I believe in and practice evangelism, missions, and seek to be a missional Christian. I support a Great Commission Resurgence in my denomination and pray for the task force.
I once thought that just winning souls solved everything. Or, if we have "revival" then surely it will just solve everything. Not so.
I began to read the Gospels and Acts over and over and over. I saw the value of Community expressed through small group in the ministry of Jesus. I first saw it in Scripture, then looked for models who were doing it well.
Community became a word that for me breathes relationship. A friend of mine defines Community (Acts 2:42) as: "Christian Community is the body of Christ expressing the life and message of Christ to build up one another and redeem the world for God's glory." Community is what we Baptists have typically called "Fellowship". Scriptures such as Gen. 1:24-2:35; Psalm 133; Eccles 4:9-10; Mark 3:14; John 17; Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-37; Romans 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 2, 4; and 1 Peter 5:1-4 are ample to suggest that among the people of God Community is a significant part of their essence in both OT and NT.
In the Bible, the work of God moved along lines of relationship. W. Oscar Thompson, beloved Professor of Evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, taught us many years ago that in the NT the gospel moved on lines of relationship. C. J. Murphy has said, "No one has ever been won to Jesus by someone they did not like."
As an itinerant preacher, a consultant, a coach (whatever one would want to call it), denominational worker and interim pastor, I observed one constant that could be woven throughout dysfunctional churches: Broken and fragmented relationships. Conflict destroys biblical community. Control agendas destroy biblical community. These destroy the ability to celebrate community.
When Baptists begin to do something, we typically try to sell vision. But in reality we should take a cue from Nehemiah and sell the problem. This helps keep the sense of need high. And it begins with unity among leadership - all of the leadership. In other words, there must be such a focus on aligning the ministry to the model (vertically - common goal; horizontally - cooperation to the extent the silos are brought down). It is the setting aside of "my" for the sake of "our".
My influence is very small if at all. But I pray you will hear and I plead with congregations, denominations, and even to our SBC Great Commission Resurgence Task Force: Focus on Biblical Community as reflected in the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40).
Why? Jesus lamented over Jerusalem … "How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (Matthew 23:37).
It is this same yearning that draws us to Himself and to one another in Biblical Community. Community, or the lack thereof, defines who we are in our hearts as the people of God. Doctrine is absolutely important. Without the authority of Scripture, we would have no way of knowing the parameters God has set. But one can be right and still be wrong-headed. Even the demons believe there is one God…and they tremble (James 2:19). This passage is set contextually in a chapter where the author is warning against partiality and a dead faith! It is set in a chapter advocating authentic Biblical Community!
Community is essential to fulfilling the Great Commission. Why? People invite their friends to life.
As we do seek to be about the Father's business of the Great Commission mandate, let us do so by also returning with a contrite heart to God and the practice of the Great Commandment. May "loving God and loving people" be more than a vision. May it become reality in our lives and our churches.