Church Community Has an Outward Focus Too
The following is a guest post by Marie McDonald. Marie has written here before and does excellent work in her local church leading others to discover and engage people groups.
Think for a moment about Christian community. Typically, the term conjures up ideas of potluck dinners, rallying around a struggling small group member, or other forms of internal church focus. While these are great, it is only the beginning of godly community.
If the church is primarily meant to be a worshipping community, it involves not only our gathering together but also the way we minister to the community around us.
In John 13, Jesus tells his followers, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” But we often miss the next part, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So, Jesus is saying that the way we love one another will be our witness to the community.
However, how will the non-Christian community know of our love and unity if we focus all of our efforts inwards? Do we expect them to come banging on our doors, wanting to be a part?
What if, instead, Christians loved one another as we were boldly sharing with and loving our neighbors? What a stark contrast that would be to see different ages, genders, and life stages brought together by the power of the Gospel. We need communities of Christians to best reach communities of the lost.
In my own life, I have seen this play out through the wonderful church members in our area. In my singleness, I have been more flexible to spend the wee hours of the night talking with ladies, even at the spur of the moment. My couple friends have made it more comfortable to invite over married people we met. Parents bridged the gaps with those who have children and provide natural playdates while we chatted. Men can gather together with other men and… do whatever it is guys do to bond. Same for us ladies. Best of all, the way we all interact shows a diversity of connection that cannot be found anywhere else. Only the good news of Christ can truly bind a motley crew like us together.
We cannot expect people to understand the full array of church flourishing without seeing our community at work. Otherwise, all they will ever see is homogeny and a call to become like us, instead of becoming Christlike. Can we legitimately make promises about the beauty of the Body of Christ without first showing it to the one considering belief?
So, this is a call to consider how we may reach the ends of our whole community with all the parts of our Christian community. There is nothing intrinsically more honorable about sharing with the Imam than with the housewife, but someone must go to them both. While one person may be better equipped to speak to someone’s heart than others, a diversity of people speaking the same message reveals its reliability. We need singles, couples, youths, wives, single dads, empty-nesters, and widows working in community to reach the ends of our communities, be that Timbuktu or the Target checkout.