Our Desperate Need for Bible Community

Community is a central theme in the Bible. From the beginning, God has chosen to represent His infinite Being to us as a community we call "the Trinity." With the creation of the first human, God created a fellowship between God and humanity, and He communed with Adam in the Garden. Then God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18), and He made Eve, creating the institution of the family, a community. Roughly two-thousand years later, God established a nation, a spiritual community, a peculiar people to represent Himself to the nations. And another two-thousand years later, He founded a spiritual community that has multiplied itself and changed the world with the Gospel Message—the local church. And finally, God will unite His whole Kingdom in a great spiritual community for eternity.

From even before the authoring of the Old Testament, the Message of God was given in community. For over 6,000 years prior to the regularization of Bible printing and public distribution, no one but an extreme few had a personal copy of any substantial portion of the Scriptures. The Bible was read, taught, and memorized in community. Our practice of personal study time is a historically recent idea. It's a very good thing. But we cannot allow the privilege of personal Bible study to replace the necessity of Bible community.

Following the ignorance of our individual need for spiritual community, there has been a trend which has existed for only a short time in Christian history (and has now begun to wane) by which the work of the multiplication of churches is expected to be accomplished by lone men. This kind of solo ministry fails to follow the New Testament example of missionary work, while excuses for it remain primarily financial. I will not make my case for team ministry so that we might fit into some arbitrary church-planting model (though, certainly, the New Testament provides a model), but so that we might follow the crucial Biblical principle of spiritual community that lies behind that New Testament model.

Bible community is a discipling relationship. Discipling is as necessary for a growing Christian as parents are for a growing child. A child without parents may grow up to be a well-balanced, mature adult, contributing to society, but—to put it plainly—the chances are slim. The primary difference (and one to be noted) is that Christians never stop growing as children of God, unless they are diseased or malnourished. Therefore, Christians have a continual need for some sort of discipling. There are two basic discipling relationships: rabbinic discipling (of which Jesus & the Twelve, Paul & Timothy, and parenthood are examples) and mutual discipling (of which Paul & Barnabas and any other two peers are examples). Where the New Testament provides examples of church-planting work, we never see an instance of a missionary planting a church by himself. Not one. In fact, there are only a few occasions in which we even find that the apostle Paul is alone at all—when he journeyed into Arabia (Galatians 1:17), perhaps while in prison, and for a short commute on-foot between the Mysian cities of Troas and Assos (Acts 20:13). What we do see are those two discipling relationships as the model for church planting.

Can a man carry the enormous weights of ministry alone? Perhaps it's possible, but it's not what God has planned. How many good, capable men are swept into severe depression? How many burn out? How many fall into immorality because of a weakness that is not held accountable by a brother? How many quit? How many only remain because they see no other means of providing for their families, or out of pride? What happens when a man, standing alone in a vast valley, is attacked by the Enemy? What happens if there is no peer to pick him up? Should a man be able to overcome his obstacles, his sins, and his weaknesses on his own? I suppose he should. But God knows that none of us will. He has a better idea. "Two are better than one, in that their cooperative efforts yield this advantage: if one of them falls, the other will help his partner up—woe to him who is alone when he falls and has no one to help him up. Again, if two people sleep together, they keep each other warm; but how can one person be warm by himself? Moreover, an attacker may defeat someone who is alone, but two can resist him; and a three-stranded cord is not easily broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 "Complete Jewish Bible"). "Just as iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend" (Proverbs 27:17 CJB).

Bible community begets Bible community. If you want to start a church, you should start with a little church, a core group, a church-planting team. An individual man could start a church by himself, but a church that is started by an individual will likely become a church that is founded by that individual. Jesus is the true founder of the church—there is no other. And when a church is started by one man, the church will probably have an unhealthy attachment to him. He will become its foundation. This comes to light when he leaves and the church drops in attendance by half or searches for a pastor to replace him who is exactly like him, but no one measures up. More than that, he will build his weaknesses into the church he plants.

When Paul planted churches, he usually had with him several men, of whom were Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Luke, John Mark, Judas Barsabbas, Gaius, Aristarchus, Sopater, Secundus, Tychicus, Trophimus, Erastus, Onesimus, Epaphras, Demas, Crescens, and others. Paul was not the only one to provide us with an example of ministry through Bible community. Jesus sent out the Seventy in pairs (Luke 10:1). Barnabas, at one time, took John Mark with him (Acts 15:39), and Zenas and Apollos were doing missionary work together (Titus 3:13). If Jesus, the apostle Paul, and the other great men of the New Testament saw the need for such community in ministry, we have little excuse to neglect it.

So, maybe you do have the talent and leadership ability to start a church on your own, but that’s not a good reason to do it. Forget what you (or other people) think you are capable of. God will use you best when your ministry fits your character more than your ability. As for me, I don't want to ever do ministry by myself again. I know that I need to be a part of a team of at least one peer who will strengthen me where I am weak and to whom I can contribute my strengths, so that together we may plant a church that has all of our strengths, and none of our weaknesses (prayerfully). I need that mutual discipling in ministry community for me, for everyone around me, and for God.

You need to be a part of a Bible community that will provide accountability for you. If you have no vibrant level of accountability in your life, you have placed a very low cap on your spiritual growth, and thus on the ability of God to use you to change the world. So, what does this mean for you? What are some things you must change? Are there any decisions you should make? The sooner you get plugged into a vibrant Bible community, the better—whether you are a church planter, a working man, or a single mom.

"In the American church, the church will allow you to prostitute yourself, if you choose to. They will hire you based on your talent, overlooking all of your character, and then when you crash, they'll pretend they never saw the signs. And I think that we have to really step up to the challenge to run as fast as our character is deepening, and not as fast as our talent is expanding" (Erwin McManus).

Posted on Thursday, November 30, 2006 by David Gregg | 3 comments | Links to this post
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theGoodQuestion Community

Well, this is the first post that is to be posted on both the Radical Obedience blog and my theGoodQuestion.com blog at same time!! I have set up my blog system so that it posts automatically on Xanga, for the benefit of all my subscribers over there. Hopefully, there will be no kinks to work out (almost always are). By the way, to you Xangans, I apologize for the scarcity of my blogging in the past few months. I want you to know that I'm not finished. In fact, there is much more coming. The variety of issues that I'll be covering will broaden somewhat, but I hope that the reason you subscribed to Radical Obedience will not be disappointed as RadicalO is now also theGoodQuestion.

For those of all my readers on Xanga and theGoodQuestion.com, you can now subscribe to theGoodQuestion blog for email, and for RSS, as well. Look for the feed icon and the links under the post titles at theGoodQuestion.

TheGoodQuestion has expanded into a community! You'll now find three new blogs on theGoodQuestion.com, as my friends Heath Loftis, Brandan Thomas, and Joseph Witcher have joined me! For those who enjoy my writings, I expect you will enjoy theirs at least as much.

I wanted to expand theGoodQuestion.com with the hearts and visions of other men who are likeminded. Well, there are few people in this world with whom I have connected any more quickly or strongly than with these three fellas. We are brothers from other mothers, and I am very excited about sharing their insights with you. For you Xangans, you will have to visit their blogs, now hosted on theGoodQuestion.com, if you would like to read what Heath, Brandan, and Joe have to say.

We are currently in that transition period, but expect some great things to come. The content available on theGoodQuestion.com will expand quickly as these three new voices are added to the mix. So, join in the conversation, post your comments, and become a regular in theGoodQuestion community.

In the future, more friends may join the roster of bloggers at theGoodQuestion.com. My sincere hope is that each one will provide his own unique perspectives, as we all strive to serve our Master and seek His truth.

-dave

p.s. For Xangans who want to comment on a post, please do so at theGoodQuestion.com, not at xanga.com/radicalo. There are two reasons for this: (1) There has been a problem, which I have not been able to rectify, for the past several months on my Xanga blog. Many people may be unable to post a comment there. In fact, some browsers may even crash for trying. (2) The main site is now theGoodQuestion.com, and I would prefer that comment discussions not be split between two sites. It is very easy to comment using the blog system at theGoodQuestion, and Xangans can still use their Xanga usernames to identify themselves—they can even leave a link to their blog at Xanga.com, which will provide them with greater exposure. Whatever you do, I strongly encourage you to leave your thoughts! I intend for theGoodQuestion blogs to become forums for discussion on important issues.

Posted on Tuesday, November 14, 2006 by David Gregg | 2 comments | Links to this post
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