Many hands, one heart – Obeying the call to unity

Many hands, one heart – Obeying the call to unity

Jesus’ prayer for unity among his disciples has rung out down through the generations. Nigel Irwin believes this prayer remains in effect to this day. He tells us about an international movement that encourages churches in every city and town to function as one to advance gospel transformation.

I cannot think of too many endeavours more exciting and inspiring than to be part of God’s answer to the prayer of Jesus in John 17. As he turned his face toward Golgotha and the cross, Jesus earnestly prayed to his Father that his followers would be one—that they would walk in unity, so that the world would know that the Father sent the Son, and loved them even as he loved Jesus.

As we know, God answered Jesus’ prayer through his death and resurrection, making us one, which was his ‘manifold wisdom’ from the beginning (Ephesians 2:14 and 3:10).

Followers of Jesus are subsequently commanded to maintain this unity, established through Christ by the Spirit, in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). New Zealand’s inaugural Movement Day event last month was coordinated in obedience to this command.

Movement Day in New Zealand

Following in the footsteps of 30 other global cities in 2019, Wellington hosted New Zealand’s own expression of Movement Day on the 14th and 15th of May at the Salvation Army Citadel in Vivian Street.

Leaders from throughout the nation came together to celebrate all that God is doing, and to accelerate the advance of the gospel in Aotearoa. We heard powerful transformation stories from 14 cities and towns, from Northland to Invercargill. We also heard specialist perspectives on unity and collaboration from key speakers such as Tak Bhana (Church Unlimited), Dave Mann (The Hope Project), Stuart Lange (NZ Christian Network), and Mark Powell (NZ Christian Network). 

Additionally, our international guests Roger Sutton (GATHER, United Kingdom), Ian Shelton (OneHeart Australia) and Craig Sider, (President of, New York) helped us to see that we are part of a truly global move of the Holy Spirit to promote and strategise unity for the sake of Christ.

Multiplying impact

The key principle behind Movement Day is the call of God for his church in every city and town to function as one. As stated on Movement Day’s website,

The goal of a MD expression…is to accelerate a gospel movement—catalyzing highly trained, motivated and committed leaders determined to find solutions to the “stubborn facts” plaguing a city or region. We define “stubborn facts,” as crime, poverty, spiritual apathy, struggling educational systems, unemployment, etc. Our approach: multiply the impact of one, through the unity of many.

We can see the dysfunction and pain in our towns and cities. As we are moved to weep over these things, I believe God is calling us to collaborate as churches with each other, and with Christian leaders in the marketplace, para-church, and civic government spheres, to address the pain and felt needs of our town or city, for the sake of Jesus. 

When our communities see the church working together and with leaders from other spheres, they see the unifying power of the gospel, where it is Jesus Christ alone who is glorified, rather than any one church or denomination. A divided church contradicts the unifying principle weaved throughout Scripture, of God bringing his people together as one with Christ and each other.

Building God’s Kingdom

Critical to unity is an absolute commitment to ensuring that we are primarily interested in building God’s Kingdom, not our own empire. As church leaders, there is a temptation to build our own particular congregation in prominence and influence. Pride is a subtle but powerful obstacle to unity because we can often struggle with the blurring of boundaries around our church congregations, as our churches come together and work as one.

Movement Day is not an advocate of dissolving denominations. On the contrary, we believe our denominations bring vital strengths to the one church in the city/town. However, the Apostle Paul’s epistles were written not to denominations, but to cities.

Consequently, when we read his exhortation for the church to be one, we must read that firstly in the context of the one church in the city, rather than individual churches isolated from one another. 

Paul’s teaching to the church in Corinth was that we need every member of the body to bring their unique gift, combining it with all of the others to present a cohesive and powerful whole in our pursuit of gospel transformation in the town or city in which we’re placed. 

We can tend to assume this teaching relates primarily to our local congregation, however Paul began his letter with the words, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2). It is clear then that when Paul speaks of the Body of Christ in its diversity, he is calling us to unity at a broader level than just the congregation.

Our Movement Day expression was focused on setting aside our own agendas, telling the stories of God at work, and seeking him for leading and strategy as we headed home to our towns and cities to accelerate the advance of gospel transformation. No one speaker or region was given preference or prominence; rather, everything was done for the glory of God alone. Following Paul’s exhortation to the Colossian church, we were intentional about ensuring that everything we did, in word or deed, was done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17)

The next Movement Day

This will not be a one-off event. As we gather the leadership team together in the coming months, we will be seeking God for guidance on when to plan for the next Movement Day event.

I encourage you to keep an eye out for news of the next one. In the meantime, I welcome your contact if you’re interested in talking further about how we as Baptists might be champions for unity in the many places we’re called to lead throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Nigel has been senior pastor at Whanganui Central Baptist Church for almost seven years. He is also director of City by City and executive director of Movement Day New Zealand. Nigel is married to Suzanna and they have a 10-year-old foster daughter and two impossibly cute dogs. Nigel can be contacted about Movement Day here.

This article was originally published by the Baptist Magazine and has been reposted with their permission.

Tauranga – OneVoice: City-Wide Prayer and Worship Gathering

Tauranga – OneVoice: City-Wide Prayer and Worship Gathering

Prayer Walk

One of our goals was to prayer walk all the streets in Tauranga. We came close to covering the whole city, whole suburbs that have been covered, with a few areas across the city left.

Unity and Prayer

For many years praying pastors have met on Thursday mornings with these scriptures in mind, John 17:20-23 “Father make us one……” and Isaiah 62:1-10 “…..for ‘Tauranga’s’ sake, we will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn…..”

So when Stephen Hanson shared the vision of ONEVOICE, there was immediate agreement and support.

James Muir
KAIROS company


This initiative saw over four thousand believers from at least 22 churches come together from a number of denominations across our city. This included 5 well attended, Sunday night gatherings. There was a special theme for each night. The feedback through the course of the month, and since, was that a greater sense of unity was cultivated in our times together, and the desire expressed by many to continue to meet in 2018. One pastor said ‘we are growing up in love together’.

One Sunday night we had 11 invited guests representing the people of Tauranga in central government, local government, education, the police, and one of our local iwi. Pastors and leaders gathered around these men and women during the meeting and prayed for each of them. It was an incredible opportunity to bless and encourage these people. We received messages of thanks from a number of them the following week. The final Sunday evening saw dozens of spiritual fathers and mothers individually pray and bless many hundreds of people.

Each week throughout the whole month, we held 3-weekday worship and prayer meetings.

These were followed up with fellowship and teaching sessions. Some of the intercessors from different churches have continued to meet weekly to pray for the city. Others have been sharing the gospel and praying for people in the streets.

One of our goals was to prayer walk all the streets in Tauranga. We came close to covering the whole city, whole suburbs that have been covered, with a few areas across the city left.

We’re greatly encouraged by what is taking place in our city among the Body of Christ, and consider it a tremendous blessing and privilege to serve our city in this way.

Stephen and Rechelle Hanson

Click the fullscreen button on the video when watching the vertical formatted clip as parts of the image are automatically cropped otherwise.

City by City exists to help encourage unity, prayer and transformation throughout New Zealand
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Rotorua – The Church of Rotorua has gone from strength to strength!

Rotorua – The Church of Rotorua has gone from strength to strength!

The Waka Whakamua is made up of 30 providers, businesses, churches and organisations focused on working together to deliver services supporting and strengthening youth, whanau and the wider community. Scott Clifford is the Pastor of Ascend Church and also the representative of the faith-based collective, he chatted with Andrew Urquhart on Rhema. Interview with Scott Clifford on Radio Rhema

We have seen a continuation of our traditional strengths: the Christmas Day Community Lunch (put on by the combined Churches, local businesses and the Mayor’s office) served over 500 of the most vulnerable in our city, and the Combined Good Friday Service saw about 700 Believers from dozens of different Churches worship together once again (not even a tropical storm could put us off!).

Two new opportunities presented themselves to the Rotorua Association of Christian Churches this year that were unique and timely. Waka Whakamua and Te Hāhi.

A community trust based on collective impact was officially launched (after 2+ years of dialogue and strategy). Waka Whakamua (meaning: Moving Forward, Together) is made up of 6 community collectives, including a Faith-Based/Church Collective. The vision of Waka Whakamua is “Transformed communities, full of hope and prosperity!” Having just received significant funding for this charitable trust at the end of 2017, the future is bright for the Church of our city to continue to impact those around us!

Rotorua Daily Post article and video

When former policewoman Tui Keenan moved to Rotorua last year our city was blessed! Tui had started a cooperative between local Churches and local Police to help curb incidents of ‘domestic harm’ (including domestic violence) in her hometown of Gisborne and wanted to help facilitate the same thing here in Rotorua.

Te Hāhi (meaning: The Faith) began over the holiday period 2017 and is seeing the same fruit in Rotorua as it has in Tairawhiti. Local pastors, current and former Area Commanders, parishioners, chaplains and many others are banding together to help shift the atmosphere of our city and region!

Exciting times!

The other significant event we participate in together is the Christmas Day Community Lunch. In partnership with churches (providing volunteers and organisation), government (the Mayor provides the Events Centre out of the Mayoral Fund and local MPs get involved), business (donating food and gifts) and the community (with volunteers and participants) it is truly a cooperative effort!

Last year over 400 folks who would have gone without on Christmas received a top-notch meal with all the trimmings and presents for the children. As I was leaving I noticed one of our MPs still vacuuming away as almost everyone had gone home. Everyone chipped in. We would love to model more events on this type of collaboration in the future!

There is a sign on the way into the city of Rotorua along the State Highway that reads, “Feel the spirit!”. The churches of our city are working together to make sure this happens!

Scott Clifford
Chairman RACC, Pastor – Ascend Church Rotorua

City by City exists to help encourage unity, prayer and transformation throughout New Zealand
Click here to read more stories on City by City

His Beautiful Face

His Beautiful Face

His Beautiful Face’ first appeared on the City-by-City website and is re-published here with permission from the author.

Hi again. A number of years ago I had the privilege of facilitating a leader’s 3-day prayer summit in the Philippine island of Mindanao. It was a wonderful time of praying and sharing with leaders from different streams in the Body of Christ there. At the debriefing in the afternoon of the final day, a dear lady from one of the barrios exclaimed, ‘Now I understand, if the body does not come together the head has nowhere to sit.’ Simple but profound!

My mind went to Deut. 33:5 which says And He was King in Israel when the leaders of the people were gathered, all the tribes of Israel together.’ (Emphasis mine) Making oneness a priority in our towns, cities and regions as the body of Christ of that locality is essential to giving Jesus His rightful place in our midst.

It is a blight on the church, and leaders in particular, when we do not discern and love fervently the Body of Christ in our locality. God intends for there to be a visible expression of Christ in our towns, cities and nations. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said. ‘Jesus was God made concrete on earth, the church is to be Jesus made concrete in our communities. In other words, Jesus made visible through His ‘together’ body.

‘The continuous and widespread fragmentation of the church has been the scandal of the ages. It has been Satan’s master strategy. The sin of disunity probably has caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined – could it be that the obstacle to the salvation of the world is not in the world but in the church.’           Max Lucado, author

A well known Bible scholar and conference speaker, Dr Ern Baxter said ‘The Christian community is the reproving headquarters of the Holy Spirit, therefore fragmentation of the Body of Christ is probably the greatest sin against the Holy Spirit.’

In the late 1990’s I listened to a pastor who had recently found an intimate relationship with the Lord and had joined other pastors from different denominations at a four-day prayer summit. On the first night before sleeping, with his new found zeal for God, he prayed ‘Lord please show me your face’. That night, instead of the Lord’s face, he was shown the Lord’s nail-pierced feet. The following night he prayed the same prayer only to be shown the Lord’s feet and legs. The third night after praying the same prayer he found himself standing with the Lord in the midst of the pastors who had met the previous day. He was told to look around the circle and into the faces of all those present. The Lord then spoke to him and said, ‘As you have looked into all those faces you have seen My face’.

May we too discern the beautiful face of Jesus in the faces of other believers in our locality no matter what their church or church culture.

Until next time. God bless. Colin