The following article is a part of the Elements of Discipleship Series, a personal reflection on one of the components or themes covered in Global Disciples’ Nine Essential Components of Discipleship Training.
This month’s article by Isabel Ong covers an important theme in our discipleship training component number six, “The Kingdom and the Church“. Enjoy!
In the fall of 2017, I exchanged the familiarity and comfort of my life in Singapore for life in Vancouver, a city with snow-capped mountains on the horizon that teemed with lakes, waterfalls, and the potential to meet a bear while hiking (!).
Living overseas for the first time in my life was something I mostly experienced with wide-eyed wonder. But beneath the excitement, anxiety and fear kept bubbling up as I searched for a church and a Christian community I could call “home”.
Community was something that my spirit ached for as the months passed. It was such a big part of my life in Singapore that to be bereft of deep, soul-giving friendships felt rather unsettling. I went to Sunday services, fiddling uncomfortably with my arms as people around me greeted one another while I felt completely unknown and unseen. Disappointment and frustration rose as week after week passed and I had not made a single new acquaintance in church. I even entertained thoughts of buying a one-way plane ticket back to Singapore, because that was where my community was, and it just seemed like there was none to be found here.
Why can’t we live without community? Why is it so important to the believer?
The very word brings to life a sense of warmth and joy. It conjures up images of people breaking bread together and praying over one another.
To have a vital and vibrant Christian community is to pattern after the way of life that Jesus and His disciples modelled. The Apostles, too, celebrated community in every aspect of their lives. As is recorded in Acts 2: 46-47, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Here are three reasons why community is something you and I cannot live without:
Community grows our faith.
Some of my largest growth spurts in my faith journey have occurred in times that I met fellow believers to pray and worship together regularly. That growth could have certainly occurred in my own personal quiet time with God, but it was all the more dynamic and wonderful and precious to spend it in communion with fellow believers who were all hungry for God’s presence and spirit in their lives.
I dare say that our faith is stretched and challenged most when we are in community. And the best posture to have, when we want our faith to grow, is one of vulnerability and openness. Allowing ourselves to be authentic and honest about our struggles, fears, hopes and desires with fellow believers is when real breakthrough happens.
Community enables us to serve others.
We have not been created to exist in isolation. Rather, the Bible constantly exhorts us to serve one another – and community is where this takes place. Galatians 5:13 says, “Serve one another humbly in love”, and 1 Peter 4:10 says “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
Being in community has enabled me to put the needs of others before mine. It has also allowed me to become more perceptive and aware of what fellow believers are going through and how I can help, encourage or serve them in some way.
Community edifies the church.
Where we invest our time and energy in is crucial. And when we are intentional in building and investing in Christian community, we are able to live out God’s greatest commandment – to love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength, and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31) – in simple, practical, and God-honouring ways.
Whether it is opening up your home every week for life group, preparing for a weekly bible study, whipping up a meal for a friend who is struggling, texting a word of encouragement to someone or taking up a particular voluntary role in your church, every little action counts toward encouraging one another to become more and more Christ-like.
So, why can’t we live without community? Why is it so important to the believer?
Community is life-giving. It is humbling. It is faith-enlarging. And it is such a precious reminder of His love for each and every one of us, no matter how different or how broken we are.
Community has also been my lifeline in times when my faith has been shaken or weakened. It has spurred me to walk closer with Jesus. And often, it is only when I am amongst others that my faith in God can be put into action.
For the past few months, I have been blessed to journey with a community in Vancouver. We are a group of people who couldn’t be more different in age, ethnicity and cultural background, but we gather week after week because of a shared desire to know God more. We have laughed, prayed, worshipped and played loads of fun games together. Because of them, my Tuesday nights have become so very special.
Finding and becoming part of a community here has taken lots of time and effort, and it has entailed being very intentional and prayerful about building community in the city God has called me to be at this point in time (instead of, say, buying a plane ticket out!).
My prayer is that you, too, will enjoy being with a community of like-minded believers who will grow, challenge and edify you as you seek and live out God’s purposes for your life.