Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Making Disciples (part 11)

2. Discipleship involves the entire church working together

First, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Enjoy the turkey.

Before writing and studying discipleship, I had inadvertently narrowed discipleship down to one-on-one Bible studies. By doing this I left out one of the most important components in making disciples, the community of believers. In the Great Commission Jesus addresses His people collectively. My journey through Scripture opened my eyes to this truth. The constant in Scripture, from Old Testament to New Testament, is that the community is the place where disciples are made. Why? Because each individual is gifted differently and these gifts come together and work best when the community is working together. Paul constantly urges his churches to work together to build one another up in love. Hebrews reminds us to not neglect meeting together, but to encourage one another in the faith.

Our faith is about community. God is about community. In the Old Testament God made disciples through the community of Israel. God used such things as the Temple, Law, rules, sacrifices, festivals and feasts within the community to teach and disciple His people. If a person neglected God’s community He neglected God’s faith. It was nearly impossible for a person to have faith in God and not be a part of Israel. In the New Testament the church was God’s community and people. To be a disciple meant you belonged to a local church. Together, the churches made up the body of Christ. The body wasn’t complete in just one person, it involved persons. In There Is No i In Church Keith Drury reminds us, “From families to extended families to future generations to nations to the entire world, God is always working with a people, not just with persons.”[1] So, how do we implement this principle in our churches today?

A good beginning point for implementing this principle is to effectively communicate (through sermons, teachings, church activities, etc.) the value of relationships and community within the Bible. Here is an outline showing the development of community in the Old Testament. This might be a valuable resource tool for pastors/Sunday school teachers/small group leaders to use in preaching/teaching community:

0 In Genesis 1-2 God creates Adam and says it is not good for him to be alone. Right off the bat we have the establishment of the family and community. Where does this come from? There is community within God. God is three persons who harmoniously exist with each other. Being made in His image and likeness means we are made for community.

0 Genesis 1-11 focuses on the family of Adam up until Noah. Chapter 4 focused briefly on the other half of Adam’s family (Cain’s side) who walks away from God to do life on their own apart from God. This is the last we hear of them.

0 The rest of Genesis, chapter 12-50, focuses on Abraham and his descendents (the Hebrews), who were chosen to bless the other nations. Through bad relationships within the community the nation of Israel ends up enslaved in Egypt.

0 In Exodus God delivers, protects, provides, and leads His people to the Promised Land.

0 The rest of the Old Testament focuses on God’s care, discipline, and provisions for His people. Even though the Israelites were unfaithful to God, He remembered His covenant and stayed faithful to them.

Looking at the way God worked with His people in the Old Testament is an eye-opening experience. What God does He does for the community.

[1] Keith Drury, There Is No i In Church, (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2006), pg. 15.

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