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Mission versus community? 3 random thoughts

There have been some very interesting responses to the blogs on mission and community.  The basic question has been, "Do we have community at the expense of mission or vice versa?" If we have an outward focus, does community suffer?  If we concentrate on community, will we neglect mission?

Someone put it well:  they are two facets of the same gem.

Here are some random thoughts:

  1. "Spirituality" is not what produces community.  Community has a natural component (sharing the things of ordinary life together).  I.e., the fact that we have a common reason for being together–the person of Jesus–doesn't create community.  It does have the potential to make it far deeper. Community doesn't happen automatically; it can be created.
  2. Jesus' mission was to bring freedom to a world held in bondage to sin and its consequences.  Right at the beginning of his ministry, he described that mission as bringing good news to the poor, freedom to those who are oppressed, and so on (Luke 4:18-19).  He sends us out into the world with that same mission (John 20:21) 
  3. Both community and mission should result from listening to Jesus and doing what he says. Jesus lived in community with his disciples–they shared the ups and downs of everyday life together.  But Jesus was compelled by love–the heart of the Godhead–to reach out to the world.  

5 replies on “Mission versus community? 3 random thoughts”

I agree on all points but one. Spirituality DOES produce community. Is is the feeling of belonging, the revelation of being an inseparable part of the whole that places us in community with all of humanity and we reply missionally.

Felicity, this really is a stimulating topic. I think it’s obviously one that many Christians wrestle with.
You seem to be making this distinction between the spiritual and the natural or practical that I suspect may be part of the problem in our thinking. I think this false dichotomy of the sacred versus the secular is a huge part of the schism a lot of Christians experience. I noticed in your latest post when you said spirituality is not what produces community. You had spirituality in quotes. I inferred from that you were qualifying it as maybe what passed for spirituality and yet was not actually spiritual. If my inference is correct I would agree wholeheartedly. A spirituality that supposedly focuses on Jesus and yet somehow never translates into love for others is a dubious spirituality indeed. I would contend (and perhaps it’s just my own cynicism) that the problem could come out of the fact that many of the people who talk about prayer quite eloquently don’t pray much. And a lot of the people that talk about the importance of getting into the word don’t actually open their Bibles very often or when they do it isn’t with the intent of knowing Jesus more deeply, but rather to win Bible debates. I find it hard to believe that you could hang out with Picasso and not come away wanting to paint. And hanging out with Jesus and not wanting to love others seems even more impossible. I think the fact that so many Christians have their lives divided up into these spiritual and practical compartments is where much of the sickness stems from. I think that when coupled with a healthy relationship with Jesus, shopping, hiking, or going to a ball game can be more worshipful than much of what is called “spiritual”.
All of that being said, I still think there is a legitimate question being asked that I’d like to see more discussion on. Does this concept of sequentialism preclude us from seeing priorities expressed in the practice of Jesus? In other words, was there a period where Jesus mainly built relationships with the 12 before sending them, or were they sent right away as a part of, or a way to, build community? I guess it has been my understanding that there was an initial period where he lived life with them in close proximity before sending them. This understanding has made me partial to the idea that a simple church should have this initial period of bonding before reaching out so that there would be more of a unified spirit to whatever outreach occurred. And also it would help to not have people with real needs in our fellowship being overlooked as we rush off to reach out across town or across the world. Simply put , does Jesus give us a model of ministry that would work from the inside out in concentric circles? Or is it sometimes okay to focus across town regardless of the needs in one’s home, fellowship, or neighborhood? And saying we should do it all at the same time sounds nice, but I’m not sure what that looks like. I feel like I have to have a set of priorities to work from or I will wander aimlessly. And it seems that those priorities should come out of putting God first and letting him set the rest of the sequence. I would hope that we would not worry about being sequential if God is the one ordering the sequence.

This is a great , thank you Felicity. I believe love creates everything, including community. Having been part of a very evangelistic group which fell apart because it lacked one very important ingredient.
John 13:35 NIV
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
We forgot about the love part. Jesus gives the great commission.
Matthew 28:19 NIV
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
What we forgot was that Christ created a community of disciples by loving them, by washing their feet, by saving them from stoning, by giving them significance like he did Zaccheus.
We read people the riot act and were just full of wonderful scriptures, but we did not know how to love them to God as Jesus did. We are, hopefully, learning now.
Mission is so important for the health and well being of a community. The community has to be on the move or it will eventually implode. Start looking within, finding fault, tearing each other apart, becoming cannibals.
Galatians 5:15 NIV
If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Philemon 1:6 NIV
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

When Jesus called his first disciples in Mark 3:14 it says he called them 1. to be with him, and then to send them out to preach etc. and there was a definite time of bonding together, iron sharpening iron amongst them, teaching and training by personal example, and becoming prepared by knowing Him and being with Him and learning to love one another and work as a team, before they were sent out on mission. I believe they were trained for 2-3 years personally by Jesus and out of that place of intimacy, they got his heart for the lost and hurting around them and his mission was in their hearts, but I do see at least in Jesus first disciples a priority of 1, being with Him before 2 being sent out to preach etc. Above all else is intimacy with Jesus, catching His heart , and then letting his heart overflow through you to others. I am not saying we need to wait 2 years before we outreach, but the principle first knowing Him as a community , then hearing from him and being sent out seems to be the way He did it with his first disciples

These are superb comments, everyone. Thank you for putting so much thought into this topic.I certainly don’t have all the answers, and appreciate the effort you are putting into these questions. The thoughts on the division of sacred and secular are especially relevant here.
I sometimes think that the patterns we adopt may prevent us being missional. For example, if we ask the question after our times of studying the Word, “Who do you know who needs to hear what about what we have talked about today?” and then had some accountability with that, I think there would be more mission.
For example, I remember listening to a webinar with David Watson (who has seen church planting movements develop in several nations) when he introduced a young girl who had started several groups with unbelievers. Their pattern of Bible study is so simple anyone can do it with other people. They divide a page into 3 columns. The first column they copy out the first verse from the passage they are studying. The second column is their own paraphrase, and the third is what God is saying to them out of this. During a meeting, they spend time individually studying the word in this way and then discuss it together. Each person is then encouraged to share it with others during the week.
It’s one of the reasons we like the question mark, lightbulb, arrow, ear approach. It’s so simple, anyone can do it.
As new people become Christians, groups are started around them rather than the new believer being brought into the original group. That way the original group is free to continue to explore community (but naturally has a missional focus), and new groups are also started missionally.
I highly recommend David Watson’s blog:

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