We Were Built for It (Part 2)
Over the past week, I had the great opportunity of experiencing community at my sister’s wedding. It was a beautiful picture of what a well-functioning group of believers in community should look like. What if, however, we are talking about community that extends beyond the Body of Christ to a broken and dying world? This week we will take a look at that question.
Community inside the Body of Christ is where it begins. If we look at the disciples and how Jesus created community among them, we can see a great picture of that. In John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV). All throughout Jesus’ ministry we can see how Jesus built community and a team philosophy into his disciples. Turning back to the early church again in Acts 2, we can see how the Followers of Christ cared for each other’s needs and lifted each other up. Through these examples and many more, we can see that community among believers is important, but that it certainly can’t be the ending point. Jesus points this out in Matthew 28 verses 18 through 20 when he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (NIV). In order to do this, it requires Christ’s followers to interact with and “do life” with those outside of the Body of Christ. One of Jesus greatest miracles is a great picture of this as well. In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus tells the disciples to distribute the food he has miraculously multiplied to the crowd, not just his followers. We can also look at the instances when Jesus healed people and then told them, instead of joining the group who was following Christ from place to place, to tell their friends and family what happened and how Jesus changed their life. Another great picture is again the early church. At the end of Acts 2 it describes the community that existed among the believers, but then finishes, in verse 47, with, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (NIV). Community was never meant to exist only among those who know Christ, but was designed to include those who don’t and, through that, to change lives and impact the world.
So what does this mean for us today? I believe it means that the Church should be interacting with and impacting the community around it. This means people within the Church should be in relationship with and creating community with people who are outside of the Church and not following Christ. If we as Christ Followers become isolated and only allow our community to extend to the “church wall” then we are failing to do what Christ has called us to. As Christ Followers, we need to welcome those outside of the Body of Christ into community with us so that they can experience community in its truest form, centered on Christ. Another way the Church should expand community beyond the Body of Christ, is to be a bringer of hope to the world around it, both practically and spiritually. I believe Christ gave us many great examples of this when he healed people both spiritually and physically. As Followers of Christ, we have a great opportunity to use the gifts that God has given us to help the world around us. Whether it is caring for a physical need, helping someone learn a skill so that they can provide for their family or loving those that most people have forgotten, we can be a picture of hope and a part of showing people the love of Christ. By doing this and being a constant presence in the community around them, the Church is welcoming people into their community and providing an opportunity for their hearts to be changed by God. I believe community is a huge part of the redemption and restoration plan of God and we as Followers of Christ are the way it is going to happen. The Church can truly be the hope of the world when it expands community to those who are not yet in it.
This is a guiding principle of what we are doing in Nicaragua. By assisting churches in creating vocational (i.e. agriculture) and entrepreneurial training opportunities to impact their communities, we believe community will expand beyond the church wall, and people will see the hope found in Christ. Through assisting someone in a practical way, we believe the church will have the opportunity to disciple people along the way and, in turn, change their community both physically and spiritually. With a bigger vision for what God has called them to, we believe the Church can change Nicaragua one community at a time. This will only be done through a community that is outwardly focused and ever expanding. I believe the Church is the hope of Nicaragua and it is going to be Christ centered, outwardly focused community that is going to allow it to be.
How do you give a church this vision for community? Next week we will look at this question and how another kind of community is a part of the answer.