A Unified Church in Divided Days

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we took a pause from our current series, “The Messiah’s Mission,” in order to talk about what it means to live as a unified church in divided days. The grounding text for this message was Ephesians 4:1-6.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view our current series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

A Prisoner for the Lord (Ephesians 4:1)

  • The situation and calling of Paul the Apostle
  • The calling of every Christian
  • It’s all about Jesus

Learning to Uphold Unity in Love (Ephesians 4:2-3)

  • Putting on the character of Christ
  • Learning love
  • Making every effort for unity

Keeping First Things First (Ephesians 4:4-6)

  • The oneness of the Triune God in the life of the church
  • “In necessary things unity; in uncertain things liberty; in all things charity.”

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into unity as the church in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize part or all of Ephesians 4:1-6
  • In your daily time with God, ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and reveal any ways that you have gotten off track with God during this season. If there is anger, frustration, fear, or anything else, lay it down before Jesus and ask Him to renew your heart.
  • Have an extended season of intercessory prayer for the unity of the church, using John 17 as a model for what you pray for.
  • Re-engage with our series from November 2020, “One: The Being of God in the Life of the Church”

Praying Ourselves Toward Unity

Jesus-Praying-in-the-Garden Dore

Whenever I think about the unity that we are called to as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ under the Fatherhood of God,  I often wonder how we actually can move into that reality? If you’re like me, you can look back at the history of the church and see divisions: between Eastern and Western churches in the great divide of the 11th century; the Protestant reformation and the division from Rome in the 16th century; the radical reformation of the Anabaptist movement within Protestantism in the 16-17th century; the breaking of the Wesleys with Anglicanism, which lead to the Methodist church in the 18th century; etc. Although the list could go on, you probably get the point.

Now, we can certainly talk about the unity of the church, but how do we attain it with such a checkered past?

Alongside all the apparently practical advice about dealing with our pride, learning to love one another, and so on, I’d like to suggest that there is one essential element that we must put into practice if we want greater unity in the church. It is something Jesus modeled for us. In fact, the only time that the word “unity” appears in the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – is when Jesus is doing this one critical activity. What is that critical activity? Prayer.

Over the next few days, I want to approach the topic of unity through the lens of prayer. In John 17, where Jesus enters into prayer before going to the Cross, He asks for God’s glory to be displayed in Him, for His current disciples, and future disciples. Specifically, when we turn our attention to verses 20-26, we see that Jesus prays for His future disciples to be unified.

What I am after in this series of reflections is this: if we want to be One Church – if we want to experience unity with other believers and with other churches for God’s glory – then we must pursue prayer.

To put it more simply: Prayer is the pathway to unity. Conversely, without prayer we cannot experience unity in the church.

[This is the first in a series of posts on unity through prayer from John 17.]

Praying Proactively for Unity [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:20-21)

Many of us tend to be reactive in prayer. We pray for provision when our finances get tight or we lose our job. We pray for healing when we arrive at the hospital or experience emotional trauma. We pray for wisdom when we find ourselves at the crossroads of decisions. We respond – or react – to the situations that come our way. This is an entirely appropriate and powerful way to pray. Throughout Scripture, from the early disciples’ prayers when facing arrest to Moses’ prayer before the burning bush, we see people respond to their circumstances with prayer.

But along with this reactive style of prayer we need to learn from Jesus’ approach to prayer in John 17. There, Jesus proactively prays for things that are yet to come. This forward-thinking approach to prayer arises from the fact that Jesus had both the most realistic view of human life and the most active engagement with the divine life of any person that has ever walked the face of the earth. Jesus prays for all who will come and, in this moment, brings the future people of God – even you and me – into God’s holy presence through prayer. Just pause for a moment to consider the reality that Jesus prayed for us. It is amazing.

The focus of Jesus’ prayer was unity among believers. I remember a time when I was on a short-term trip with a group of students and conflict broke out within the group. People were name-calling, tensions were rising, and the leaders on the trip were completely caught off-guard. Of course, our response in the moment was to pray and ask God to heal the rifts and bring us to unity. God did graciously answer our prayer, redirecting the team so that our disunity did not distract from our purpose for being there.

What I learned from that experience is that we should expect the threat of disunity to arise within our life and ministry as believers. Disunity descends because of our sin, human brokenness, past history, and spiritual attack from the evil one. The threat of disunity should not surprise us. Jesus knows this, and so He prays for unity before disunity even has the opportunity to exist.

If we want unity in our relationships – in our church – in churches around our city,  nation and world – then we must pray proactively for God to make us one. We should not wait for divisions to come upon us. Instead, knowing that the possibility of division is always around the corner, we should pray for unity ahead of time.

There is power in such proactive prayer. Jesus understood this and He shows us – even as He prays for us – the importance of bringing things to God ahead of time.

Lord, please make us one
as You are one.
Protect us from the divisions
that the evil one sows into our midst.
Save us from the walls we often raise up
between us and others.
We admit that divisions often come,
and have already come,
and may come in future days.
Forgive us, Lord, for the ways
we contribute to disunity.
Make us more like You:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
  who reign in glorious, Triune unity.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]