God’s Global Family

In 1910, major Protestant and Anglican denominations and missionary societies gathered in Edinburgh for the World Missionary Conference. The major thrust of the conference was to activate the Evangelical church to evangelize the “Non-Christian” world. Eight commissioned papers were written for the conference, some of which had a lasting impact on missional thinking. One of those papers was titled “Co-Operation and the Promotion of Unity”. It is widely acknowledged that the conference marked the launch of the Christian ecumenical movement, a movement that led to the creation of the World Council of Churches.

It's interesting that a mission conference gave rise to a unity movement, but really, we shouldn’t be surprised. An often-overlooked principle of mission advancement is unity. In John 17:20–23, Jesus prays, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one. Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” There is something about the unity of the family of God that witnesses to the world that Jesus is Saviour and Lord. Now, as in 1910, we need to examine the importance of unity and its connection to serving in mission together as the global family of God.

Of all the images used to describe the people of God, such as living stones or physical body, the picture of family is the most used and significant in the Bible. When we believe that Jesus is our salvation from sin and death, and that he is our Lord (Rom 10:9–10), things change. We are welcomed into the family of God (1 Pet 1:3). We get the privilege of being a daughter or son of the King. We get the “down payment” of our inheritance, the Spirit of God. And we begin to take on a family resemblance as we mature in our relationship with God and are refined by loving obedience.

Our unity rests on Christ and is proved by its fruit.

Christ our Lord and Brother

The Church universal, as Scripture describes it, is a spiritual family (Mt 12:46–50, Eph 2:19, Eph 3:14–15) formed by its head: Christ (Col 1:18). Because the Church is the body of Christ, formed on the confession that Jesus is Lord and the indwelling of the Spirit, it is intimately tied to the mission of Christ. Jesus gives us his mission (2 Cor 5:18) and asks us to reproduce disciples who obey his commands (Mt 28:20). This would be impossible if the character of the family was not inherited – but it flows from Jesus to us. Hebrews 2:11 says, “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Put another way, the Spirit at work in the people of God produces God’s character in those who believe and submit to Christ’s Lordship.

Viewing unity this way helps us break out of the expectation that there should be a comprehensive, professional, holistic approach to unity. The unity a family experiences is relational and loving, but also undergirded by the bond of blood. If outsiders were to comment on familial unity, they might say that it looks fragmented, but the complexity of family (or unity in the church) can’t be measured from a single perspective.

The Scope of Unity

Jesus’ claim to Lordship is wide and deep. As creator of all things, he desires that all things will be restored to perfect shalom in and under him. The exciting news is that he has invited us into his work which was already begun before time began. As the song says,

“No more let sins and sorrows grow
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.”

Our mission lies before us. From our perspective it can seem overwhelming. But faith, hope, and—above all—love of Jesus, allow us to get a glimpse of the mission from the perspective of an all-knowing, all-powerful God. When we have his perspective, working towards the redemption of all created things is doable.

But how can we respond in a practical way to the call for real unity in the family of God? Here are some suggestions:

1. Motive

Our motive for desiring unity has to be love. We need to share Jesus’ concern for all those who bear God’s image (humankind). We also need God to give us a genuine concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. And, because we are finite, we should ask God to put a specific country or people group on our hearts.

2. Prayer

Our intercession is not bound by geography. Our first priority, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, should be to pray for all the saints (Eph. 6:18). Be open to the prompting of the Spirit. Ask the Lord to increase your faith to pray boldly for places you may not have seen with your eyes. You may also ask God to connect you with brothers or sisters in Christ here at home from those places which God has put on your heart.

3. Finances

The apostle Paul recognized that generous giving was tangible evidence of the unity of the body of Christ. Canadians are wealthy compared to the rest of the world. We enjoy a standard of living that few in the world experience. Scripture says that judgment is coming and there is no excuse for us if we keep this wealth for ourselves and we don’t use it to tell the world that Jesus loves them.

So many ministries have a global reach, alleviating any concerns we might have about wanting the funds to be well managed – in fact, often that sentiment is more prejudicial and paternalistic than real. Also, our giving should not be constrained by whether we receive a tax receipt. There is no substitute for generosity flowing through personal relationship.

4. Travel

Again, as Canadians, the world is open to us for travel. Follow the Lord’s leading to explore the places he puts on your heart. In 2008, my family and I felt that God was calling us to ministry in China. We packed up our kids and my parents and travelled around the country praying and meeting with Christians working there, trying to discern how God was calling us. Our heart for China grew, and even though we didn’t end up working there, I believe our prayers became more sensitive for having been on the land.

5. Advocacy

If you’ve been on the land, you are a candidate to be an advocate for the urgent advancement of the Gospel in a nation. Even if you haven’t been to a country, God may have put a burden on your heart, and you can serve a ministry or church that works in that nation. It’s unreasonable to expect paid professionals to advance the Gospel. We, the people of God must step up and participate in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ love for the nations, and specifically for his people, should compel us to action without excuse, both here and abroad.

Prayer

Jesus, impart to me a great love for the brothers and sisters you’ve given me in the world. Infuse me with love that is not bounded by geography. Lead me to express my love in practical ways. I submit to your leading.

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“We are committed to world mission, because it is central to our understanding of God, The Bible, The Church, human history and the ultimate future. The whole Bible reveals the mission of God to bring all things in heaven and earth into unity under Christ, reconciling them through the blood of his cross. In fulfilling his mission, God will transform the creation broken by sin and evil into the new creation in which there is no more sin or curse. God will fulfil his promise to Abraham to bless all nations on earth, through the gospel of Jesus, the Messiah, the seed of Abraham. God will transform the fractured world of nations that are scattered under the judgement of God into the new humanity that will be redeemed by the blood of Christ from every tribe, nation, tongue and language, and will be gathered to worship our God and Saviour. God will destroy the reign of death, corruption and violence when Christ returns to establish his eternal reign of life, justice and peace. Then God, Immanuel, will dwell with us, and the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign for ever and ever. [Genesis 1–12; Ephesians 1:9–10; Colossians 1:20; Revelation 21–22]”

Lausanne Movement’s Cape Town Commitment

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About the author

Profile photo for John Hall

In 1997 John Hall, his wife Wei, and brother in-law started Eco Outdoor Sports in Metro Vancouver. In 2003 the business was sold, and his family entered a seven-year ‘desert experience’. During that time the Lord impressed on John and his family the importance of hearing and obeying Jesus every day, something that he tries to integrate into everything he does. In 2010 God changed the family’s direction and led him to finish his degree at Regent College in preparation for life as a full-time missionary overseas. That ministry opportunity didn’t develop as planned, as a whole new perspective and participation-in Christ’s mission was born at Missions Fest Vancouver. It’s now a daily occurrence for John’s business background and theological training to get a workout.

John served as the Executive Director at Mission Central (formerly Missions Fest Vancouver) from 2014 to April 2023.

John and Wei live in Richmond, BC. They have two wonderful adult girls. John completed his MA at Regent College in 2010.

Church
Church
The Tapestry Church (Richmond, BC)

Series: Unity 2023

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