The Imperative Need of Unity

Unity is clearly laid down in Scripture as essential to strength.

By W. G. TURNER, Vice-President of the General Conference

The slogan of one of the large British life-assurance companies reads: "Union Is Strength." These words appear be­neath the figure of a man who is unsuccess­fully attempting to break across his knee a bundle of tied faggots. One man can easily snap a single stick, but with many sticks united in a bundle the task of breaking them is im­possible. So it is with a single thread of flax. One thread is weak, but many threads made into a hawser hold the largest steamer to the wharf.

In things spiritual this same principle ap­plies. Unity is clearly laid down in Scripture as essential to strength. The closeness, the necessity, of this unity is likened to that of the human body, wherein each part is essential to the complete unit called man. This close con­nection is in another instance likened to that which existed between the divine Father and the divine Son, in which the life of the one was so blended and connected with that of the other that Jesus said: "I and My Father are One." "Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee." And this same relationship is to exist between Christ and His people, and among the people themselves. (See John 17.)

Unity among the people of God will play a most vital part in revealing to the world the rightful place of Jesus in God's plan for man's ultimate salvation. The disunity among many professed Christians, the many sects into which they are separated, the quarrels and dissensions that arise, all have played and still play a tremendous part in bringing reproach to the name of Christ, and tragically delay His com­ing.

If we really and sincerely long for the com­ing of our Lord, we should see to it that we as individuals do everything in our power to be united together with God. We are told that "God has a church upon the earth who are His chosen people, who keep His command­ments. He is leading, not stray offshoots, not one here and one there, but a people."—"Tes­timonies to Ministers," p. 61. Disunity ever leads to confusion, and confusion to weakness, and weakness brings disaster. It is therefore obvious why the adversary seeks to introduce disunity. He did it in heaven, and he con­tinues his work upon earth. His particular hatred is manifested against the remnant church of God, of which we constitute a part.

The church is likened to an army. An army is successful only when properly organized and led, under the discipline of those responsi­ble as officers, with each unit fully recognizing its place, and the necessity of obeying direc­tions, irrespective of the ultimate outcome. Unless this is clearly understood by each soldier and each officer, the army becomes a rabble, unorganized, undisciplined, unpro­tected, unled, and generally defeated. (See "Testimonies," Vol. I, p. 649.)

The church today is a militant body. Soon it will become a triumphant multitude. During the days of its militancy, for the maintenance of its unity it must recognize the leadership of God in His appointed way. God does not look lightly upon those who attempt to walk contrary to His directions. The experience of Korah reveals this. It is therefore essential that each of us as leaders possess so clear an understanding of His will in the matter of unity, that we may ever be found leading the people on from strength to strength.

Organization and unity are closely related. Neither can be dispensed with in these closing days. Indeed, as the wrath of Satan inten­sifies, the need for unity among God's fol­lowers deepens. Of all men, we who live now with faces turned toward the heavenly Canaan, should set an example in these important mat­ters. The times in which we live are solemn and important. The spirit of independence is increasing, and independence always leads to disunity. We read:

"The world is filled with strife for the supremacy. The spirit of pulling away from fellow laborers, the spirit of disorganization, is in the very air we breathe."—"Testimonies," Vol. IX, p. 257.

This spirit is the very antithesis of unity and of the mind of God for us, and we need to watch lest any of us reveal it among our­selves as workers, or between ourselves and the people over whom God has made us over­seers. Unity in its true sense banishes self-praise, self-pride, self-confidence.

"Let each one who claims to follow Christ, esteem himself less and others more. Press together, press together! In union there is strength and victory; in discord and division there is weakness and defeat!"—Id., Vol. V, p. 488.

"He who considers himself superior in judgment and experience to his brethren, and despises their counsel and admonition, evinces that he is in a dangerous delusion. The heart is deceitful. He should test his character and life by the Bible standard."--Id., p. 247.

Applying the Principles of Unity

It is essential for us to understand the right course of action in all things. Unity can be seriously disturbed by wrong conceptions of responsibility as between the administration and the workers. For instance, if an adminis­trator directs a worker in some major matter without giving such worker opportunity for counsel before the position is finalized, there are times when feelings are engendered that prove distressing to all concerned and tend to disturb the unity required for the strong development of every feature of the work. If on the other hand a worker acts on some major matter without consulting with the higher administration, serious misunderstand­ing can be created and dangerous situations may arise, as among the administration, the worker, and the church members.

To illustrate: Recently a worker, with the consent and vote of the church of which he was pastor, sold a church property and pur­chased vacant lots with the cash received. Pro­vision was made to erect a pastor's residence on one of the lots. No cash was on hand to begin a new church building, and the congre­gation was confronted with the problem of having no place of worship, and no money to provide a place. The serious situation then led the worker for the first time in the whole transaction to seek the counsel of the confer­ence president. The congregation was by now in a condition of near revolt, with no building, no money, and very little unity. The whole difficulty might have been avoided had counsel first been sought from the administration, and unity would have been preserved.

There are also cases in which disunity is caused through the administration's taking a certain action which may be constitutional, but not expedient. For instance, where there are occasions for the administrative leadership to be changed, every effort should be made to effect such changes at conference sessions, so that the delegates themselves have a voice in the election. But I notice that there is a grow­ing tendency in some sections to elect men to departmental leadership in conferences im­mediately prior to conference sessions, and thus in a measure deny the members expres­sion in the matter. I fear that if this tendency grows, there will arise a disposition on the part of our constituents to question actions, possibly among themselves at first, then later in a larger circle. Should such be the case, that confidence and unity so essential in the plan and work of God will be materially af­fected.

Unity can be most seriously disturbed by any worker who finds it difficult to accept the direction of his committee in matters in which this direction may not be in harmony with his own mind. A worker is not wise in discussing with his church members or fellow workers his opposition to the committee's action. It is his responsibility to accept the counsel and the action of the directing body. The same prin­ciple applies to an administrator who may not agree with an action of his own committee, of which he may be chairman, or of another body of which he is but a member.

Any individual, of whatsoever rank he may be, who may publicly or privately oppose any established operating policy or any action that has been properly voted upon, does great harm and seriously endangers unity by scattering seeds of doubt in the minds of others relative to the wisdom and action of his brethren. There are proper places and times in which we may make known our minds in regard to such matters. If the correct procedure is prayerfully followed, much misunderstanding may be avoided, we ourselves may be saved from the possibility of personal embarrass­ment, and our people may be kept from the danger of being split into opposing factions.

No one man knows everything. Our com­mitteemen know much. If you have a certain plan for the work, place it clearly before them. If they see light in it, carry it out. If they do not see light in it, drop it. If later your plan is found to be the wiser one, then your com­mittee will have more confidence in you. If, on the other hand, their plan is the better, you will have greater confidence in them, and thus all will increase in confidence toward one an­other, and the work will grow in strength and unity. Never push a plan contrary to the mind of counsel, and never be determined to work a plan that your committee has rejected, for if it fails, then woe betide your influence. Be patient, be submissive to advice, always work for unity, and God will bless you. Take the people into your confidence. Remember that the people love the Lord and the work of the Lord as much as you do, and they are willing to support you if you do right.

In a number of problems that have faced us during the years. financial and otherwise, I have never yet seen our church members fall to support the right. Let us be open and frank, humble and true, sincere and honest, and we shall ever have the body of our fellow workers and believers working with us in such unity that the truth will go forward in strength.

Remember that others have rights; never at­tempt to dominate. Always work along con­stitutional lines, and let others see that you are as anxious to obey proper direction as they should be. Be careful to do nothing that will make them feel that you are taking advantage of them. It may go over once or twice, but ultimately you will be the loser.

Be sympathetic with fellow workers and with the flock. Many of them have to be very sympathetic with us in order to put up with us. If we do unto others as we would that they should do unto us, God will bless us all, and there will be exemplified in the experi­ence of this church the prayer of Christ as recorded in John 17.

* Presentation at Presidents' Council, Battle Creek, Michigan, October, 1938.

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By W. G. TURNER, Vice-President of the General Conference

March 1939

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