The better together formula

by Gary Rohrmayer, Converge MidAmerica executive minister
Converge

So how can we be better together?

I have been studying and preaching Paul’s prayers for the church. In them we find a great source of vision and encouragement for the church and the greater movement of God. Paul in the midst of his teachings on the strong and weaker brother, offered this prayer as a conclusion.

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).

In this text we can see what I call the Better Together formula: Grit + Grace = Unity

Let’s consider grit.

Many writers and speakers are lamenting over the absence of grit in our culture today. Some would say we are in the midst of a gritless generation, of leaders from pastors to lay leaders.

  • Leaders at rapid rates are giving up on their marriages.
  • Leaders are giving up on their churches.
  • Leaders are cashing in on their calling.
  • Leaders are compromising on the gospel.
  • Leaders are giving in to cultural pressures.

Grit is a combination of passion and persistence. Demonstrating grit is finishing what you start. Staying committed to your goals. Working hard even after experiencing failures or setbacks. Pushing through quitting points. Sticking with a project or activity for more than a few weeks. Being a person of your word, honoring commitments and being faithful in your relationships. Showing up when no one else does.

Jessy Padilla was a man who showed up when no one else did. Fifteen years ago I gathered four key leaders among our Hispanic churches to discuss church planting among the Spanish-speaking people coming to our area. As we discussed, dreamed, prayed and scheduled our next meeting, I challenged each leader to come back with a financial gift to start our Hispanic Church Planting Fund that I would match dollar for dollar. The next meeting was put on the calendar, the reminders were sent out, the day came and only one leader showed up. It was pastor Jessy Padilla with a check of $400. The gift from his church started our Hispanic Church Planting Fund that has been the foundation for our new resurgence in Hispanic church planting.

The biblical idea for grit is endurance. Endurance is rooted in the character of God and is received through the Word of God (Romans 15:4). We have an enduring God who endures with us. Endurance is the God-given ability for us to not veer off God’s purposes no matter what we are facing. As we learn to rely on God’s enduring power, his empowering Word and the strength of his presence, we can push through quitting points in relationships and pursue his mission.  

When grit is evident, trust is established and unity is experienced because people are drawn to a tenacious spirit and leaders with resolve and courage.

Grace is the second equation in this formula.

When God extends grace to us he freely gives us what we don’t deserve, in this we see the word encouragement.

Encouragement is also embedded in God’s character and is experienced through his Word (Romans 15:4). We have an encouraging God who speaks perfectly into our life situations. The original word for encouragement can be translated “to comfort, to bring correction or to challenge others to a new level of faith.” Encouraging one another is the God-given ability for us to get so close to one another so that we can confidently speak God’s promises, warnings and concerns into each other’s lives. When we rely on and share the Word of God with others, we can breathe life and hope into our souls.

When grace is evident, encouragement happens! The grace of giving nurtures unity and results in thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10-12)

So what is unity in this equation?

First, I want to say that “unity in not uniformity.”

Mary and I are in a different church over 40 Sundays a year, and believe me no two churches are alike. We have traveled from the Southside of Chicago (Compassion Baptist Church) to a small resort town in northeast Michigan (Oscoda Baptist Church) to a multisite church in the sprawling suburbs of Indianapolis (Heartland Church). From there we went to the university town of Bloomington, Indiana, (Redeemer Community Church) in central Indiana to a multicultural church meeting in downtown Indianapolis (Indy Metro). Then we ministered to a new Hispanic congregation in Lake County (Casa de Oracion), to one of our historic African American churches on the Southside of Chicago (Bellevue Baptist Church) and then onto one of our thriving African American churches in the southwest suburb of Bolingbrook, Illinois (Jubilee Baptist Church). 

Not one church did their service the same way as the others. We sang different songs, experienced different orders of services, some had no greeting time and others had extended greeting times. Each had its own culture and traditions. But one thing is evident in them all, the grace of God is at work. We heard stories of life change, people for all types of backgrounds experiencing new life in Christ, broken families made whole and marriages saved from the brink of destruction -all reflecting the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In our text Paul defines unity as “so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6).

For unity to take place there needs to be grace and grit. An overemphasis on one can lead to disaster. Grace without grit can lead to softness of convictions; it can lead to an entitled attitude or unwillingness to speak the truth in love. Grit without grace leads to harshness of faith, to a merciless religion or an “us against the world” attitude. 

Follow Gary on The Converge MidAmerica blog.

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