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All for One: A Plea for Unity in Youth Ministry

By Barry Shafer | March 1 2007

A Plea for Unity in Youth Ministry

Quick. What’s your knee-jerk response when you hear the word unity? What do you picture? Working with others to pull off an event? A prayer meeting of local youth workers? Or perhaps more sadly, disillusionment caused by a failed attempt at unity?

Differing conceptions of unity and the expectations they create can actually derail the kind of unity Jesus expects of us in our communities. So let’s hone in on a few specifics from Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17.

Scripture Text

For starters, read the passage below, key­ing in on the words “just as” and “in.”

20My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

John 17:20-21

Think About It

When the disciples heard Jesus pray “that all of them may be one,” they too may have had a different picture of unity from what Jesus intended. The Essenes, who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, were separatists who lived in primitive desert villages with the self-imposed charge of preserving Judaism in its purest form. They called themselves “The Unity.”

Maybe seeing a forlorn expression waft across the disciples’ faces (perhaps brought on by visions of primitive desert living), Jesus quickly defined the unity He was praying for: just as the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. Whew! No desert.

And there’s our picture of unity. In fact, any other image we could conjure up might cause us to miss what Jesus was praying for and the payoff promised: worldwide spiritual awakening.

But what did Jesus mean by that little word “in”? The passages below give a sneak peek into the unique relationship between Jesus and the Father. As you read these from your Bible, take a second to jot down a one-word trait or short phrase that describes this relationship.

John 3:34–36

John 5:19–23

John 8:26–30

John 12:49–50

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