“So when are we going to stop being three different congregations (Blanchard Wheaton, Warrenville and Living Water) and truly become one? Doesn’t Rev 7:9 picture all the nations gathered together in worship? Shouldn’t we overcome the segregation of the 11 AM worship hour by having everybody worship together in the same way?” I have been asked these questions in different ways by different people at many different times. Underlying this question is an assumption that unity = uniformity, that oneness is evident as different people from different backgrounds worship together in the same manner. However, such surface uniformity can belie a deeper diversity. Like a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers, their matching colors on the surface belie the wide variety of soils, climates and seeds that brought about such beauty in the face of diversity.
Unity without uniformity can still be found in diversity. The Trinity has the diversity of three persons in perfect unity. Jesus prayed for such Trinitarian unity in the church to ignite powerful witness (John 17:20–23). Even with three distinct congregations, we can have a deeper, underlying unity as our hearts are rooted in the gospel, growing in prayer, encountering and being transformed by God in worship, and working together to reach people across the street and around the world. Such unity grows as we love one another (John 17:26), walking in deep care for one other.
Simultaneously, we should cultivate diversity, expressing the beauty of Christ in unique ways in each of our different congregations. The beautiful flowering of diverse expressions of Jesus Christ are cultivated in different soils. We do not intend to try to make our three congregations identical. Rather, as we cultivate the unique congregational culture of each congregation, each congregation will manifest Christ’s beauty and reach out to the broken in a unique manner
So what? Let us cultivate unity as we draw near to God, being changed every day by the same passages of Scripture in this season. Let us cultivate diversity as we open our eyes to those around, aching for and reaching out to the needy in our midst. Let us strengthen our relationships with one another so that we might have the understanding and relational capital to tackle the challenges that are ahead of us. As we see many new people visit our church, let us work together to embrace them and connect them into the life of our church. May we demonstrate the beauty of a genuine unity in the face of diversity. May we answer Jesus’ prayer “that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me” (John 17:23).