By John D. Beckett
Chairman of the Board, Intercessors for America
Last fall I attended a “solemn assembly” of pastors and church group leaders, based on a pattern found in Joel 2. During the three days of the assembly, which was accompanied by fasting and much prayer, reconciliation took place and many damaged relationships were restored.
More recently, several from this assembly regathered, this time on a site overlooking the juncture of two of Ohio’s beautiful rivers. Exactly 175 years earlier to the day, a hearty pioneer had arrived by horseback from New England and decided these rivers provided the ideal location for a frontier settlement, and a town was born. With one heart and voice, we lifted up strong prayers for the area, asking God to displace spiritual strongholds and flood our community with His grace and mercy.
I see an important link between the solemn assembly and our territorial prayers. We needed right relationships to pray effectively. Our impact was rooted in our unity. But such unity is only beginning in our area. Satan has successfully used his time-tested arsenal of accusation, deception, turf-building and outright lies to divide and weaken us. He knows that a divided house cannot stand. He trembles at the prospect of a Church that is walking in submission to the Head and in love and forgiveness with each other. I believe this is why the New Testament makes clear that unity is not an option.
Our first encounter in the Scriptures with the early Church is at a prayer meeting, where they were all together in one accord. This was the context into which the Holy Spirit was poured out. Later we see them breaking bread from house to house, taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart. They enjoyed each other’s company.
Paul continually urged unity among believers, emphasizing that by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body. He admonished us to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body is fitted and held together. He exhorted us to agree, that there be no divisions among us, and that we be made complete in the same mind. He pressed the men to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. He described a Church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle. I once heard a pastor remind us the Lord is coming back for a beautiful bride, not a nagging wife!
Peter said that all should be harmonious, sympathetic. He spoke of us as living stones, being built up into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood. James urged us to confess our sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that we might be healed.
So compelling was the idea of unity that Jesus petitioned His Father that his followers might all be one, even as He and the Father were one. He spoke of the power that would be released through a united church: “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.” The Greek word translated “agree” is sumpheneo, literally to sound together, or be in harmony. From this root we get the word symphony. Sumpheneo is so essential in a fine orchestra that a skilled conductor will detect even a single note that is out of place and speak firmly to the errant musician.
Our Heavenly Father is the conductor of the earthly orchestra called the Church. Whether it’s a duet, a small ensemble, or a full-scale symphony, He wants us in harmony. Only then will we produce the clear sound that engages the energy of heaven itself, which in turn will change the destiny of communities and nations. This is the strategic imperative for unity.