In our most recent Focus series we looked at the ‘one anothers’ in the Bible. In this blog, Nick reflects on these studies and how they apply to mission.
This term in Focus we’ve look at the ‘one anothers’ commands in the New Testament about how God’s people are meant to relate to one another as a Church. In our Focus Group we loved these times together, and had some important conversations.
There’s a danger though, that focussing on how we relate to each other could turn us inward. In all this thinking about each other, we become the only people we think about. After all Jesus’ commission to his Church is to ‘make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. If that’s the goal, then how does all this inward ‘one another’-ing fit in? Shouldn’t we just be focused on making disciples? Looking outwards? I want to suggest briefly in 2 blogs that actually the two go hand in hand, and that in our current cultural moment how well we ‘one another’ is powerful for making disciples. There’ll be more of that in the second blog.
For today though I want to put forward that community is at the heart of the gospel. If we separate the communal life of the Church from the gospel we gut the gospel of richness and depth.
Firstly, the goal of Christ’s commission to his Church is to make a new community.
Paul writes to Titus that Jesus died to ‘purify for Himself a people that are his very own’. The goal of the cross wasn’t just to redeem individuals, but to create a community.
From the beginning of creation God has been working to have a people who represent Him and glorify Him on earth. The first command given to humans in Genesis 1 is to be fruitful and multiply. From there we see Him promise Abrahaham that His descendants will be as many as the stars. In Israel we see Him rescue a people for himself amongst whom he can dwell and out of whom he can bring salvation to all. God has always wanted a community of people worshipping Him. This is what He’s doing now in the Church. This is what the new creation will be like. To ignore the role of community is to shrink the comprehensiveness of God’s plan.
Secondly if that’s true, how that community functions really matters.
Jesus came to proclaim a Kingdom – a place where God’s rule is perfectly followed. And the Great Commission on Matthew 28 continues ‘and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’. The goal of evangelism is to make disciples who are obedient to Christ, not just to save individuals. So the goal of what we do as a Church is to build the Church. To build a community which lives in line with God’s will. To live as citizens of the kingdom together. In obedience to what Christ taught. Which means loving one another well.
What are we inviting people to when we call them to follow Jesus? Is it just an individual relationship with God? Or is it more than that?
When we call people to follow Jesus we invite them to be part of His Kingdom, and to be part of His community, His people. Therefore, it matters what the church looks like. If we preach the Kingdom like Jesus, but don’t reflect the kingdom in how we love one another, our message will be hollow.
In fact, how we love each other as God’s gathered people is an extremely vital part of our evangelism. But that will have to wait for part 2…
ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) – Translated ‘Church’, literally ‘gathering or assembly’.