blew her away. Every kind of person she could imagine—a vast mixture of races, nationalities, and economic levels from the homeless to the very wealthy—was worshiping together and loving one another. “I thought, ‘It must be God who can bring all these people together,’” she says. For the first time, she knew God was real because she saw a love and a unity she had never dreamed possible. Before long she committed her life to Christ. 
In The Navigators we are convinced that unity in the midst of diversity is worth the sacrifice it might take to get us there. The phrase “sacrificial unity embracing diversity” contains a great truth: real unity always exists in diversity, and real unity always takes sacrifice. Without diversity, unity is only uniformity, a dulling sameness. Uniformity is a counterfeit that sacrifices diversity in the name of unity. A powerful characteristic of the gospel movement we desire is unity that embraces diversity.
In Nav Neighbors, we value diversity. We value diversity in how we do ministry. We value ethnic diversity. We invite and welcome the full contribution of both men and women. We remain committed to avoid the lie of the modern age that would lead us to standardized and uniform solutions in the name of efficiency and speed. The gospel is beautiful when it is played out in a diverse array of expressions.
As you might guess, I am particularly excited about how this beautiful tapestry can unfold in neighborhoods. Humans were created as social beings. They are designed to share life together. The Christ-followers in each neighborhood must learn to fit together to be the body of Christ in that place.
Yet the relational network of believers must extend beyond the body of Christ to include people of different views and backgrounds. How can we foster unity as these diverse groups and individuals come together? In their groundbreaking new book To Alter Your World, Michael Frost and Christiana Rice put it like this:
Modeling reconciliation and unity in the neighborhood . . . is easier said than done. Social and ethnic divisions come with a long history of hurt and misunderstanding. So how do we become a reconciling presence . . .? Some of our best teachers are those from ethnic minority communities who’ve been practicing and modeling this kind of faithful presence for decades.
So we live in our community as learners, and we can learn the most from people who are different from us. Because of that, we sacrificially embrace unity in the midst of diversity.
In The Training of the Twelve, A. B. Bruce characterized Jesus’ first followers this way:

The infant church, . . . seems to have been a motley band of pilgrims, in which all sorts of people as to sex, social position, and moral character were united, the bond of union being ardent attachment to the person of Jesus.
As Navigators, God has uniquely positioned us to play a powerful role in connecting the diverse expressions of the body of Christ in our neighborhoods. Our passion is Jesus, His Kingdom, and the advance of the gospel. We don’t overly concern ourselves with the other issues that have divided Christians for centuries. Therefore, we might serve as connectors of people, weaving a fabric of love and care that brings together people of various ethnic, religious, economic, and social backgrounds into a diverse tapestry. We could foster diverse groups known for their love of God and love of neighbor. Groups like this would surely draw people toward their energizing source: a transforming relationship with Jesus.
For Your Consideration:
  • How would you define unity? (It’s not cheating to check a dictionary for help.)
  • Why does unity always take sacrifice?
  • Think about anything you have had to let go of in the past to maintain unity. What new sacrifices might be necessary?

Al Engler is the director of Nav Neighbors. To contact him or to learn more about his ministry, click here.

Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles unpacking the Navigator vision. The series begins with Unpacking Our Vision: An Introduction and continues with "Cultural Connections."