This Monday just past, 22 October 2012, I was invited to a dinner to honour those who have worked and forged the way for unity in the church of this city.
The setting was perfect: Frasers Restaurant in Kings Park. Frasers has a reputation for good food, and being a bit of a foodie myself, I couldn’t really resist accepting the invite. My first thought was that it would be quite intimidating going to a meeting where there would be some well-recognised leaders of the church, many of whom I did not know personally. But then I thought: hey, free meal at Frasers – why not? And as I sat there at my table, the sun just setting and the lights of the city coming on building by building, I thought, “wow, for a meeting to honour the leaders of church unity in this city, there is no better place.”
Pastor Candace Lahr of OneChurch opened the meeting by saying that this dinner was first and foremost about honouring those who had gathered; those who had worked tirelessly over many years and some (like me) who were newer to journey because somewhere along the line, Jesus’ prayer in John 17 had gripped us all:
I pray … for those who will believe in me through their message, 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
I think the profundity of that moment caught me off guard, and tears began to well up.
We all know to some extent that God honours us and esteems us – for no other reason than that He loves us. I have always thought, and you may have heard others say many times before, that there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more. It’s true.
But what struck me about what Candace said was this: in this moment, in this gathering of leaders, God was honouring us because of something we were doing!
Think about this: Jesus’ heart for unity was so important that it was one of the last things He prayed before He was arrested and crucified. In a sense, it was His last will and testament. And he linked it to the church’s credibility as far as the world was concerned: if we would be one, then the world would realise that Jesus was sent of God and that God loves them.
And yet, this prayer of Jesus for centuries to this day remains unanswered – held ransom to man’s will because God refuses to violate our free choice.
And I then realised that this moment was more than God’s honouring a group of people because they were His children and He loved them. He was honouring them because they were labouring to answer the cry of His heart.
Later on that evening, Pastor Candace shared about her God-given vision to establish a United House of Prayer Perth (UHOPP), where worship and intercession would take place 24/7 for the city and the nations, and recognising God’s destiny for Perth as an Antioch city to send missionaries and resources into the 10/40 window towards fulfilling the spread of the gospel back to Jerusalem.
I was reminded again of the pivotal verse in Acts 15 where James echoed the words of the prophet Amos: that one day, God will restore David’s fallen tabernacle – a place of continuous prayer and praise – so that the remnant of men may seek God’s face. When that day comes, Amos says, the plowman will overtake the reaper!
I was excited by Candace’s vision and what that would mean for the transformation of the city.
And I was even more amazed when Candace’s senior pastor Paul Botha challenged those who were gathered to give of their best to UHOPP project. He set the example by giving his best, a pastor on his staff roster, to the kingdom of God in the city.
I left the dinner that night feeling more excited and encouraged than ever before – that in this city, Jesus’ prayer can and will be answered in this generation: that we will be one so that the world will know….