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Is "Unity" Over-Rated?

At the risk of really upsetting some folks – particularly those in the church, I would like to make the case for disagreement.  Unity is a wonderful thing – sometimes.  But many have taken it to the extremes.  As a result, unity (or thinking in unison or alike) is more important to these people than conflict – even creative conflict.  But the Bible says that “Iron sharpens iron” and that doesn’t happen without
metal smashing together and a few sparks flying.

We’d all like everyone to be on the same page, but we often take unity too far.  Trust me – conflict is going to happen, and in organizations where unity is prized – or required – they just take it underground and keep it invisible – where  it can really do serious damage.  When that happens, it becomes “strife” – which can be like cancer inside an organization or team.

But if we’re ever going to create breakthrough ideas, we have to disagree, and sometimes even have a good fight.  So stop taking it personally, and don’t be afraid to disagree with respect.  Creative conflict is often the driver of new ideas, so learn how to develop it, nurture it, and encourage it.

Now – let’s go punch it out…

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4 Comments

  1. First of all, Phil, I’d start by saying I disagree with your definition of unity (thinking in unison or alike).  In order to experience unity, there must be something that UNIFIES.  Unity doesn’t come for thinking alike, it comes for sharing a cause, a vision, or a purpose; a destination, if you will.

    Let’s say our purpose, our UNIFIER is to feed the homeless of Atlanta.  Your theory might be to set up mobile feeding stations, while I might be more sold on partnering with the other organizations in the area that share our passion.  We both have the same destination in mind, but different paths of getting there.

    I propose that unity, TRUE UNITY, comes not from everyone agreeing with each other, but with people DISAGREEING with each other and working through those differences of opinion to positive action.  Like you said: “iron sharpens iron.”

    In my past experience in vocational ministry, it is the fear of offering dissenting opinions that birthed the most disunity because people ended up feeling like their opinions didn’t matter or were less valued than others.  It eventually grew into a culture of fear that I didn’t fit very well into.  I’m fairly opinionated (though time and a little experience have tought me a little humility in that regard) and I would get myself into heaps of trouble for “rocking the boat.”  Even in the ministry I oversaw, I tended to listen to the people who disagreed with my methods and agreed with my purpose more than those who were on the same bandwagon completely.

    I’m not in ministry anymore, but I’ve carried that lesson with me.  It is in the melting pot of ideas, opinions, and philosophies that we find true Unity, not in the stark white conformity of some churches that I see as Orwellian dystopias.

  2. I agree 100% Phil. To many times in ministry we find ourselves so focused in making sure we are all getting along and trying to keep our co-workers “happy” that too often we loose site of our true goal: making God “happy”. If some one needs to ruffle a few feathers to reach full potential for Gods glory then its time to stir up the roost, or maybe, find a better hen-house where the focus is set on Gods greatness and not a smooth staff meeting. Its not about us anyways!

  3. Well Phil…I guess you are going to gave to take this unity thing up with Jesus! He did pray that we …in all our uniqueness and diversity…would become one as he and the Fater are one. Unity is not all of us thinking alike or being alike…but rather all of us headed in the same direction.
    The beauty of an orchestra is not because all members are playing the same instrument…but rather all of the very different instruments are playing the same song. If every person played whatever song they felt like…might just be a little hard to hear!

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