Community is God’s design for us as His people. It is at the heart of disciplemaking. If our intent is to be image bearers of Christ, consider this: God Himself is a community of three persons— the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The concept of the Trinity is a true mystery: One God, three Persons. Just as God operates in relationship, it’s His design for us to do the same. When making disciples, community should be the context of our heart and mission.
As I’ve reflected on this idea over the years, I’ve identified five elements that characterize Christ-honoring, Kingdom-expanding community. We’ll cover the first two elements in this post.
Jesus’ whole view of humanity emphasizes relational interdependence. His call to love (John 13:34) and to serve (Mark 10:43-45) builds a foundation for interdependence. In fact, the phrase ‘one another’ occurs more than thirty times in the New Testament letters. These biblical letters were written to communities of Christ followers who, like us, desperately needed guidance in how to relate in ways that honor God.
We see community modeled in Acts 2:42-44 as believers share life through common teaching, meals, prayer, a sharing of possessions, and time together. Pam and I have experienced this type of community with neighbors on our street and it has blessed us greatly. What began as interdependent relationships has turned into interactions around the person of Jesus. Our neighbors share lawn equipment, holiday meals, and neighborhood garage sales. We shovel one another’s driveways and bring meals during tough times. The biblical principle of ‘sharing of possessions’ is real for us.
This interdependence has grown into a discipling relationship with another couple and a bible study with other neighbors who have grown hungry to know Christ. Our time as a community has looked like focused bible study and prayer, but it has also looked like pickup basketball games and organic conversations at the mailbox. Interdependence doesn’t happen overnight but grows through overlap of life and intentionality in connection.
Interdependence leads us to the next element of true community: vulnerability. Each of us need people who offer us a safe opportunity to be fully human and transparent about how we are really doing. True community is characterized by relationships in which confession is natural. James 5:16 advises: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” We need kingdom friends who know us, our weaknesses, and our sins.
Authentic vulnerability only works if we are ready to share the load of life with those around us. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NIV).
Are we willing to lend our shoulders to the emotional, spiritual, and physical burdens our friends are experiencing? Even more important, are we willing to admit the real weights we are carrying? Bearing one another’s burdens is a powerful and necessary expression of love.
Whether speaking of interdependence or vulnerability, our influence for Christ over the long haul demands that we not go it alone. Despite the strong messages of our do-it-yourself world, one sure-fire way to send generational waves of impact through eternity is to be part of a community of friends committed to experiencing life together in authentic discipleship to Jesus Christ.