A Unified Team
By: Kelly Steinhaus
A few years ago, I was training with the ambition of making the national rowing team – practicing twice a day, six days a week. One fall morning, I realized that my passion and desire for rowing had left. Then, throughout the next few months, God replaced this with an incredible dream for unity within the Christian community here in Greater Boston. I want to share a little bit about what I’ve learned about Christian unity based on my background as a rower.
Principle 1: A team acts, thinks and moves as one
One of the reasons rowers look so united is because they act, think, and move as one. When everyone is synchronized, the work almost becomes effortless, and there is nothing like the feeling of eight rowers moving together, flying over the water.
The book of Acts describes the first Christian church as being “of one accord” and having “one heart and mind.” Yet, over the years the Church has divided time and time again until now there are over 500 Christian denominations. It’s as if we are rowing twenty different boats on twenty different teams, competing with one another and pulling Jesus in opposite directions.
As Christians we belong in the same boat to act, think, and move as one and be permeated with oneness.(Ephesians 4:4-6).
Principle 2: A team is united in spirit
Near the end of an exhausting race, I would wonder if I could make it to the end. At this time, our leader would shout out: “OK, now we are going to pull 10 strokes Let’s keep the winning tradition alive!”
There was something about her call that lit the fire within me. In a race or a battle it is easy to get overwhelmed by struggle, but we must remember the deeper purpose that unites us. As Christians, we have a depth of unity that is unparalleled by anything else in this world, we are not only sacrificing our time and energy for our school team but our entire lives for Jesus, the one who made us and who died on the cross for us.
Principle 3: A team earnestly endeavors to keep the unity
Occasionally situations arose among team members which caused us to be divided mentally. If even one person wasn’t working in complete mental and physical unison, you could feel the resistance throughout the boat. We quickly learned that keeping unity was of utmost importance.
In Ephesians 4:3 Paul writes that we must "make every effort" to keep the unity of the spirit among the Christian community. However, the word here in Greek (spoudazo) implies a much deeper meaning “to intensely labor; to endeavor to keep; to guard or watch over.” Like rowers intensely laboring at physical and mental capacity, we must fight with intensity and discipline for the unity we already have within the Holy Spirit.
Principle 4: A team embraces the diversity of the team members
In a rowing shell, each person has a different role. I found that when I understood my own role within the boat, it helped the boat go function more effectively. I believe that unity doesn’t imply uniformity. Rather, true unity embraces the diversity amongst the individuals.
Rather than denying the differences between denominations, let’s embrace the uniqueness among parts of the body and learn from one another. Rather than compete with one another, we complete each other as the body of Christ “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16).
Principle 5: A team encourages one another
My novice year rowing, we shouted encouraging words to each other during the race. It is a well-established rule that rowers do not talk in the boat. The thought is that if you have breath to shout, you’re not working hard enough. For a few weeks, my coach would not allow us to talk in the boat, and it drastically decreased our speed. My coach then rescinded her comments and told us to do whatever it took to go the fastest.
Encouragement helps us to realize that someone else believes in and support us. It’s the glue that binds good teams together in working to accomplish the same goals. For too long the church has been silent with one another, striving for the same goals but not talking to its fellow team members.
God used my experience as a rower to plant a longing for unity in my heart. As part of UniteBoston I strive to foster this unity specifically here in Greater Boston and I hope you will join me!
What can you do to promote unity within the Christian community? I’d encourage you to begin by speaking well of other Christians. This week, you might start by saying an encouraging word about another individual or church of a different denomination than yours? This is one simple way to promote the unity of the spirit, as God desires for us, His church. When we come together united as one, just imagine what God will do…
Kelly is the UniteBoston Director of Operations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org