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Staying on Mission: Discipleship within Biblical Community


“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5, ESV

In the last edition of Branches, we saw that the primary calling of the church is to make disciples. That involves calling men, women, and children to faith, and then enabling them to live out that faith in every aspect of their lives as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. Scripture gives us this calling as well as a particular context of how such discipleship takes place. It is always within, never without, a community of fellow disciples.

The ultimate goal of every disciple is found in the great commandments to love God and to love our neighbor. The key term here is “love.” Love is never expressed or produced in a vacuum. It always involves others. These two great commandments are seen in more detail in the Ten Commandments. All ten of these are relational, either vertically towards God or horizontally with one another. Then you have the words of Jesus in John 13, where He says that there is one unmistakable characteristic of His people, which is love for one another. The world will know that we are Christ-followers not because of our religious language, the crosses we wear around our necks, or the fish bumper stickers on our cars. They will know because they see Jesus’ love working in and through us. So, it is not surprising that Paul gives Timothy the core value of His ministry—love. The goal of all that he teaches, of all of his shepherding, and all of his pastoral care is to see love growing more deeply in the hearts of his people.

This is a point we sadly often miss. When we study the Bible, it is so that we will love better. When we study theology, it is so that we will love more deeply. We grow in our faith so that we can love more effectively and more completely. If our study of the Bible and theology does not produce deeper love for others, and if our ministries do not encourage us to love more fully, then we are missing the core of the Gospel. The Christian life is never merely about clean living or church attendance. It is always to be about loving others as we are loved by Christ. Therefore, the primary core of the Christian life is about love. The primary evidence that we are indeed worshipping Jesus rightly is seen in our love.

The implication of this truth should be clear. If discipleship is all about us becoming better lovers of one another, then we are necessarily called into community with other believers. Only in community can the outworking of biblical love be expressed. Biblical community is also the context of how we grow as disciples. There is no avoiding it. A disciple cannot grow to health apart from relationships with other disciples. A healthy faith requires community built around the Gospel. Why are other people so indispensable to our growth? There are many reasons.

Biblical community points to the way God has made us like Himself.

God is Trinity, eternally enjoying relationship among the three persons of the Godhead. In being made in His image, we also fundamentally relational. When God said about Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” He was saying something essential about our being. We are made to be in relationship with others, and it is not good when we are not.

Biblical community provides a tangible demonstration of grace.

Community is hard because every gathering of people is a collection of broken, wounded, rebellious, and self-determining sinners. Therefore, when they come together, you will inevitably get trouble. But when the Gospel works in the hearts of these sinners and turns them towards each other in forgiveness and patience, we get a tangible taste of the grace we are promised in the Gospel.

Biblical community provides clues to the remaining sinfulness of our hearts that we cannot see otherwise.

Much of my sinful propensities remain hidden to my eyes, though others might see them much more clearly. When I interact with others, my sin becomes more clearly evident to me. That exposure leads me to run to Jesus for forgiveness and dependence on His grace instead of on my goodness. This is one reason why people avoid community, because they would rather avoid the pain of seeing how they are still badly broken. But, this exposure producers in us a much deeper trust in Jesus, and as a result the Gospel becomes ever sweeter.

Biblical community provides accountability.

We need this along with the exposure. I need to have others around me to keep pointing me to Jesus. If left to myself, which my self-centered heart wants, I will never change or do the hard work of repentance. Yet, with the encouragement of brothers and sisters, I will more readily face up to my sin and more persistently press on to greater faith and trust in the work of Jesus for me.

Biblical community provides encouragement.

Accountability is not merely negative. It is wonderfully active in moving me forward, especially when I do not feel like moving. I love riding my bicycle on road trips. When I ride alone, I am far more apt to quit when my legs begin to feel tired. I am less apt to push myself to climb the hills or ride the extra miles. So, I love riding in groups with other riders like me. In those groups, I will much more easily ride farther, faster, and ride roads that are harder. I need encouragement of the bike community to grow as a cyclist. How much more do I need the faith community?

August Community Breakfasts

One of many ways we are pursuing biblical community here at Southwood is the launch of new adult Connect Communities. We hope you will become an active participant in one of these communities. We also want you to understand the bigger picture of how they are designed as just one part of the discipleship process to encourage the development of biblical community and stronger faith in our church family, things that are critical not only for Southwood’s adults, but for our students and children as well.

As we head into a new structure for Sunday mornings in September, we are taking the month of August to enjoy a taste of this vital community and to talk together about where connections for people of all ages on Sunday mornings fit into the mission of the church and the lives of her individual members. So, please join us at 9:00am these four August Sundays for a light breakfast and an opportunity to focus particularly on one piece of this multi-generational plan each week.

We need each other as we seek to follow Jesus and invite others into the joy of relationship with our Father through him. So, join us in August, and then let’s stay on that mission together!


August Community Breakfasts
Sundays beginning August 5 · 9:00am · Connecting Spaces

August 5 Focus: Engaging Children in our Community
August 12 Focus: Engaging Youth in our Community
August 19 & 26 Focus: Discipleship through Community