The concept of ‘Christian Community’ is crucial for any church striving for health and effectiveness. There is an extreme sense of individualism that pervades our society. Jesus did not call us into individualism; he called us to embrace community. In the context of community, according to the bible, we discover our individual gifts and realize how we are to make unique contributions to the well-being of all. Unfortunately, the New Testament concept of community is rarely discovered in today’s fast-pace world.
We are what we think and we ‘act’ our way into new ways of thinking. In other words, you become what you practice. The goal of the Christian life is to always move from mindless individualistic consumers into fully participating members of Christian community. I could provide data to explain the deep-rooted problems of consumerism. I can offer biblical and pastoral encouragement as to why you must “present your body as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). However, those words will only fall on deaf ears without the integration of your hands and feet. I would suggest, as you seek to inhabit a life completely devoted to Christian community, that you realize that the Way of Christ is actually a “WAY.” It involves action… and through that action we develop a whole new way of seeing the world.
There should be an essential difference in the intentional community offered by Christ-followers versus the community that develops naturally over the course of time. One word sets us apart: intentional. That means if we cease to exist for some reason, there should be a void in our community. The standard church scorecard for measuring success by “bodies, budgets, and buildings” is too weak. High attendance goals must take a back seat to communal transformation. People professing Jesus as Lord, genuine discipleship of believers, and advancing the gospel into the lives of unbelievers is the true measure of success. Changed lives are to be the obsession and passion of all we do. The goal is to see transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit right here, right now.
Beyond that, we should create an atmosphere of celebration unlike the world has ever seen and watch what God does. This will do more than merely engage ministry that builds up the local church, but will also celebrate when the community is blessed by the local church. Remember, the mission is “out there” and not “in here.” Our goal is to strive beyond evangelistic presentations in favor of a missional lifestyle. The mission of God should be so apparently active among the people of our church that the city misses us when we are not around.
This is not an abandonment of sharing the gospel in favor of acts of service only. In fact, most members of churches that serve their community are quite comfortable sharing their faith. Transformation of individuals and communities happens at the same pace that the gospel is proclaimed. Churches that are making a difference engage ministry within the church and join the mission of God outside the church. The church must make conscious decisions to exist as a cross-centered and resurrection-powered life that no longer lives for itself. We die daily. Self-sacrifice is the call of Christ, not self-preservation. With that said: Are you engaged in intentional Christian community?
(Sources: Shane Claiborne; Will Samson; Ed Stetzer)