The Who’s classic song “Join Together” was released during the summer of 1972 as an anthem to putting differences aside and unifying under the banner of music. In it one finds a hopeful celebration that those things that bind us together as humans might eventually win out over the many things that keep us apart. After all, the history of humanity is more often than not written around major events that exemplify our separation from one another, our differences, our disagreements, our biases. And if you study the history of the church you’ll find that it parallels our greater human history in far too many ways. Divisions, debates, and competition have characterized the church far more than cooperation, unity, and mutual love for one another.
When you go back and study the first generation church in Acts, though, you find a different story. Interestingly enough, it is not a story of constant agreement, and maybe not a story of total doctrinal solidarity. But it is a story in which the mission of the church, the work of God’s Kingdom, trumps all else. The mission of bearing witness to the gospel of Jesus in word and in deed was the banner under which the followers of Jesus were able to unite, and the results were nothing short of miraculous. Thousands were added to their number, churches began to be planted in new cities, and God’s Spirit enabled regular men and women to perform the impossible.
And while the church has not always followed that earliest example, it’s always been at its best when it has. The church that started with 11 apostles and a handful of other followers has become a global movement that consists of people from every walk of life. The lyrics penned by Pete Townshend, though not about the church, could not describe it better: “This is the biggest band you’ll find, it’s as deep as it is wide.” And so as we enter into a new season of worship and ministry at UBC, I pose to you the same question Pete posed to thousands of listeners. Not just in membership and community, but also in living the mission of the church, “Won’t you join together with the band?”