Community is central in the life of someone who aspires to make disciples. In the last post we discussed interdependence and vulnerability as keystones of community. Now, let’s look at the final three elements of Christ-honoring, Kingdom-expanding community .
#3 Life Transformation:
The Spirit of God transforms Christ followers to be “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Rom. 8:29, Gal. 4:19). But God most often uses people to be agents of transformation in the lives of one another. It is through others’ influence, words, and actions that we are changed. “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Prov 27:17 NLT). A mentor once told me, “sinful behaviors that are first planted in the context of relationship with others must also be transformed in the context of relationships with others.”
Our God is a missionary God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are involved in a mission together. Similarly, communities of God’s people are commissioned to participate in the mission of God. When people in our neighborhood or workplace observe a community of Christ-followers who are experiencing interdependence, a safe place to be vulnerable, and true life change, they take notice!
During one season of our lives, we had a local coffee shop that acted as our hub for interactions with friends. Some of the friends we spent time with there were not yet believers and many of the baristas and workers did not yet know Jesus. However, we often met friends in Bible study or for discipling meetings. Some of those non-believing friends had a front seat to our lives and the community we had. I’ll never forget one day, one of the baristas saying to me, “I’ve had a lot of customers over the years, but I’ve never experienced the love of people and seen the kinds of friendships that you and Pam have. I hope someday I have friendships like that!” Friendships borne in spiritual community are a witness to the power of Jesus!
We worship when we live in such a way that God is honored (Romans 12:1-2). Worship is meant to involve all of life, in every use of our body and being. Worship is anything we do, say, or think that brings glory to God. Certainly, a fruitful life as described in the first four aspects of community will cause worshipful words, emotions, thoughts, and actions to burst forth from us every day.
Jean Vanier, in his book Community and Growth, describes kingdom community as “a place of resurrection, a current of life: one heart, one soul, one spirit. It is people, very different one from another, who love each other and who are all reaching towards the same hope and celebrating the same love.”
Just as Vanier summarized, the community that God desires us to experience is one characterized by interdependence, vulnerability, life transformation, mission, and worship. Disciplemakers help others know and follow Jesus, but they don’t do it alone. Disciplemakers know the power of community in their own lives, and the healthiest disciples are those raised up in the context of believing friends. May God give us the grace to experience this kind of community and to help others experience it as well.