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Unity & Diversity in Christ

Posted by Albert Ng on

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Years ago, before I joined Island ECC as a pastor, I was leading the Hong Kong branch of a big international ministry. The experience of being a “CEO” was both fun and challenging.

To my surprise, the most difficult aspect of my job was not so much the “business” side of leading and managing. I was blessed with a team of highly competent staff. This made my job a lot easier.  

What I found most difficult was the constant challenge of remembering who we are as a ministry and what God is calling us to do. The challenge came from all sides.

On the positive side, there were ongoing invitations and “opportunities” for us to venture into supposedly newer and bigger ministries. Those initiatives were great, and I was sure that many people would be blessed by them. However, the more I pondered about some of these “opportunities,” the more I realised that they would distract us from our core calling rather than reinforce it.

On the negative side, and this is really the hard part, there were well-meaning people who would effectively tell us to modify our spiritual teaching in order to “partner” with them. It was very hard for me because we were mostly not talking about absolutely right or wrong theology (though some of them were very controversial), but what God is calling us to focus on.

It was not an easy process. I second guessed myself a lot. I had many doubts about myself. Did I do the right thing? Am I being too narrow minded? Did I just miss the next big thing?

I remember in multiple occasions I went to my team and said, “Why would someone go to McDonald and demand that they sell wanton noodle?” Thankfully, my team was very supportive. We learned that the enemy of the best is the good. We were convinced that only when we have clarity about our calling and conviction that we can be creative in our approaches.

A grounded identity gives us freedom to be creative in our methodologies

That clarify gave me courage both to embark on new endeavours and to say no to otherwise good things. In one particular case, by the grace of God, I was able to help some people set up their own ministry outside of our organisation. They are still flourishing today.

I learned some very important lessons during this process.

Firstly, it is God Himself who calls us into different ministries. Some people focus on reaching out to the poor while others on equipping Christians in the Central financial district. Some focus on social justice while others on evangelism. Let’s celebrate what one another is doing in our unique ministry field.

Secondly, unity is not uniformity. We are one in Christ (unity) does not mean that we all need to do exactly the same thing or to be in one single organization (uniformity).

Thirdly, as long as our core belief in God is the same, we should strive to respect one another’s diversities in other theological details. I am convinced that what unites us is far more important than what divides us. What we agree with one another is much more than what we disagree with one another.

One thing I am so proud of the international churches in Hong Kong is that the senior pastors meet regularly to pray for one another. These senior pastors come from churches/ministries with very different theological emphasis. However, they are one in Christ. If God gives you a certain theological conviction, you serve in this ministry. If God gives you a different conviction, you serve in another ministry. But ultimately, we are all one in Christ, we love one another, and we all serve the same God.

Finally, we must acknowledge that God is the author of the Body of Christ, and we are different members of the same body. We need one another to perform different functions. Paul says it very clearly when he says that God gives us different gifts “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). It is not about me. It is not about you. It is about how God is using us individually and collectively to serve His Kingdom.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

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