Last week I wrote a post defining Gospel-Centered Missional Community (GCMC). If you have not read it, do that now. Understanding how we define GCMC, and its intent, is crucial to understanding this and the next three posts.
In a nutshell, GCC (Gospel-Centered Community) is a body of committed believers, connected by a shared purpose and vision, to see Jesus glorified. They challenge each other into deeper relationships with Jesus and one another. GCMC is the functional output of GCC and focused on cultivating relationships with others, to make disciples who make disciples.
Preparing to Go
It is one thing to define Christian community and its purpose on paper. It is an entirely different experience to work toward living in that community. This is a good moment to clarify a few things. First, the entire process centers around Jesus. Living in community with other Christians is about pursuing, praising, and making much of Jesus. If there is any underlying motive, the gathering becomes about you and is not authentic Gospel-Centered Community.
Second, this type of community is hard. Really hard. It requires your whole life, rather than the ease of attending a 90 minute Sunday worship service. Real community is messy and forces you to abandon your plans. You have no choice, but to go to Christ every day, for the sake of the community. It requires that you study the word of God and flesh it out as a body. And because it is hard, it takes time. Lots of time. Authentic community is nothing less than a lifetime pursuit. It will likely be the most amazing experience you will ever encounter. Once I encountered this way of community, it ruined me in the most wonderful way. The Bible clearly shows how GCC is the best way to pursue Jesus and live the abundant life He promised.
The Path I Took
So, how did God bring me to this point? From 2009 to 2011 I was able to experience authentic Christian community lived out on a small scale. During this time, God continuously brought me back to Acts 2:42-47. This passage of scripture provides the clearest picture of community focused on the person of Jesus. From that experience, God ignited a passion in me to live my life, toward Christ, with other committed Christians. And not just on Sunday, but every day. After a significant amount of thought, conversation, prayer, and study; I designed a visual for this journey, and I have titled it The Walk.
The Walk is a set of practices, for the purpose of guiding the formation of community. The intent of the process is that it is flexible enough to be implemented under numerous strategies. The process begins with three fundamental principles which guide the entire process. Those principles are Connection, Challenge, and Cultivation.
Committed Actions in Community
Within community there are committed actions that hold up each guiding principle and continually move the group toward GCMC. These committed actions are exactly what they sound like: actions that each member of the community commits to in order to see Christ exalted and the gathering flourish under His headship. There are four committed actions: Gather, Seek, Submit and Sacrifice. Each of these actions are defined by specific elements. For example, in order to fulfill connection within the community, we gathering around a shared heart for following Jesus; a shared purpose of loving each other, God and neighbors; and a shared vision to see God’s kingdom come to earth. These three elements define what it means to gather as a means of connection, and advance the community toward challenge. The committed actions and their associated elements are:
- We will connect ourselves to other believers by gathering around a shared heart, purpose, and vision.
- We challenge each other to seek God; to practice unity and good-will; and to submit to the Word, one another and the body so that we may walk as Jesus walked.
- We will cultivate disciples who make connected disciples by sacrificing our time, resources, and self.
Moving the Process Along
The remainder of the process, specifically the arrows, are present as reminders. The green arrows remind us to keep moving toward a missional mindset. The dashed, blue arrows remind us to never leave the previous action behind. Specifically, while we seek together, the arrows prompt us to still focus on intentionally gathering; or as we submit to one another, to still seek together, and so on. The red arrow is likely the most important; it is our mission arrow. It testifies to our purpose, that is, as we follow Jesus we are to be His witness to the world and make disciples. Cultivation always promotes connection; between the body and between others and Jesus.
Why this Process?
Because every community is different, the flexibility of this process allows communities to define each element in their context and develop their own strategies. However, there is one aspect that needs to remain predefined. The yellow arrow, labeled “Gospel-Centered Community,” illustrates the possibility of a community culminating the building process with the principle of Challenge. If that occurs, the community may grow together, but never realize the fullness of community Jesus desires for them. We often see this inside of institutional church settings when they promote a “small group” ministry to encourage community. In doing so their members gather weekly, outside of Sunday, and are able to connect with other believers. Often these groups are able to mature toward challenging each other to seek God, unity, and goodwill. Some groups may progress to practice the act of submission. All of this is good and constitutes a form of community that focuses on the saving and sanctifying message of the Gospel.
However, that is not the entire Gospel. For us to experience the fullness of Christ, we must acknowledge the missional aspect of His Gospel. Sadly, many small groups only ever achieve the “self-focused” version of community. But, a community which allows the Holy Spirit to move them into a place of sacrificial giving, for the purpose of growing disciple-makers, will move from understanding into living out the mission of the community.
In the simplest terms, the process of walking in community is a commitment to three things:
- Connecting to other believers
- Challenging one another to walk as Christ
- Cultivating disciples who make disciples
As we commit ourselves to Jesus’ command to love one another, we will grow to understand what it means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. As we grow, He will equip us to love our neighbor and carry out His commission to make disciples of all nations.
The next three posts will address each of the guiding principles and their associated committed actions.