Five years ago, I wrote a post called “Community and Mission” after talking with a friend who was a military chaplain. I loved how this friend described the importance of community to the mission of the military. How much more important is community (real community based on the presence of Jesus Christ among us) to God’s mission in and through his children? Jesus himself said that our unity with one another – which results in community – also affects our mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. (See John 17:20-21)
A few days ago, I spoke with a friend who I had not spoken with in many years. God used him as a mentor for me over ten years ago. Since then, we have both moved several times. When I talked to this friend, I found out that he was working as a chaplain in a branch of the armed forces of the United States. (I prefer to keep this general, so I am going to leave out many of the specifics.) I told him about my interest in the church as a community of people instead of as an organization. I am going to paraphrase his response. I hope this encourages you as much as it did me:
As a chaplain, one of the most important things that I teach people is that this branch of the military is a community. But, we cannot be a community that only knows about one another’s life. We must be a community that is involved in one another’s life. If a fellow service member is struggling or having problems, we cannot let that continue without addressing the problems. The mission of this branch of the military is at stake. We must be willing to get involved in each other’s lives, to help one another through difficult situations, to support each other when needed. If we only know about one another, and know about other people’s problems, and talk about those problems behind their back, then we are setting up our branch of the military for failure. Our mission is of utmost importance, because the safety and freedom of the American people depend upon us carrying out our mission. And, the success of our missions depends on our ability to live as a community with one another.
How much more important is the mission of the church? How much more important is it that the church lives as a community with one another?
I love what he said about the military, community, and mission. And, he is exactly right! The mission of the church – which is God’s mission – is much more important than the mission of the military. The military (or at least this chaplain) understands the importance of community in carrying out its mission. Shouldn’t the church understand that importance even more?
I’m going to repeat what he said to the church: Our mission depends upon us living as community with one another – the kind of community that knows one another and is willing to get involved in one another’s lives so that we can all help one another as we carry out this mission together.