Throughout the New Testament, the people of God are called to be very intentional towards one another. In fact, our attitudes and actions towards one another are to take on the very nature of Jesus Christ. This is seen clearly in Philippians 2:1-5 when Paul tells the church to “do nothing from selfish ambition” but instead “count others more significant than yourselves.” This selfless approach to relationships within the church isn’t just an arbitrary rule for conduct but a revealing of Jesus himself in the actions of his people.

Yet, this unity of mind is much more than just a guideline for how to get along. It’s also the way in which we pursue a unified purpose and mission. In many ways, the church’s togetherness in mission reminds me of one of my favorite games growing up, tug-of-war.

Losing Focus

In the game of tug-of-war there is a very clearly defined goal – pull the other team towards you until they cross the midway point or give up. There is also a very clearly defined means to accomplish this goal, namely, grab the rope and pull with all of your might. The simplicity of the game is what made it so much fun to play. Simply hold tight to the rope, plant your feet firmly in place, and pull with all your might until you win or end up in a pile on the ground, mild rope burns on your hands, and a smile on your face.

Years ago, while working as a kids pastor in NC, I remember playing this game with a group of elementary-aged kids. I had challenged them to all work together to defeat me and they immediately jumped at the opportunity to embarrass Pastor Mike.

As they all rushed to get to the rope I noticed something happening that lessened their chances of winning. They began arguing over who gets the front and back positions. Some kids, frustrated with their role in the lineup, quit altogether and ended up pouting on the sidelines. Others held the rope but decided not to try,  even hoping for a loss. Finally, others were so distracted by what was happening around them that they lost the zeal they started with and began focusing on other activities in the room.

When it finally came time to pull it was not a real competition. This wasn’t because I was incredibly strong (trust me that was not the case), but because of a lack of unity leading to a lack of focus. 


Unity through selfless

It pains me to say it, but the church can often feel like those kids running to the tug-of-war rope. Many of us come to church with personal expectations and preferences only to be left disappointed and angry. Some respond by giving up on the church and leaving. Others stay connected while bitterness leads to a divisive heart that secretly hopes for the downfall of others. Then there are those who remain connected yet find themselves so frustrated by what they see or distracted by the outside world that they neglect to truly engage fully in the local church. In the end, the church ends up struggling to remain focused on Christ and his mission because it’s people are too focused on themselves.

How then can we overcome the selfish nature that plagues us all? First we must always look to Christ as both our advocate and example. Then, we can actively pursue ways of giving of ourselves for the sake of others. This can be hard, frustrating work but over time, it bears incredible fruit.

What does this hard work look like? 

  • Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Rom 12:10
  • Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Rom 14:13
  • Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Cor 13:11
  • Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Eph 4:32
  • bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Col 3:13
  • Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thes 5:11
  • And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, Heb 10:24
  • Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  James 5:16
  • Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 5:14

Imagine a church where the heart of each individual was driven to bless everyone else. What would it look like to seek restoration with one another, to strive for peace with one another, and to confess and pray for one another? 

I would dare to say that a church where the “one anothers” are commonplace is a church where relational trust is built, unity is maintained, and the mission is actively accomplished.


Pulling Together

That same day the kids attempted to topple me at tug-of-war and failed, a handful of students decided to get in on the action. They rallied the kids with visions of victory and in a moment the room was alive with excitement. As the students took the rope, the kids who were once scattered and angry became focused and energized. On the other side of the rope, I found myself far less confident than I did before.

The match did not last long. I quickly fell to the united power of a group of kids I had just a moment ago defeated. They may have had a couple more people, but it was the unity of heart and mission that ultimately led to my defeat. 

This is my prayer for Heritage Baptist Church – that with feet firmly planted in the gospel, and hands holding tightly to the truth of scripture, we pull against the darkness with our collective strength in order to bring more and more people into the light of our glorious King. 

This is a high calling. Let’s do it together. 

Mike Crump

Pastor of Church Communications

In his role as Pastor of Church Communications, Mike works to promote and resource ongoing ministry/events connected with the body here at Heritage. He also creates & distributes gospel-centered content (both physical & digital) among our wider congregation.