Essentials for Local Church Harmony Day 1: Leaders Go First
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1, ESV)
Throughout all forms and genres of music, harmony is vital. From jazz chords to acoustic performances to rock power chords, harmony is essential in most forms of music. It’s especially important in vocal performance. Imagine the opening lines of “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas with no harmony vocals! One of my pet peeves is when two people advertise a song as a “duet,” but they both just sing the melody. What a rip-off! When you have a true vocal duet, trio, or quartet, the harmony is typically what defines the song. And yet, there is always the foundation of the lead melody. The harmonic support improves the sound of the melody, but if the lead melody is removed, the whole thing would sound bizarre!
And that’s where we’ll begin this series on the harmony of a local church. The first place that harmony must exist is within that church’s leadership. Believers that are a part of the church fellowship could all be in perfect harmony with one another, but if the leadership is out of tune, it really won’t matter. When any group of leaders is divided and pushing different agendas, an unhappy ending is sure to follow. It happens in governments—in-fighting within a political party; sports teams—the head coach and the team captain at odds (also known as Lebron James, Inc.); within companies—executives pushing completely different corporate agendas. It gets messy in a hurry.
It’s no better when church leaders are at odds. How can they expect the church body to function well if they are not functioning well themselves? Their ability to push through disagreements, settle disputes, and put themselves second is what builds harmony and unity. I love the verse quoted at the beginning, because the Psalmist understood the subtle difference between “good” and “pleasant.”
There are many things that can be good or pleasant. DayQuil is good when you have a bad cold. If helps cut through some of those dreaded symptoms (congestion, cough, body aches, etc.) when you need to pull yourself through the day. But though it’s good, is it pleasant? That’s a hard no, folks. That orange, goopy, viscous 30 mL of wretchedness is the stuff of horror movies. The taste isn’t the best, but the texture walks to the door of my gag reflex and says, “Hello, nice to see you again!” On the flip side, think about a nice twin pack of refrigerated Swiss Cake Rolls. If you just rolled your eyes or said “yuck,” please see a doctor. Swiss Cake Rolls by Little Debbie are a national treasure of deliciousness. They are incredibly pleasant. But they, unfortunately, aren’t good for you. Lots of calories, sugar, and fat—otherwise, I might eat enough to slowly transfer myself into an actual Swiss Cake Roll. DayQuil—good, but not pleasant; Swiss Cake Rolls—pleasant, but not good.
Harmony and unity among church leaders (and Christians in general)? Good and pleasant. It is good—helpful; but it is also pleasant—enjoyable. When leadership is united and working in perfect harmony, it is helpful to the overall unity of the whole church. And on top that of, it’s typically much more pleasant to be united than divided!
A key description of unity is also seen here: “dwell together.” The Hebrew word translated “unity” here is almost always translated “together.” So, unity is probably a description of that togetherness. It doesn’t say that leaders put up with each other from a distance. This isn’t about personalities that can’t get along and that keep away from each other. It means what it implies: cohabitation. Throughout the OT, this word is used to speak of people doing things together—striving, living, gathering, working, fighting, and even dying. Doesn’t that give us insight into unity and harmony in a church? There is nothing easy about striving, working, fighting, or dying! And it isn’t always easy living under the same roof, either! But people in those situations must be totally together. When we’re focused on striving toward a common goal, working together, fighting together, or anything like that, we can’t think about differences of opinion. We must be focused on helping each other, finishing the job, or defeating the enemy—not picking each other apart.
That unity and harmony within a church starts at the top. If you’re in that position within your local church, how well do you promote it? How well do you live it? Without it, don’t expect the church to function well. And it will start with you—be first, and lead by example.