When the weatherman shows a storm coming your way, you prepare. You pull the cars into the garage, put the tractor in the barn, take care of the livestock, cancel the ballgame and pick up the lawn chairs and the kid’s toys from the yard. You protect your property, your pets and your people, while taking timely action.

There is a storm brewing this fall. If I had a giant siren, I would sound it. All the conditions are right and ripe for a big one. The unity of your church is at risk.

Heat, an unstable air mass and moisture combine to build a big thunderstorm. In a similar way, there are three conditions that will threaten to thunder in the life of your church this fall: the 2020 election, COVID-19, and this general cultural upheaval. Boom!

I heard one of our wise, seasoned church leaders make this observation a few days ago, “After years of pastoring, I have learned that every four years, during the presidential election, our people go to grumbling.” Our whole nation is divided into two political factions, and those factions spill over into the fellowship of our churches. This fall will be a challenging time for our country and for our communities, and our churches are not beyond the reach of political turmoil. Beware!

Alongside that, this virus is wearing us out. So much uncertainty, so little clarity—communities, families and, yes, even churches are being divided. Are you wearing a mask? Should we have our class? Should we play ball? Will we have school? Will you shake my hand? Are you taking this too seriously or not seriously enough? He’s too careless, and she’s too fearful. Many of the people snapping, swiping and jabbing at each other at city hall and on social media are all members of your church. Watch out!

I am not sure what an unstable air mass is, but I know that our culture and our country are a mass of instability right now with racial, social, generational and economic upheaval. We cannot absorb much more fussing. The times feel like a tinderbox, and there is tension in the air. That is the air we are all breathing. Be alert, Church.

Hear the Word of the Lord:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unit of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3, NASB).

The unity of the church is real. We don’t have to fabricate it. God, in Christ, has made us One. The Holy Spirit connects us. We have one calling as the children of God redeemed to follow Jesus. There are many very important issues in play in the fall of 2020—political, economic, social, moral—weighty, weighty matters. Hear me now: None are as important as what Jesus did for us on the cross.

The unity of the church must be fiercely guarded. Godly, faithful members of the body are called to preserve, maintain and keep the fellowship that God has given them with one another. Paul implores us to unity, and he challenges us to be diligent. It is no easy task. Any fool can fight, and any child can throw a fit. It takes men and women who are full-grown disciples to protect the unity of the church.

Your character is the key. Notice how Paul piles it up—humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, love and diligence. Peacemakers are not pansies. This is not an easy task and not a simple challenge. Only disciples who have cultivated the character of Jesus can preserve the unity of the church. The fullness and the fruit of the Spirit is required.

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5-6, NASB).