The English word community comes from the Latin root from which we get another English word, common. Community is based around that which is held in common. We have communities based around common locations, video games, music, TV shows, dress, lifestyles, sports, economic status, bloodlines and much much more.
Why do we naturally search out others to be in community with? Because we were designed and created for the purpose of community. When we look at the life of Jesus we see evidence of this. What was he doing while on earth? He was establishing community. He had community with twelve mismatched guys. Beyond the twelve He had community with 120 disciples of men and women. When Jesus left, He sent the Holy Spirit into the 120, thus remaining in community with them. He sent this community on a mission to grow and prosper the community. The disciples (followers) were called to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:18-20). Disciples (followers) making disciples (followers). That is, the community of disciples (followers) were to further the community by reproducing disciples (followers). They were called to do more than share the gospel, they were called to integrate those who responded to the gospel into the greater community of disciples (followers).
Friends, we were never called to make believers. We cannot control whether or not someone believes the gospel and responds to it. However, we were called to tell them the gospel, and then to turn believers into disciples (followers). How do we do that? How can we become the community Jesus called us to be? It is all in the verses I already mentioned. It is in the call that Jesus gave to His followers just prior to ascending into heaven. Listen to the words of Jesus:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
What is the significance of baptism? It not only is a public testimony of the difference that Jesus made in a person’s life, it is a public testimony of being connected with a new community, the community of Christ-followers. After baptizing believers we are to what? Being in the community of Christ-followers means that you…follow Christ! How do we follow Christ? That is where the “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” comes in!
As believers, we should not only value people coming together and having something in common, we should value people holding a lifestyle of following Jesus in common. We are all at different places in our spiritual journey. However, we need to do our best to allow people to learn how to better follow Jesus and deepen their community with Him and with each other. I therefore pray that our lives and our churches resemble what we see in Acts 2:41-47. The early church was made up of all kids of different people who did not have anything in common. Yet, they were able to form a world changing community by holding in common lives that were lived like Jesus! May we do the same!