We want to mobilise people to make the Kingdom of God a reality, people praying for the coming of the Kingdom, addressing the need in the world, transforming all spheres of life and living as disciple makers. To mobilise effectively we should study the way Jesus made the Kingdom a reality and started His Kingdom movement. We must learn to follow His lead. He created the best space where He could influence and change people’s lives according to God’s way. He created community. Within community He mobilised people to change the world. He discipled them in community life, a small group setting. The early Christians recognized it, followed the example and the outcome speaks for itself – for 300 years the church have grown at a rate we have not match up till this day.
Many people in the West have a problem with community. We love to believe in the rugged individual who never needs anyone else. This notion has infiltrated Christianity so that we primarily think of our faith in “personal” terms. We think of our “personal relationship” with Jesus and our private “spiritual walk”. We often attend Christian events with lots of other Christians, but we’re not necessarily involved in anyone’s life. We can attend a worship service with thousands of other people, yet live out the bulk of our faith isolated–just us and our bibles. Living a life secluded from others, we cannot disciple others.
Individualism does not seem to match the expectation God gives his people in the scriptures. God shows us that love, demonstrated in and through sacrificial, gospel-fuelled community, will have transforming effects in lives and communities. God expects his people to live and grow in community.
Joseph Hellerman argues in his book, “When The Church Was A Family”: Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. People who remain connected with their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow in self-understanding, and they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and to their fellow human beings. It is a simple but profound biblical reality that we both grow and thrive together or we do not grow much at all.
We need each other in order to be transformed. And it is as we learn to accept being wronged instead of insisting on our own rights (1 Corinthians 6:7), when we learn the humble confidence of considering others more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), when we learn to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-5), and as we strive to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) in front of and with those who don’t yet believe that we live as a city on a hill, as we “shine like lights in the world” in the midst of a “crooked and twisted generation (Philippians 2:15).
The New Testament assumes that: Love, demonstrated in and through sacrificial, gospel-fuelled community is the centre of missional discipleship. By “missional discipleship”, I simply mean that “discipleship” is the entire trajectory of the Christian life, including coming to faith. It does not begin “at salvation”, nor does it end at some point of spiritual maturity. “Discipleship” should be understood in terms of “mission” because we exist to make, mature and multiply disciples. The very nature of “discipleship” is always striving to bring people closer to Jesus, no matter where they might be at on the spectrum. Discipleship is joining in the missio dei, the mission of God and when you do this together in community, God’s Kingdom would become a reality – just as in Jesus’ time.
dirk coetzee with help from Brent Thomas