Bisagno calls unity key to spreading the Gospel
By Susan Mires
ST. LOUIS—John Bisagno led Missouri Baptists to reach across the aisle and join hands.
“There is no way to overstate the importance of unity,” Bisagno said during the main message of the convention’s annual meeting. “Unlike so many others, rather often Baptists are marked by division and controversy. It can be devastating to our mission,” he said.
Bisagno said since he retired as pastor of First Baptist Church Houston, Texas, he has been teaching seminary students. Nearly all of his students plan to start their own work, rather than joining an established Baptist church.
The seminary students give three reasons for their decisions: they don’t want to fight the battle over music styles, they don’t want to fight with deacons over leadership and they don’t want to fight denominational battles.
“I fear for the future unless things begin to change,” he said. “I pray and hope this great state of Missouri may be a pacesetter in setting the example.”
Bisagno noted that the first deacons of the early church were not chosen just to serve but to heal the division that had been caused by grumbling.
He described how in his own ministry, he came to Houston’s First in 1970 and the church was deeply wounded. The baptistery was being used to store hymnals and cleaning supplies. Bisagno and the deacons worked diligently to defend the unity of the church, which grew to more than 40,000 members under his leadership.
In John 17, Jesus prayed several times for believers to be united, Bisagno noted.
“Right down to this hour, for 2,000 years, Christ has been seated at the right hand of the Father praying for us,” he said.
Christian unity is so important to Jesus because it is essential for the world to hear the message of the Gospel.
“The world doesn’t read the Bible, but the world reads us and the body of Christ is the consummate witness to the world,” he said. “Every Sunday morning when your church assembles in love and harmony, a miracle occurs, a new incarnation of Christ in a new body, a bigger body.”
When the church is functioning as the body of Christ it has magnetism to the world, but a divided church repulses them.
“Jesus is recreated every Sunday in the unity of his people,” Bisagno said.
At the end of his sermon, the last one of the 174th annual meeting, Bisagno led messengers to join hands and sing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.”
“Whatever disagreements you have, pray for each other and most of all, don’t give up,” he said. “There’s too much at stake in the future of Missouri.”