Then must we conclude that community produces mission? Many make this claim and it has some very important biblical texts to support it. Jesus prayed in John 17 that his followers would live in unity so that the world might know him. After washing the feet of the disciples, Jesus told them that the way that the world would know that they were his disciples was by their love for one another. Our love for one another is one of the greatest, unused evangelistic tools.
And I have seen many small groups communities that have grown in love and the natural overflow of that has been mission, evangelism and even group growth. We have 40 years worth of small group experience around the world to support this. So we cannot say that community does not lead a group into a life of blessing those outside the group.
At the same time, we have all seen small groups that experienced deep community nothing every moved beyond the people in the group. They grew insular, developed inside jokes and sequestered themselves into a elite club that others either envied or despised. It might have felt good for insiders but there was nothing inherently beautiful about it that flowed out to bless the rest of the world.
What can we say then:
- There is a reciprocal relationship between living in community and sharing a common mission. They feed each other.
- Which is first? In some cases it's community. In other cases its a common mission. Most of the time is both.
- In most cases where community leads to a group that impacts the world, the groups are set within a church that already has an established church culture of impacting the world. Or they have a pretty big front door and the groups infold new people.
But I think that there is more to the story. Which will be in tomorrow's post.