“It takes a village to grow a child.” So says an African proverb. In RLCC we say, “It takes a Real Life Christian Community to grow a faithful disciple.” But what does a Real Life Christian Community look like? Or better yet, what makes a group of people a Real Life Christian Community? Using Philippians 2:1-16, we can identify the following as characteristics of an effective community of faith:
- A saved people – Verse 1 says, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…” A community of faith is composed, at its core, of people who have come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They have heard and understood the Gospel, and they have expressed sincere and genuine faith in Jesus, being baptized both by water and the Holy Spirit.
- with a single purpose – Verse 2 says, “…then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind…” A group of believers is a community of faith if they are united in purpose. They promise to grow together in Christ as brothers and sisters in the Lord. They are united by the same love, and have the same idea (or at least are growing toward that ideal) of what it means to be God’s people in the world today.
- a selfless pursuit – Verse 3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…” A group of believers is a community of faith if they are learning how to selfless toward one another. They are seeking to apply the various “one another” commands of Scripture in practical ways.
- a small-group perspective – Verse 4 says, “…not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” To look after each other’s interest is to be part of a smaller context where everyone has a chance to share what is really going on in their lives. Thus, a group of believers who belong to various small groups for mutual edification and accountability, but is still considered one group, is a community of faith.
- and a servant posture – Verses 5 to 11 says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus… (just read verses 6 to 11 in context). A community of faith is led by servant leaders who willingly and lovingly offer themselves as slaves of Christ for the sake of the whole group.
- are together pursuing a steady progress in the Lord – Verses 12 to 13 says, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” A community of faith is committed to helping each other grow in their faith and relationship with God. They hold each other accountable with both humility and honesty before the Lord and toward each other, so that they can grow together.
- until they become a shining proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – Verses 14 to 16 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” This is a goal of a true community of faith, to become a light of the world so that others might find hope in Christ.
When a group of believers pursue these seven characteristics by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the word of God, and together as a group, God will enable them to become a true community of faith. And if they persevere in this by faith, they will eventually become an effective community of faith.