We Were Built for It (Part 3)
Hello from Managua, Nicaragua! Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at community. We have looked at what community is supposed to look like, how the Body of Christ should be a picture of true community and how community should extend beyond the church doors for Followers of Christ. In today’s post, I would like to examine a form of community that can help to ensure the other forms of community exist.
The idea of community is great, but obviously easier to write about than to live out on a daily basis. It seems that many times a functioning community is the exception rather than the rule. There are more than likely many reasons for this, but I would say one of the main factors is many people do not have a picture of what it means to be in true community and do not have a vision of being a conduit for spreading this community to those around them. So how do we address this problem? I believe through community. Mark 1:17 reads, “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men'” (NIV 1984). As Jesus calls his first disciples, Peter and his brother Andrew, he doesn’t say, “come to my conference”, or “come to my hour-long class on how to be a disciple”, or “come to church once a week and you will be fishers of men”. No, Jesus says come follow me, wherever I go, for as long as I go there, whatever I am doing, and I will show you what it means to be a fisher of men. Over the next three years, Jesus is in close community with Peter, Andrew and the other ten disciples and teaches them, through His words and His life, what it means to be a Follower of Christ and a bringer of God’s community. Jesus knew, in order to equip these group of guys to change the world and build true community, he needed to be in true community with them and to give them a vision for what it means to advance the Kingdom of God. It meant investing significant time and energy into the lives of others. Jesus had to disciple his followers before they were able to lead His church and build community as we see it in Acts 2. Discipleship is a form of community that equips us to build true community both in our churches and in the world around us.
What does this mean for us? I believe it means we need to be in discipleship relationships and provide opportunities for others to be discipled. This will require the investment of significant time and energy, but will be well worth it in the end. Discipleship doesn’t just mean getting together occasionally to talk about Jesus and the Bible. While that is certainly an important part of the equation, it needs to be more than that. Discipleship means sharing life together, both in the form of time and in the form of encouraging each other with the truths God has taught us in our lives. It means being real and honest with each about where we are and working together, in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, to grow closer to the person God created us to be. I believe it also means truly looking at life and determining how God created it to be, the way it ought to be. Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God is “living and active”, which means it should impact the way we live and view the world. Community in the form of discipleship should challenge us to make this true in our lives and give us the desire to be used by God to help others do this as well. If we are going to live out the Great Commission given to us in Matthew chapter 28 verses 18 through 20, to “make disciples of all nations”, we need to be disciples ourselves, and that is hard to do outside of community.
Recently I have been reading books about the Navy SEALS and how they train to become one of the best fighting forces in the world. One of the most striking takeaways from what I have read is the importance of community and “discipleship”, in the ways of being a Navy SEAL, in their training. In order to become a Navy SEAL, you have to be a “disciple” of the people who are training you and know what it means to be a Navy SEAL. Additionally, you are assigned a “swim buddy” who is to be with you at all times and, as a fellow BUD/S trainee and disciple of the instructors, is meant to encourage and push you through the training, just as you are to him. Through this training and community, the Navy SEALS produce some of the best equipped and prepared soldiers on the face of the planet. I would argue that this is what Jesus did with His disciples and what we are to do as His followers. I believe, as Followers of Christ, we are called to be discipled and to disciple others so that we are equipped and prepared to follow through on whatever God might call us to do. I have been fortunate enough to be discipled in this way in my life and plan to be a part of discipling others in this way for the rest of my life. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul calls us to go into strict training so that we may “run in such a way as to get the prize”. I believe community in the form of discipleship is a big part of this training.
Believing that to be true, discipleship is an important part of what we are planning to do in Nicaragua. In addition to being taught vocational and business skills, we believe teaching people about what it means to follow Christ and where unfailing hope comes from is incredibly important. In order for communities and the lives of the people living within them to change, we believe an understanding of the God who created this world and how He created it to work must become real to the people with whom we are working. In order to make this a reality, we will form discipleship groups that work in conjunction with the other training so that both practical and eternal hope is addressed. By creating community on this level, we believe God will change people’s lives and use them to change their communities as a whole. We have already begun this process in El Canyon and Vera Cruz and look forward to seeing how God uses it. Certainly this is a big dream, but all things are possible with Christ.
What does community look like in your life? How are you being a part of building true community in the world around you? Might it be time to stop being an observer of Christ and start being a disciple? For me the answer is yes. I hope the same is true for you. Stay tuned next week for an update on how things are going in Nicaragua!