rev._joaquin_willis_3.jpgDuring the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.  – Acts 16:9-10

Recently, a member of our church asked me if I believe the world is made up of more believers in God than non-believers. My answer was, yes, I do, though at times it seems otherwise.

It often appears to many today that the church is failing to reach and to minister to larger and larger numbers of people, many of whom are crying for help.

Working together to reach God’s people is a big responsibility, because it requires a team effort in preaching, teaching, healing, nurturing, giving, administering, building and many other tasks. If any of us had to do it alone, we’d quit before we even
started, because the job would be impossible.

Acts 16:9 says during the night God gave Paul the vision of a man from Macedonia, likely a poor black man,  begging Paul to come to Macedonia to help him. Then Paul obviously shares the vision with the others.

Acts 16:10 tells us after Paul shares the vision and the people said “we” got ready, concluding that God had called “us,” meaning the body of believers, “to preach the gospel to them.”

According to Acts 16:14, when they get to Macedonia, God opens the heart of Lydia, a dealer in fine purple linen, a lucrative profession, and she and her family become believers. They are baptized and they all join the group. Then she invites the Apostles, saying, “If you consider me a believer, then come and stay at my house, and they did.”

Whenever the Holy Spirit speaks, it seems the question becomes, “What to do?”  Paul advises the Ephesians (4:12-13), “To prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

I believe God thinks it is past time for all His houses of faith to work together. In my opinion, God is calling all members of every faith house to work together to help the poor.

One may ask, “Who is the poor?”

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” This means anybody who can admit they need God’s help. But helping others, especially the poor, is difficult when we’re not united or willing to be united in faith with full knowledge of God’s word.

The key to our success is found in each individual and faith house, knowing it’s God’s given mission,  not our personally chosen mission.

The challenge then becomes minding our lane, while remaining dedicated to our own unique God-focused mission, while lovingly supporting our neighbors in the other lane. We are called by Christ to love them, regardless of whether we like them or agree with them.

Working together is easier than working alone, especially when we obey God’s Word while doing so.

This includes working in our own respective faith houses, local churches and temples.

If the world sees God’s people working more closely together, they will quickly join in.  It’s a human tendency to overestimate what we can do by ourselves and to underestimate what we can do together.

We Christians believe the Body of Christ, the church, working together creates joy and a fullness in Christ and it is through Christ’s empowering Spirit that our personal joy is made complete (John 15:11).

Paul’s vision is accepted by all of his followers and all are in agreement. Many have lost faith in God. He is reminding us  it’s time for God’s people to work together.

We must unite in order to better help the poor and to better work together to bring God’s people back into relationship with Him. This is God’s primary concern for all His people.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or pastor@churchoftheopen