The mission of a community of faith is to learn how to obey everything that Jesus commanded (Matt 28:19-20). This involves four essential commandments: a) Love the Lord with all our hearts, b) love each other as Christ has loved us, and c) love our families as Christ loves church, and d) love the lost by seeking and saving them just like Christ did. In other words, Jesus commanded us to live a life of love.
The command to love is found all throughout the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation. If we are to sum it up further, we can reduce these three commands to just two: a) love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all yourself, and b) love your neighbor as yourselves. Jesus said this is the greatest commandment (Mark 12:29-31). Our neighbors include our families, other believers, and the lost.
So the mission of the community is to learn together how to fulfill the greatest commandment through the word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. The greatest commandment includes the great commission. It’s not a separate commandment, because it is still about love for neighbor (Matt 9:36). As the example of Jesus clesrly shows, seeking and saving the lost must be motivated by compassion, and not by a program.
God has given us His word, the Holy Spirit, and each other in order to fulfill His commandments. Through these we can accomplish our mission. All three must work together to enable us to overcome our usual tendency to drift away and lose our bearings. We are called to run the race, but sometimes we end up walking and heading up to a different direction. The word of God gives us the road to follow (2 Tim 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit enables us to follow (Rom 8:1-2). And the community of faith creates the context or environment where the Holy Spirit can work in us to will and to follow according to His good purpose (Phil 2:12-13). The end result is a real life Christian community where the presence, power and purpose of Christ are fulfilled in and through each one.
This is a journey, not a destination. Good intentions are not enough. We must have the proper bearings and head toward the proper direction, persevering in it until we reach our final destination, which is the actual kingdom of God. We are already destined for that because of what Jesus has done for us at the cross. Our life here on earth is simply a testimony of the coming kingdom of God whose foretaste we can already experience in the here and now. In other words, it’s all about the nearness of the kingdom of God. We are proclaiming it by our words and deeds as a community. This is the rationale behind our passion to build communities of faith everywhere.
To accomplish our mission, three organic systems must be in place: fellowship, discipleship, and leadership. All three comprises what we call “communityship.” Fellowship has to do with vital behaviors that would result in becoming a real life Christian community. Discipleship has to do with knowledge and skills necessary to practice those behaviors. Leadership has to do with making sure that communityship and discipleship are happening all throughout the community and consistently. Together all three systems create a community of faith.
For a community to exist, its members must learn how to initiate, develop, maintain and deepen relationships with God, with each other, with their families, and with the lost. These vital behaviors are collectively called fellowship. It’s an ongoing lifestyle that each member must commit to do by the grace of God. Learning how to do so will depend on a process called discipleship. However, leaders who do not watch over the community with integrity of heart and skill (Psalm 78:72), and who neglect these two essential systems, will fail to build such a community. As a result the kingdom of God will not be proclaimed effectively and powerfully in their area of responsibility. In other words, the work will not survive (1 Cor 3:10-15). So all three organic systems are absolutely necessary: fellowship, discipleship and leadership.
These three systems occur simultaneously in five environments: ekklesia, community events, small groups, discipleship, and ministries. By simultaenously we mean that fellowship, discipleship and leadership are all occurring in these environments. The leadership team of each community must learn to oversee each of these environments to make sure that all three systems are in place and are operating properly by the power of the Holy Spirit. I will talk about these environments in my next blog.