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Church leader: "Our unity changes the spiritual atmosphere"

Steve Uppal urges Christians to work together to transform people and places

The apostle Paul paints a vivid picture of the church as the body of Christ, with Jesus Himself as the head. For those who have been Christ-followers for a while, His words will be well known, but sometimes the plain truth can be lost in our familiarity.

Let’s read these words as though, perhaps, for the first time:

…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”. Romans 12:5

…there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:25 – 26

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4 – 6

In the passages above, Paul is not writing to a single congregation but to all the believers in a particular town or region (Rome, Corinth and Ephesus). In today’s highly individualised society it is easy for us as believers to view ourselves more as individuals rather than the body of Christ’; we often behave like consumers rather than members of the family joined together in Christ. Many read these words as though written to a single believer. As church leaders, it can be easy to read these scriptures through the lens of helping the congregation we have responsibility for.

From the person attending a Sunday worship service, who expects to hear from God and hopefully get help for their particular situation, to the congregation that may desire the growth and health of their particular church without much awareness or concern for the wider body of Christ within their town or city, our Christianity has become highly personalised. 

Whilst these scriptures are true for all believers and each congregation, they were intended to have a much wider application. What if we read these words differently? What if we thought of the congregations throughout our town or city? What if we pictured believers from other churches as we read the words of the apostle Paul? And what if we felt deeply the pain of other Christians around us?

What difference would it make to our praying, our witness and our working together, if we really believed we were one body and members of one another”. It takes us beyond denominational or organisational unity and opens up the spiritual truth that we really are joined to one another as a family in Christ Jesus. This kind of thinking requires us to be intentional and has a high cost. But, on the flip side, it also releases greater authority for
the church.

My work alongside the Evangelical Alliance’s One People Commission has been hugely rewarding. It has been amazing to see preconceived barriers coming down, people developing meaningful friendships, and work beginning to take place together. Great trust has been developed, wisdom has been shared, and praying together has led to better missional activity. 

For almost 20 years, I have had the privilege of working and praying alongside local church leaders in our city of Wolverhampton. Whilst not always straightforward, it has been a progressive journey with a steady growth in love and appreciation for one another. Many of us have made an intentional commitment to the unity of the church in the city. Much time has been spent eating and praying together, hearts have been opened up to one another, and lifelong friendships have been developed.

We have held citywide prayer and evangelism events, and regularly gather together for leadership meetings. It has been so encouraging that many churches of different denominations have helped one another financially during building projects. Literally, thousands of pounds have been given between various churches simply to help another congregation in its time of need. In my knowledge, this is almost unheard of, but a byproduct of one another’ thinking. More recently, in June 2018, we held an open air gathering over four nights in a central location in the city. 

In the build up to this crusade, we worked together for more than 12 months as leaders across the city to host a family gospel campaign called Ablaze18. As well as the leaders, hundreds of volunteers from across the churches in the city worked together as one. Thousands came together to hear the message of the gospel; many made a commitment to Jesus, and there were miraculous stories of healing in both the minds and bodies of individuals. As well as all of this, perhaps the greatest outcome for me was to experience the church working together as one body. It is this unity that brings greater authority and changes the spiritual atmosphere in a town or city.

In the coming decades, I believe we can expect a shift in the shape and structure of church. I believe God wants to restore the five-fold ministry gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4, for them to be recognised and prominent in helping the body of Christ to come to full maturity in a given town or city. Whilst we are not there yet, Jesus’ prayer for the church, as recorded in John 17, is being answered, “…that they may be one”. There is coming a reformation underway across the UK and the world.

About the author

Steve Uppal has been senior leader of All Nations Christian Centre in Wolverhampton since 2001. He is married to Esther and they have four children, Bethany born in 1988, Sophia born in 2000, Joel born in 2003 and Judah born in 2005.

See more from Steve Uppal

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