by Steve Gladen
Why does it matter whether people gather in community and join God on His mission? The current goal of the mission of God (after the fall and before Jesus comes back) is to redeem a lost world. All throughout scripture, community is an integral component of accomplishing God’s mission. God works through people to redeem His world. Why does it matter that we work on this mission of God together? Because there is power in “together”.
Community coincides with the beginning of time and is rooted in the Trinity. Genesis 1:26 reads, “Let us make mankind in our image”. We see at the start of community the Trinity is intimately involved. So much so that in Genesis 2:18 which is set in the most perfect environment known to mankind, the Garden of Eden, we are told that “alone” is not good. Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12 gives us the importance of not being alone; “Two are better than one” and “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Jesus’ entire journey was through community. He modeled community by starting community with twelve disciples who would carry out His mission. Jesus showed a reproducible and strategic model for the mission to continue. The early church in Acts took seriously “community” set before them to see God’s mission of the Great Commission and Great Commandment fulfilled. Chapter two of the Book of Acts shows us what community looked like and what it did. It fellowshipped, it discipled, it served, it evangelized, and it worshipped. As a result, the mission spread. At their best, churches and communities of people are a reflection of these original communities. When these purposes are fulfilled in balance or harmony, they fulfill the mission of God. Acts 2 is within months of Christ’s giving the Great Commission and that mission is being fulfilled through community. The Lord added to their number daily, because they obeyed Christ in community.
How did God add to their number daily? In Acts 5:42 we see the delivery systems for fulfilling mission—“Temple Courts” and “house to house”. “Temple Courts” are the equivalent of our modern weekend services. “House to House” is our small groups – communities of Christ-centered people. Fifty-eight times in the Word we see “one another”. Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs. There is an assumption of close relationships for these communities, not just a casual crowd of people but implied intimacy. The metaphors of taking community deeper are seen throughout the NT as language of “family” is always used over a less intimate view of “teacher/student”.
Do you remember the story of the paralytic in Luke 5? Four men broke through the roof of a synagogue to lower their friend to Jesus. Sometimes it takes something that radical to do God’s mission and lead someone to Jesus! Notice what the Bible says in Romans chapter 12, “Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other and each of us needs all the others.”
How can your community help you see God’s mission fulfilled? Here are just a few ways:
Your community helps you care about people who don’t know Jesus
Your community helps you believe God can reach the impossible person
Your community helps you make a plan for God’s mission to happen
Your community helps you overcome difficulties that try to stop God’s mission
Your community helps you have courage try something different to accomplish mission
Your community helps you work together to get the God’s mission done
Your community helps you to be willing to pay the cost to do God’s mission
If you are not in relational community of believers, you’ll miss God’s design for his mission to be fulfilled. This is the message Christ gave to us. This is the message you need to share with those in your ministry and circle of influence.
Steve Gladen in the Pastor of Small Group Community at Saddleback Church. He is also the Founder of the Small Group Network. His book, Small Groups With Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities will be available June 1st.