The Pentecost version of community exists for mission, not for itself.
Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformission Rev.
This resonates with me a lot right now because we have spent the last couple of months as a leadership team defining what we think God would have us prioritise for 2011. Our number one priority is building community. Now that, by itself, could sound pretty insular. We could get better and better at loving one another to the exclusion of seeking to invite others to worship the Father. And if we did, we’d have missed it.
But the motivator for achieving this first priority is that, in the case of all those in our church who were saved there, they first found a place to belong in our community and then later came to understand the truth about Jesus. It was (so they say, anyway!) precisely because the community was so strong and yet so inclusive that they wanted to understand more about the one who unites us. For some reason I don’t entirely understand, this is our church’s rainmaking gift (if it’s not a bit crass to use business terminology about the kingdom!).
So we do want to build community with even greater intentionality this year but not just so the Christians can have a love-fest. No, we prioritise this sense of family in order to have a community that non-Christians want to be part of. Because we have found that when people want to be with us, they are more willing then to hear our story, perhaps because they have been watching it walked out in the lives of some very ordinary people. And some not-so-ordinary ones too!
And so it will not surprise you to know that the leadership’s number two priority is inviting outsiders in to an experience of this community. We think we have something worth sharing. We have love to spare. We have a message that needs to be heard. We are trying to be this Pentecost version of community: we have a mission to offer love, hospitality and the greatest story ever told and to do that in as recklessly extravagant a way as we know how!
Pray for us if you will.
You see, though it sounds amazing in principle, we have found in practice that a lot of existing Christians choose not to join us when they move into the area. It seems sometimes that most believers would rather go somewhere perhaps a little less demanding.
I don’t blame them – God knows that I would probably make the same choice if I didn’t feel called to build here! (Some days I admit that I imagine working elsewhere. ;)) But, oh, how we need them and how I dream of an influx of gifted, mature weight-bearers with a heart for mission to support our core believers!
I suspect that maybe they don’t come because we can’t spare the energy for meeting pastoral needs unless those same people are also prepared to pour their lives into making disciples of the people already inside the community or into bringing more people to share what we have.
In bigger churches there is more resource for meeting needs, more resource to be a hospital even for those who need to come off the field of service for a time to be healed. I am glad of it. I wish we could offer the same. And I hate having to choose, especially because I’m a nice person who does like caring for people in need!
But we’ve had to remind ourselves this year that our community exists not only for mutual encouragement and pastoral caring but also for mission. And we have decided to prioritise mission. We will build this community and we will experience the resulting benefits of mutual encouragement and pastoral care. But we do it in the main because we seek to make disciples of those who walk with us and also of those we don’t yet know.
May God’s Spirit guide and resource us in 2011.