There was a point when we were well into the meeting...I was taking questions and hands were going up all over the place. It was a great, productive conversation. I started to specifically look for folks who hadn't gotten to ask a question yet and saw this one guy towards the back who I didn't recognize. He hadn't yet asked any questions, so I called on him. His name was Mark and he said something like this, 'I was at PCC for the first time last Sunday. I heard about this meeting and thought I'd come tonight and check it out. I am really amazed by the unity that you all show about your church...' That's not an exact quote, but it's as good as I can remember. He was smiling, clearly impressed. We had made a positive impression, even in the midst of a difficult situation. I honestly had to fight to hold back the tears. It was such a great moment...a God moment.
And Mark helped to remind us all again that we are a reflection on Christ - no matter what setting we're in. How we live matters. People don't care what our faith proves. They care what kind of people our faith produces. Last night, God reminded us all that unity is key to the kind of message we send to those on the outside. Jesus prayed it like this:
"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. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21, NIV)
The greatest risk to our future is ourselves. If we were to begin to devour each other from the inside, it's the only way our church can fall. We must maintain the spirit of unity that we displayed last night, because it will speak volumes to our community. I've often said to the Steering Team something like this: 'We can get a bunch of decisions wrong, but if we have unity our church will be strong. On the other hand, we can get make every decision right, but if we are divided our church will fall apart.' Nobody wants to be a part of a divided church. I came from an environment like that. Going through that kind of conflict as a church is no fun for anybody, and growing a church in conflict is nearly impossible. New people avoid it like the plague.
Unity does not mean that we don't have honest debate and honest disagreement. We're never going to agree on everything. Two people who have been married for half a century don't agree on everything, how can we expect a thousand to do so? That's why we structured our church the way we did, with team empowerment, the Steering Team, the staff - each with their roles and authority. It helps to ensure that we have healthy debate while limiting unhealthy conflict.
Unity is not uniformity. Unity is not consensus. Unity is rallying behind a central vision that drives us into the future together. Our mission is about reaching people who are far from God and outside of other churches. It's never been about those who are already Christ followers. Jesus calls us to give up ourselves to serve others. Somebody always gets upset when I say it, but, frankly, it always gets me jazzed up. So, I'll say it again: If you are a Christ follower, it's not about you. That's the essence of our church. Selfishness has no place here. Unity behind our mission does.
So, keep that spirit of unity the positive, driving force at PCC. When someone is complaining, gossiping, rumoring, etc., put a stop to it. Unity - the kind of Unity that Jesus prayed for for us is absolutely key to our future. It impressed Mark and it will impress the thousands in our community who don't go to church.
Thanks again for those who came last night. Your support and encouragement was overwhelming. It was an evening I will never forget.