Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Christine Ayala's new book, One Spirit One Church, (Pleasant Word, 2007).
Jesus prayed that all believers would be one and love another in the same way He loves us. When we avoid, criticize, or argue with each other, we hurt Jesus as well as ourselves. But when we rely on the power of His Spirit working through us, we can achieve the unity He desires.
Here’s how you can pursue unity with other believers:
Make no distinctions among believers. Remember that, in God’s eyes, there are no distinctions between His children who are in Christ – neither male nor female, young nor old, rich nor poor, etc. Don’t let other believers’ backgrounds discourage you from reaching out to them in love to build genuine relationships.
Surrender your agenda to God’s agenda. Instead of letting your personal agenda guide you, make a habit of seeking God’s will and fulfilling His purposes as you face decisions each day. Understand that God’s plans for you involve working within the body of Christ rather than just on your own. Ask God to give you the ability to build close, trusting relationships with other believers and learn how to work together to achieve common goals.
Immerse yourself in God’s Word. Invite God to speak to you through the Bible, which will transform your thoughts and help you see other believers from His perspective. Regularly read, study, and meditate on the Bible, and attend a church where you can hear God’s Word preached often.
Forgive. Don’t allow bitterness over ways other believers have hurt you to poison your soul and block your intimacy with God. Instead, obey God’s call to forgive, and rely on the help He will give you to do so. Remember that God has chosen to forgive you even when you didn’t deserve it, and that no one truly deserves forgiveness, yet it’s a wonderful and healing gift from God. Whenever the people whom you forgive are alive and willing to reconcile, restore your relationships with them.
Share the Gospel message. Ask God to give you a renewed sense of compassion for the lost souls of the world and help you join other believers in the common goal of sharing the Gospel message with them. Let the experience of working together with other believers bond you into closer relationships with them. Be grateful for the love and forgiveness God has so graciously given to you all.
Let God’s miracles inspire you. Read about the miracles recorded in the Bible, and learn about modern accounts of miracles, as well. Recognize that God is always at work in ways that often go beyond what we can understand. Know that God is bigger than any problem your or other people will ever face. Trust God to help you through even the most challenging situations with other believers. Expect Him to answer your prayers in wonderful ways.
Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Understand that God stands ready to fill all of His believers with the Holy Spirit – regardless of denomination – just as He filled members of the early church with His Spirit. Know that it’s the Spirit’s power that will enable you to live the Christian life and grow into the person God wants you to become.
Use your spiritual gifts to encourage and serve other believers. Realize that every believer has a unique and valuable contribution to make to the universal church. Ask God to help you recognize and develop the spiritual gifts He wants you to use together with other believers to do His work on Earth.
Overcome evil with good. Don’t be afraid to confront evil when you encounter it. Remember that God has given you and other believers the authority, through Christ, to overcome evil in all its forms. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you discern what’s going on spiritually in any situation, and stand firm against evil. Be aware that Satan wants to divide and distance believers from each other; resist this danger and overcome it with God’s love.
Celebrate Communion often. Recognize that Communion is a powerful experience that spiritually unifies you with God and other believers. Celebrate it often, as members of the early church did. But be sure to evaluate the state of your relationship with God and other believers before taking Communion. If you need to confess sin or ask for or grant forgiveness, do so first, and then you can participate in Communion with a clear conscience and in right standing with God.
Seek to please God instead of other people. Don’t waste your time and energy trying to please other people, even if they are fellow believers. Instead, focus on pleasing God through your thoughts, words, and actions, and know that by doing so He will bring you into true unity with others.
Constantly seek God’s will. Understand that every decision is ultimately a spiritual decision, because God cares about every choice you make, and your choices add up to shape what kind of person you become. Keep seeking God’s will in all situations, including those in which you need His guidance to get along well with other people.
Pray for each other. Intercede regularly for other believers. Get to know them and regularly pray for their specific concerns. Share your concerns with them and ask them to pray for you, as well. Follow up with each other by talking about how God has answered the prayers.
Appreciate diverse styles of worship. Understand that, just as God has created people with different personalities, it’s natural for believers to prefer different styles of worship. Don’t expect other believers to worship the same way you do. Give them the freedom to express their worship in the ways that bring them closest to God.
Respect church leaders. Remember that Jesus Himself will judge church leaders; it isn’t your place to do so. Ask God to help you respect them and be a blessing to them and others in your church.
Control your thoughts and words. Be proactive about choosing not to think negative thoughts or speak harsh words, which can bring great destruction in your relationships with other believers. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind, and focus on thinking positive thoughts and speaking encouraging words.
Ask God to show you His vision of what the church can be. Pray for God to reveal His vision to you of what a loving, unified church should look like. Focus on that instead of the problems you see around you, and work to become part of the solution.
Keep saying “Yes!” to God. Whenever God calls you to do something, trust Him and faithfully answer Him, expecting Him to use you to accomplish good purposes.
Adapted from One Spirit One Church, copyright 2007 by Christine Ayala. Published by Pleasant Word, a division of Winepress Publishing, Enumclaw, Wa., www.winepresspub.com.
Christine Ayala has been involved in some level of ministry since she was a teen. She has worked as a music director, liturgist, and pastoral assistant. She founded One Spirit One Church Ministries and now devotes herself to spreading the message of overcoming division and achieving oneness in the church. She is married with two teen sons, and resides in Washington State.