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Community in Christ develops as we serve together

Posted by on Nov 21, 2011 in blog links, books, community, missional | 7 comments

Community in Christ develops as we serve together

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?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-23-2011

    “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.”

    This is a very interesting topic that I’m not sure about yet. If we take an extreme example, my wife and I were not going to develop community on our first date by going out and doing things for other people. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t help or that it’s not a natural result of community development, but as Frank Viola has said “mission is a by-product, not the prime product.” My wife and I develop community by one-anothering each other, finding the spiritual and emotional issues we have and allowing the love of Christ to heal them through each other.

    My observation in my hometown has been that the missional groups that have formed are doing lots of stuff for others, but that’s the center of their community, the reason they meet and exist. Shouldn’t this be the mutual “one-anothering” of Christ?

    When mission is the center or top priority, you end up with a group that does a lot of “good,” while staying spiritually immature, so the disciples they create end up the same. Thoughts?

  2. 11-23-2011


    You bring up a good point. Yes, the focus must be Christ and not the service itself. However, I believe that a good indication that Christ is the center of the community is that the community will serve together. If the community is not serving, then it is not following Christ, in my opinion.


  3. 11-23-2011

    I’m with you there :).

  4. 11-23-2011

    In his book, “Exiles”, Michael Frost says much the same thing. He says, “…I have come to realize that aiming for community is a bit like aiming for happiness. It’s not a goal in itself. We find happiness as an incidental byproduct of pursuing love, justice, hospitality and generosity. When you aim at happiness, you are bound the miss it. Likewise with community. It’s not our goal. It emerges as a byproduct of pursuing something else. Those who love community destroy it, but those who love people, build community.” pp 108

    This has been my experience. I was involved in what I thought was community- traditional church- for most of my life. When I began to be involved in mission, community and discipleship seemed to take care of themselves.

  5. 11-28-2011


    Thanks for the quote. I’ve read some of Frost’s books, but not Exiles.


  6. 11-28-2011

    I am not sure why we need to argue to and fro when Jesus stated it so clearly. Unfortunately we take Jesus’ marching orders to his apostles as his marching orders for us. In John 17 He clearly delineates between the apostles and us, then having done so He clearly outlines His vision/dream for us in verse 21. That they may be one, as you and I are one,I in them and You in Me, so that the world may know that you sent me.”
    The greatest impossibility in the church today is to get preachers to preach on this vision of Jesus. They wont do it. They have refused to my face.
    The only pursuit of the Christian is to get to know Jesus personally in a two-way relationship, (we talk to Him, we hear back from Him) individually in our closets and together in groups. Then Jesus spells out the result. Because we do not know Jesus we blindly cannot see how His plan would work, so we do not reach for it. We must obtain the faith to believe it will work. He believed in it, so much so that He repeated it again in verse 23.
    I personally believe in Jesus’ words and I am beginning to see glimpses of it working in the feild. And although I may not see those words come into fulfillment in my lifetime, it will happen- it must happen. Jesus will not come again until His prayer is answered.
    Love you all,

  7. 11-29-2011


    Thanks for the comment. There’s a lot there to process, and I agree with much of what you said, if I understand you correctly. I’m wondering, how do you decide which of Jesus’ commands are only for his apostles and/or original disciples and which of his commands are for all of his disciples, even those living today? Which commands do you think Jesus included in his instructions to his apostles and original disciples to “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you”?