Dave Black announced yesterday that he is putting the finishing touches on a new book called Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? If you read Dave’s blog, you know that he and his wife have been focused on proclaiming the gospel and strengthening the church in various countries around the world for the last several years. They do not do this work through any kind of missions organization, although they gladly work with many such organizations. Instead, they go around the world at their own expense, and they are including other believers in several churches around them in their efforts. (I know this first hand because I traveled with them to Ethiopia just over a year ago.)
In announcing his book, Dave shared a quote that I hope you will find encouraging and challenging (see the entry from Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 8:54 a.m.):
Jesus’ disciples enjoyed community simply because Jesus and not a set of dogmas was at the center of their life. They never tried to “build community.” They didn’t have to. Community was the result of being united in the Christian mission; community emerged naturally when they committed themselves to something bigger than themselves. And so it is in the church today. It is my personal observation that most Christians begin to enjoy genuine community only when they begin to serve the poor, evangelize the lost, and plant churches. The glue that unites them is the missional task of loving their neighbors. A shared sense of mission drives them to community. Their congregations are mission-shaped. Like Jesus, they literally go. For them the Bible, not tradition, is normative, and they hold themselves accountable to each other in love even while they work closely with the surrounding neighborhood, developing strong links between Christians and not-yet Christians.
If you have read much about the “missional” movement or about missions especially in the United States, you know that many (perhaps most?) efforts are quite sectarian in the sense that people tend to work together only with those who agree with them (on whatever “doctrines” they consider to be most important).
Dave’s statement above flies in the face of that practice. If he is correct – and I think he is – community in Christ is developed as we serve others in Christ’s name by proclaiming the gospel, building up other Christians (discipleship), and serving the least. Many today say that we cannot work in these ways (or at least in some of these ways) with other Christians with whom we disagree. I think this shows a desire (intentional or not) for community based on our interpretations instead of community based on Christ.
Certainly there will be difficulties and issues related to working with those who disagree with us especially concerning those beliefs that we hold dear. However, according to Jesus, our unity (even unity in mission) is important – perhaps necessary – in order for the world to know that Jesus Christ came from God the Father. (John 17:20-21)
Practically, how do we serve (in the various ways mentioned above) with brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with us?