Stories capture my imagination. There are 2 stories from the Gospels that help me understand what it means to follow Jesus. Jesus told his followers to go and tell others about him. In essence he wants us to help people follow him. So often we emphasise the ‘go’ part of this instruction, but what happens if you sense God directing you to stay and make disciples where you are? Are you failing to live out part of Jesus’ Great Commission?
Holiday Houses and Churches
One of the properties on our street is a holiday house. It is a holiday house in the truest sense of the word, the owners really only use it during the school holidays. The rest of the time caretakers look after the place. I’ve spoken to the owner a couple of times and he seems nice. But this family isn’t part of the community. They are absent. And when they are here, they do their own thing. This is fine for holiday houses, but what if the same is true for churches.
Churches must embed themselves within their community. I wonder how many churches gather together each week, do their thing and then go their separate ways? They may have great services and run fantastic programs but are seen as being largely absent by the surrounding community. In this sense they are kinda like the holiday house in my street – they are holiday house churches.
Is this what Jesus wants for his followers corporately and individually? If disciples are going to speak into those around them, if we are going to call others to follow Jesus, if we are to be agents of grace, we must engage with the community.
2 Stories Grounded in Community
The Samaritan woman naturally went and told her community after she met Jesus (John 4). Her community probably rejected her. Yet she wanted to share with them what happened. Jesus delivered a man from demonic oppression (Mark 5:1-20). The Bible doesn’t give his full history, but this man would cry out and cut himself with stones. His community knew him. They rejected him and chained him among tombs. His life was bad. He wanted to stay with Jesus. But Jesus wanted him to stay in his community and tell them what happened. The result? The people accepted Jesus when he returned (Mark 7:31-37).
We enter into our stories as followers of Jesus. Sure, our contexts are different, but Jesus has met us and restored us. We have the opportunity to engage in our communities in ways that tell the story of Jesus. Karina Kreminski’s advice on how to be on God’s mission as part of your community is helpful.
‘The most important part of joining with God on his mission is to listen to what God is doing in your context. Your context might be your workplace, neighbourhood or community. If we have a humble posture and are willing to learn from others we will more likely notice the Spirit of God working through those people around you. Usually God will teach us something about himself as we listen to others. As we listen and discern, God might also ask us to form partnerships with people and groups who are interested in the same things we are-promoting justice, peace, salvation and beauty in our world. In that way we can model the story of the reign of God and then invite others to join with us on the journey.’
What would it mean for you to be a listener in your community? Are you ‘absent’ in your community? Leave a comment about what would it look like if you were present where you live.