Discipled in Community
What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you think of community? Maybe it’s the picture of a small town where everybody knows everybody. For most of my life that’s probably what came to mind first. But the one thing that wasn’t quick to come to my mind when thinking of community was church. I grew up going to a Southern Baptist church in rural Oklahoma. It was what most people would consider a typical SBC church. Services every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. If you were super committed you went to Sunday school before service and made it to Sunday evening service that night. The rest of the week was all yours. There wasn’t much emphasis on being in each other’s lives or living in community with one another. It was an event to invite your friends to. Church life was very neatly compartmentalized as a separate activity that people fit into their busy schedule.
This picture of church life stands in stark contrast to church life at Crosstown. Crosstown’s commitment to biblical community, practically worked out through missional families, radically changed the view of church for my wife and I. We knew about the picture of biblical community found in Acts 2:42-47, but the only time we ever came close to experiencing it was when we were living in East Asia and all of our community was made up of missionaries. But we just attributed that to being on the mission field and didn’t really see it as attainable in the states. We were wrong.
We have been at Crosstown for over four years now. We were drawn to Crosstown because of Crosstown’s theological distinctives. We stayed at Crosstown because of the community. Missional families have been a primary source of sanctification in our lives these past four years. Our community has walked with us through all of our struggles and were there for all the celebrations, but most importantly, they helped us to love Jesus more. Missional family isn’t just about a weekly meeting where we hang out with our best friends or have a weekly Bible study. It’s about doing life together with Jesus at the center which drives us to make disciples of one another and our neighbors. There are plenty of places you can find close friendships and people who will be loving and supportive. But that in and of itself does not equal biblical community. If Christ isn’t at the center of the community then all you have are temporal friendships that will ultimately fade away.
We have always found a sense of community in every church we have been a part of. We always had people we would consider friends and people who would be willing to pray for us if we asked. But this type of community always stopped a little short. Within our missional families we have had people who pursued us as disciples. They have fought for our holiness and pushed us to be more like Christ. We have seen and experienced the love of God through our missional families. We have also experienced hurt in our missional families. We can never forget that this community is imperfect because its made up of sinners. But even in the midst of the hurt we received from others (and some we gave to others), it has always proved to be worth it. Maybe you are still struggling with holding back and not letting people in. We still do, too. My encouragement to you is that although there will be pain, the joy you will find in intimacy with Christ and community is far greater.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:1-4).