While nearly half of pastors and Christians say the term unity speaks to “agreement” and a majority of pastors say they often preach about unity between members of their church, less than half of Christians say their pastors preach often about unity between church members, a new report from Barna shows.
Citing recent data on the views of Christians and pastors on the subject of unity, Barna researchers found that while a significant minority of pastors and Christians see unity as “agreement,” there was no consensus on what unity should look like among pastors or Christians in general.
Some 70% of pastors associated unity with harmony, another 52% connected the term with “reconciliation” and 41% connected the term to “sacrifice.” Some Christians, 39%, view unity as an “alliance,” while another 31% associated the term with “sameness.”
Regardless of how unity is viewed, however, when it comes to preaching about unity among church members, 62% of pastors say they do this often, but only 48% of Christians report that their pastors address this kind of unity often.
In Anxiety as a Main Cause of Church Conflicts Based on Bowen Family Systems Theory, researcher, Angella Son concluded that “chronic anxiety present in a minister’s life and/or within churches can bring conflicts that can escalate to the highest level and in effect cause a decline in church attendance.”
“It is regrettable that churches see conflicts within congregations as problematic but that they do not see these problems as a call to action. Beyond a widespread refusal to seek resolutions within, the conflicts are often accepted as the fate of a fallen state and a spiritual hermeneutic of which party is evil represents the main discourse,” she wrote.
“By amply demonstrating anxiety in action that causes relationship conflicts and disasters in churches as a system, it is made evident how crucial it is to pay attention to the dynamic of anxiety, including how churches bind anxiety instead of directly addressing it,” she added. “In doing so, it makes it obvious how dealing with anxiety can bring about change for the good and proposes several pastoral strategies to advance a thriving and flourishing congregation in which people act rather than react to one another and the difficulties are handled with level-headedness and a firm and peaceful attitude.”
The Barna study further notes that pastors also do not often address unity beyond the inter-congregation level “when it involves bridging actual differences or distances.”
“This suggests there might be limits to the types of unity pastors feel compelled or qualified to address,” Barna researchers said.
Some 30% of pastors said they often speak on unity between people with different political beliefs, but only 23% of Christians say they hear this. And while 28% of Christians say they hear their pastors promote unity between congregants and people of other faiths, only 12% of pastors say this is true.
“The lack of clarity around the definition of unity may be a contributing factor,” Barna noted. “Perhaps pastors think they speak more on a topic than they actually do, or maybe Christians have diminished interest or recall for sermons on forms of unity that don’t resonate with them.”