A Declaration of “Inter”dependence
by Ed Delph…..Article for Ministry Today
One of the most amazing revelations I ever received in my life happened in 1988 at an open air meeting in Resistencia, Argentina. I was speaking with the Argentine evangelist, Carlos Annacondia, after the evening meeting ended. This was my first trip to Argentina and I had just witnessed thousands coming to the Lord with healings, demonic manifestations and deliverance, but most of all, an amazing presence of the Lord! I asked Carlos for the key to this amazing ministry! The answer I received surprised me! Carlos said, “In any city I go into to do an evangelistic crusade, if the pastors in the city are in 10% unity, there’s 10% power at my meetings, if the pastors in the city are in 30% unity, there’s 30% power at my meetings, if the pastors in the city are in 80% unity, there’s 80% power!” In other words, the percentage the pastors were in unity in that city determined the percentage of power in which he could minister! Or, according to the pastors’ unity in the cities, be it unto the city! Think about it! Remember the idea in Psalm 133, “When the brethren dwell together in unity, there the Lord commands the blessing.” The context of the Psalm talks about the anointing oil which flows down the head, the beard, and the edge of the robes. Unity brings the anointing and it’s the anointing that breaks the yoke!! (Isaiah 10:27) As unity flows downward from the head (Jesus) to the beard (O.T. type of leadership) to the body (of Christ) or to the edge of the robes, so does the anointing oil which breaks the yoke! In a city-reaching context, the yoke can only be broken to the percentage that pastors or leadership are in unity in that city. That’s an interesting proposition!
Carlos was saying that the pastors in the city have to give up their “declaration of independence” and make a “declaration of ‘inter’dependence” for the sake of reaching their city for Christ. This does not mean that each church loses it’s identity or distinctiveness – that would be dependence. It simply means that each church joins with other churches in causes that affect the whole city – Interdependence! II Cor. 6:1 says, “And working together with Him, we also urge you to not receive the grace of God in vain.” The churches/ Christians working together with Him – Interdependence! God is revealing to the church all over the world today not only an “a church” mentality but also a “the church” mentality, We’re beginning to see that ONE cannot multiply and it’s not good for man (a pastor, a church ) to be alone! I recently read a statement from an apostolic network of churches that said, “Why should we walk alone when we can stand together?” God is calling us to birth something bigger than ourselves! I’m awed as I see pastors and churches all across the world who strongly feel that God has called them to build the church as well as a church. Peter McHugh, my friend and pastor of the fastest growing church in Melbourne, Australia, dares not even call his church a church but a congregation in the church. His heart is for unity – his strategy is to build the church in Melbourne. The result is incredible growth both spiritually and numerically for his congregation. Jesus said, “I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” (Matt. 16:18b). I sense that when churches in a city build Jesus’ church in that city, blessing will come . “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.” (Prov. 11:11a) Jesus prayed this very prayer in John 17:23. “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as thou didst love Me.” The unchurched will see the church walking in unity, not competition; they will see the love of God on us and in us, and that will lead to evangelism! Just as each Christian has been given a measure of grace, so has each church been given a measure of grace. When all the measures of grace are added together in unity, we get grace without measure – the measure of stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:7,14) Rather than just tolerating our differences, Jesus wants us to celebrate our differences. Each church is like a facet in a diamond: my facet is not the only facet. As we come together each facet retains it’s own identity but joins together to form something greater than itself, a beautiful diamond reflecting the light of the sun! In a really good diamond the light reflection seems to celebrate. That’s what Jesus wants for the church!
Center Set vs. Boundary Set
A recent study on friendship and relating initially revealed 50 ways people become friends. After analyzing those 50 ways, it was found that they could all be reduced to two different styles of relating: Boundary Set and Center Set. A Boundary Set is one in which people have a common or same boundary. For example, if one Baptist meets a Baptist from another location, they can relate right away based on the Baptist boundary. If I’m in Kampala, Uganda, and meet another American, we can relate immediately based upon the fact we are both from America – we have a common boundary.
The Center Set is one in which a cause or a person is esteemed higher than established boundaries. For example, a few years ago, armies from several nations came together to rescue Kuwait from Iraq. A cause higher than national boundaries brought the armies together against a common foe. Churches coming together to reach a city for Jesus, is a perfect example of Center Set! The relationship is based on a cause or person higher than each individual church or boundary.
In my opinion, God is moving churches and pastors from Boundary Set to a Center Set! All over the world, pastors and church members are beginning to realize that there’s the church as well as my church. It’s fine to focus your attention on a church as long as it’s not to the exclusion of the church. I recently met a pastor in San Nicholas, Argentina who has two communions on Sunday, one for his local church members and one for members of the church in his city! He has a Boundary Set as well as a Center Set relationship with the people, pastors and churches in his city. He has made a declaration of interdependence!
The Boundary Set mentality was the problem in the church at Ephesus. The believing Jews and Gentiles in that church could not make the transition from Boundary Set to Center Set. Their boundaries stopped them from having unity. Paul addresses the Boundary Set mentality in Phil. 2:13,14. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”
Notice that Paul moved them from a Boundary Set to a Center Set mentality. Paul said that their Boundary Set mentality gave the devil an opportunity or jurisdiction because of their anger (Eph. 4:26, 27). Look at the results of that jurisdiction: stealing (Eph. 4:28); gossip (Eph. 4:29); grieving the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30); bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, malice (Eph. 4:31); immorality, impurity, greed (Eph. 5:3); filthiness, coarse jesting (Eph. 5:4); idolatry (Eph. 5:6); drunkenness (Eph. 5:18). Paul summed up their situation by calling these deeds unfruitful deeds of darkness. The Ephesians were a congregation with differences that divided rather than one which celebrated the differences that could have united them. Paul said to the Boundary Set Jews and Gentiles, “You don’t war against one another -you’re not warring against flesh and blood – you’re warring against rulers, powers, world forces of darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) The house divided against itself cannot stand! (Matt. 12:25). Paul exhorted the Jews and Gentiles in Eph. 2:17-19. “and He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household”.
You see, both are in God’s household! The church is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father. (Eph. 4:4 – 6) The book of Ephesians could be called the Epistle of the Center Set. Both parts are necessary to make the whole.
How we need this truth today! We need each other!! We need to build HIS church!! Jesus is our Center Set! In order to build His church, there are times when we need to concentrate on our local church but we also have to see that my church is not the church! Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” What God is beginning to reveal to pastors all over the world is that their church is not the kingdom, it’s part of the kingdom.
We need to understand that when one church grows, that’s our growth also. When one church hurts, that’s our hurt also because we are part of something bigger than ourselves. That’s interdependence – a Center Set, a the church mentality with Jesus higher than any border! Unity is a kingdom principle! God has given unity to us; we need to learn how to preserve and use it as a key to loose the things of the kingdom! The nature of the church is unity. If we are not in unity, we greatly reduce the effectiveness of the church. Disunity in the church is like cutting off a person’s leg; you greatly reduce that person’s effectiveness. Get the message?
Unity – The Means to an End
Unity is never the end in itself – it is simply the means to an end. Unity among pastors and churches is always for a purpose! In John 17:23, the unity Jesus prayed for was for evangelism. The purpose of unity in Carlos Annacondia’s crusades in Argentina was for power and evangelism.
A few years ago, in my home city of Phoenix, Arizona, pastors from nine different churches formed a the church organization called “Pierce the Darkness”. We adopted the verse from II Kings 3:16, “Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of trenches.” We live in the Valley of the Sun, so digging ditches in the valley made sense to us. We started “digging ditches” or forming relationships with pastors and churches all over the Phoenix area. The idea is if we’re all in relationships – if one church gets the water, we’ve dug ditches to them relationally; so, we get the water also. If one church gets blessed, we all get blessed. We held three the church gatherings on Sunday evenings about six months apart. Our first meeting included 28 pastors and churches. At our second meeting, 82 churches and pastors attended along with thousands of people. The third meeting was attended by 55 churches and pastors.
Our second gathering literally changed the history of our state. The Lord led us to “pray at all times with all kinds of prayer” to establish righteousness over our local and state government. Each person who attended was given a list of state representatives and senators to pray over. Approximately six months later, in a sting operation by the Attorney General’s Office, several elected officials had taken bribes to introduce gambling into our state. The guilty were put on trial and some were convicted. The result was the establishing of righteousness in our State with no yelling, shouting, etc., just the church establishing righteousness in the land. (See I Timothy 2:1-8)
In Cottonwood, Arizona, the pastors of the city regularly meet and are in unity. The churches pool their resources to feed the poor, help the police with the homeless and provide counseling to the community. The pastors in Cottonwood view this as a the church function. The witness to the city by the church is amazing. These pastors even minister together as a team to pastors in cities of Mexico and encourage the pastors toward a the church ministry in their cities. Wow!
After I started Hosanna Christian Fellowship in 1987, I found that I was a great “planter” but not as good a “waterer”. Because I believe in digging ditches, I became good friends with Pastor Jim Dubé who had planted a church called Grace Center. Jim is a great “waterer” but not naturally a great “planter”. You guessed it, God led us to merge our churches into one and “one plants, another waters, and God causes the growth.” (I Cor. 3:6) Unity brings the anointing and it is the anointing that breaks the yoke! In each of these illustrations, we see unity as a key to the kingdom to loose God into our city, society, and our churches. Unity is a means to a greater end!
Bridge Builders – Not Bridge Burners!
Someone once said that the problem with pastors is that they think like pastors! As a pastor, I had to look at myself and ask why do we as pastors feel hurt when someone leaves our church? Why do we feel threatened by the church down the street that has more people? Why are we so driven to reach the 1000 mark? Why don’t we feel that we can trust other pastors? Why are we so concerned about a church but not about the church? Obviously, some of these feelings are the result of bad experiences with other Christians, pastors, churches, etc., but much more of the problem is within us! I was independent – like Simon and Garfunkel sing, “I touch no one and no one touches me, I am a rock, I am an island.” We rationalize and think, “We have a vision – this the church stuff takes away from my vision.” My problem was that I was building my church and not the kingdom!
Let me share a concept that helped me! John 13:3 says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all thing into His hands, and that He had come from God, and was going back to God. . .” As I read this verse, I said, “That’s me, too! I’ve come from God, I’m going back to God, and all things are mine.” (I Cor. 3:21 – 23) The four basic human needs are mine: significance, acceptance, love, and security. Therefore, as a Christian and a pastor, I live from significance, not for significance. (Heb. 2:11) I live from acceptance, not for acceptance! (Eph. 1:3) I live from being loved, not for being loved! (I John 4:19) I live from security, not for security! (Heb. 13:5,6) This truth enabled me, like it did Jesus, to become a servant of reconciliation to the disciples! Before, if someone left my church, it threatened my significance (If I could just reach 1000 people, then I would be significant.) so I would react. I was using the people of God in my church as a means for me to feel significant! In other words – I was the tick and they were the dog. I was using the church as a means to my own end. With that type of motive, I was also a magnet for calamity. No wonder I cared so little about unity or the church. I was searching for significance. If you would have tried to dig a ditch to me, I’d have filled it in as fast as you could dig it! That’s a long way from building Jesus’ church. But the good news is that God opened my eyes to my sin and has greatly healed me in this area!
God wants pastors and Christians who have a heart for both a church and the church. He wants those who live from, not for significance, acceptance, love, and security! Those who have come from God, and are going back to God – all things are theirs, so there is nothing to prove! So that when you’re standing next to a pastor who criticized you or a parishioner who left your church, you aren’t like a thermometer that goes up with the temperature, we are like a thermostat that just clicks on the air conditioner when it gets hot! We can be an ambassador of grace! We are bridge builders, not bridge burners! My friend and Hebrew scholar, Frank Seekins, states the following, “How do you gain unity? The Hebrew word for unity is echad. The Hebrew word picture tells us that unity comes when you “strongly fence the door.” What does this mean? Imagine that you were in a movie theater and you saw a fire starting down in front. What are you going to do? If you are like me, you are going to get out – fast! But suppose that the doors to the theater are locked, and there is no way to leave. What do you do now? You will put out the fire! When faced between the fire and the door, we all tend to take the door. But when the door has been locked, we deal with the fire. Unity is found in this simple analogy. Every relationship is tested in the times of trouble. If I have left a door open, I will not confront the fire, and when the fire gets bad enough, I have an excuse to leave. But this is not the biblical example of a covenant relationship. God values convenant and unity. That’s the mentality of a Kingdom Christian and the mentality for a pastor who wants to reach his city for Christ.
God Has A Vision – We Have A Comfort Zone!
God’s vision for the church in these last days is unity! As Francis Frangipane says, “Jesus Christ is not coming back for a harem, He’s coming back for a bride!” Here are some practical suggestions for developing a Center Set type of mentality in you and your church.
Warning! The following eight suggestions are guaranteed to take you out of your comfort zone:
- Look for a way into relationships with other pastors and churches, not a way out.
As Prayer Summits, Choruses of Prayer, March for Jesus, Promise Keepers, and other efforts to reach the city come to your area, take a risk and get involved. Set some priorities; the long term benefits of these relationships will be life changing! Look at what’s going on among churches in your city to reach your city and ask, “Am I in it?!” Dig those ditches! (I Tim. 2:8)
- Invite a pastor to lunch.
Many pastors I know take the time each week to invite a pastor to lunch! Some have pastors’ lunches where they invite all the pastors in the area to come. Relationships diffuse suspicion and release understanding! Be a Bridge Builder, not a Bridge Burner! As the relationships develop, some pastors are even exchanging pulpits!
- Learn to trust all over again!
Many pastors have retreated to independence because of criticism, gossip, etc. As a result, they don’t trust other pastors or churches. Maturity is the ability to come through a time of disappointment or disillusionment without becoming wounded, bitter, or cynical. There’s no future to living in the past. Take a risk, learn how to trust all over again! It’s worth it to you, your church, and your city. We need you! In many cities, pastors have even made covenant with each other to cover the other’s dignity to preserve unity.
- It takes longer to construct than to destruct!
Some have tried this before and it didn’t work! Please realize that there is a season for everything. You may have tried to develop unity before in your city but you weren’t received! Don’t retreat! The season of unity is here; the very thing you tried and prayed for is happening now. Get involved!
- Where there’s no love, there’s no authority!
As you pray, ask the Lord to give you a heart for your city or locality. As God gives you love for your city, your effectiveness in your city will increase! God will also give you a love for the church in the city. Don’t be like Jonah who helped Ninevah under protest! Love your city!
- Look for a practical expression of unity!
As you meet together, pray and develop relationships, ask the Lord for a common goal to express your unity. It may be joining together to feed the poor, a series of the church praise/prayer meetings or developing a block by block strategy of reaching your city. Let God lead you! Remember, unity is a means to an end!
- “There’s gold in them there pews and cities!”
If you’re interested in a city-wide plan for reaching your city, experts are available who can help mobilize the pastors and church congregations in your city. I suggest that you contact Ed Silvoso at Harvest Evangelism, P.O. Box 20310, San Jose, California 95160, phone number (408) 927-9052, fax (408) 927-9830. Harvest has all the “how to’s” as well as a strong vision for city reaching!
- Our basis of unity is a Person!
In moving from a Boundary Set to a Center Set, realize that Jesus Christ is our Center Set. Jesus is higher than doctrine, form, denomination, or any boundary. None of us have it all! Majoring on the majors would help us realize the fulfillment of John 17:23. That’s why we all need to make a Declaration of Interdependence to reach our city!
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Version.