“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.”
The apostle Paul gives us six directives in this passage:
- Live the standards of the gospel.
- Be an example.
- Stand firm.
- Be unified.
- Work together.
- Defeat fear.
Alignment. One spirit, one mind, striving side by side.
It is no secret that alignment is essential for any group of people seeking to work together to achieve a goal. It follows that as the size of the goal increases, so does the intensity of the work required, which in turn increases the level of alignment that is required. This is God’s design. It is the physics of collaboration and teaming.
In order for a group of people to achieve extraordinary goals, there must be an uncommon level of alignment among the people in the group. This is true for companies, athletic teams, and families. It is true for the fellowship of the Church.
Whenever God is moving in a powerful way in the church, the adversary will always work to interject doubts, discord, and division, so we must be on guard.
Alignment happens when a group of people are unified by a shared commitment to a clear mission, empowering beliefs, and high standards of behavior, and when everyone is fully committed to supporting each other and holding each other accountable in the pursuit of the mission.
It happens when a group of people do precisely what Paul says in the Philippians passage above: “Standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
One spirit → Hearts are aligned.
One mind → Focus and thinking are aligned.
Striving side by side → Effort is aligned.
For the faith of the gospel → Commitment to the mission is aligned.
Because it is neither natural nor easy, very few organizations or teams experience true alignment. The normal state for people in groups is misalignment. Ego and personalities clash and competing agendas are common. Levels of commitment vary greatly, as do levels of effort. Disagreements escalate into conflicts that don’t get resolved. People gossip and complain. Because of these variables, very few organizations or teams experience true alignment.
Alignment is uncommon. It is rare. Therefore, the kind of impact and results that alignment produces is rare. In this passage, the Lord calls every Christian to be uncommon. The Lord challenges those that profess Jesus to set aside personal agendas and align around the mission of the gospel, and to strive together with one spirit and one mind, and to practice the gospel in their daily behavior and proclaim the gospel at every opportunity.
Because it isn’t natural, getting aligned takes a great deal of work. Staying aligned takes even more work. The Holy Spirit is constantly poised to empower alignment among believers and churches, but tapping into the unifying power of the Spirit requires Christian leaders to act with humility and do the work.
Our old nature works against unity and alignment in the church. The old nature is self-centered and seeks to pursue personal preferences. It is undisciplined, impulsive, and talks about people rather than to people. The old nature doesn’t listen well, and is quick to anger.
For this reason, the apostle Paul begins this passage with the admonition to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Today the church is not aligned. It is fragmented. As a result, the influence of the church in the world is declining. Its reputation is weak and its impact is diminishing. Until and unless the level of alignment among Christians improves, the downward trend will continue.
The Lord is calling.