November 11, 2011, was a historic night in the life of the Egyptian Church. As the Arab Spring unfolded, tensions were rising in Cairo, including the killing of many Coptic Christians in October. In the past, the Orthodox Copts, the Roman Catholics, and the Protestants had not supported one another. In fact, they had at many times stood against each other.
But this time was different. In response to this rising difficulty an invitation went out for Christians from all backgrounds – Coptic, Catholic, & Protestant – to gather for prayer. On that night, 71,000 people gathered to seek the face of God in prayer together. Held at the cave church on Cairo’s largest garbage city, the night began with confession, and continued with the gospel being proclaimed, healings happening through prayer, and one span of about 10 minutes where people merely called out the name of Jesus over and over again. Since that time, there has been an increase in conversions to Christ in Egypt at a number never before experienced in recent history.
Something happens when God’s people stand together in unity. There is power in a unified mission.
Jesus says…(read John 17:21, 23)
- v 21 – “so that the world may believe you have sent me”
- v 23 – “so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”
Jesus says that the result – the aftereffects – of unity in His people is effectiveness for the mission and purposes of God in the world. Get this: Jesus is talking to the Father about His desire for the church to reach the world – those far from God – and His key request is for unity in the believers.
The implication here is that if we live in disunity, then we will not be effective in joining God in His purposes in the world. Our mission will be short-circuited because of unity.
Jesus Himself was the one who said, “f a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).
There are a couple of implications here:
- We cannot stand the threats of the world without unity. Jesus said, “a house divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25). If we want to endure in a culture against us then we must seek and pray for unity.
- If we care about the mission of God in the city and in the world, then we must both personally pray for and seek the unity of God’s people. The unity of the church and the mission of the church cannot be divorced from one another. If we think we can pursue the mission without pursuing unity, then we are deceived by the evil one.
The place where positive steps for mission – and the place where positive steps toward unity – occur best is in prayer, as Jesus models for us here in John 17.
Prayer is the pathway to unity, which strengthens the mission of the church.
[This is the fourth in a series of posts on unity through prayer from John 17, which began here.]