This past Sunday, we had our second of three equipping classes focused on our core values of Gospel Enjoyment, Intentional Community and Prayerful Mission. We focused this past week on Intentional Community. Our aim in this core value was to take two Christian buzzwords and slam them together (not really).
The fact is we all want to be known by other people. We all desire to have people concerned with us, caring for us, and to be a part of a group making a difference.
Though this is a desire, it does not happen unless it is pursued, and you have to be intentional to pursue anything well. Community is a Christian buzzword, usually meaning a group of Christ followers that care for one another, but the scriptures expand on this definition to cast a vision for community that can truly change the world.
Intentional Community for our gospel communities on mission is defined as a shared rhythm of life by the Spirit of God for the mission of God.
Christian community is supposed to function as a healthy family that uses each person’s unique gifts, talents and resources for the benefit of the whole community. But this healthy family doesn’t just function well for one another; they are consistently extending this love for one another to those outside of the community. In essence, the world should look at the way a Christian community loves one another and their neighbors and say, “If this community is anything like Jesus, I want to know Jesus.”
For a Christian community to truly embody Jesus, they must get out of the event-Christianity mindset that reserves faith for Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. For too long we have tried to cram all of our Christian fellowship, prayer, learning about God, and extending this love and message to others into a span of three hours.
At Apostles, we encourage our community to form a pattern of life together, to establish community rhythms.
When we discuss community rhythms, we start by challenging each other to adopt a spirit of invitation in everything we do. Christ has given an open invitation to anyone who would accept it to join the community that God has had since the foundation of the world. Christ repeatedly expresses His desire that we know the love and joy that God the Father and Jesus share in the Trinity with the Holy Spirit. A community that embodies the gospel cultivates an open invitation to others to be a part of the community’s life.
This usually takes on the form of meals, serving together, recreational fun, coffee and the generic chill time that we all have. This happens by acknowledging the normal things you do every day and leveraging your regular life for the gospel in community and on mission.
By the Spirit of God
The scriptures indicate that God initiates this community by the Holy Spirit compelling people to love one another and extend this love to others. This happens through the spiritual gifts that exist within every believer.
Spiritual gifts are essential to every Christian community because they are the unique expressions of Jesus that every Christian has been given to use for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12 lists a number of spiritual gifts, beyond the church’s usual obsession and comfort with preaching and teaching as the best gifts, to elevate the importance of every Christian using their unique passions, gifts and natural talents to build up the community.
In equipping people, we don’t use spiritual gift tests or personality assessments because those usually eliminate people’s openness to the uncomfortable gifts (healing, prophecy, even tongues). We encourage people that the best way to identify your gifts is to be open to being used by God for others and begin practicing them. See what builds up the community and begin to embrace those gifts.
We also equip our people to counsel one another with the gospel. Counseling is usually seen as a last ditch effort to save a terrible situation, but we seek to embrace the gospel as the definer of all spheres of life. Since this is true, we seek to address every challenge with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We encourage our leaders to start by asking about the challenges that people face, discussing their goals in the challenge, and helping them to develop a gospel-centered mindset and steps to achieve this goal. I completely stole this method from Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas.
For the Mission of God
We end by discussing how all of this is not merely to create a focus on the community, but to create a community that embodies Jesus in order to invite those outside of the community into a welcoming, gospel-humbled environment.
We have the opportunity to use our spiritual gifts and our lives defined by the gospel to extend the message and mercy of Jesus Christ. We have the great opportunity to be an alternative community not by creating our own subculture, but by embodying Jesus to our culture.
“The world will know you are my disciples if you love one another…”
These are the words of Jesus as a challenge us to value Christian community and we live in a city that is in need of entire community of Christ followers to display Jesus’ love and His mission to heal the brokenness and restore hope.