Spiritual Growth via Community

If you haven’t heard of Mark Batterson, then you probably don’t know what to do In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day or how to go on a Wild Goose Chase. Mark is the lead pastor at National Community Church in Washington, D.C. and is part of the creative team for The Origins Project.

I follow Mark on Twitter, and yesterday this tweet showed up:

A day after seeing that tweet, I was reading Mark’s blog and saw this post about his time with Stanley Tam who spoke at his church.

I was struck by Mark’s two statements:

“…if you want to get closer to God get close to people who are closer to God than you are.”

“We don’t need another sermon. We don’t need another service. I think what we really need is a relationship with someone who is far way from God.”

Most people would answer the question, “How do we get closer to God?” with the answer, “Read the Bible more, pray more, meditate more…”

I am struck by Mark’s thought that spiritual growth can also happen in community through the relationships we make: as we do mission by entering into community and entering into relationships with the people around us, we can get closer to God.

We spend so much time on our 3-year plans and scope and sequences and lists of Bible stories/verses that kids should know. What would happen if we help facilitate families building relationships with the posture that they can learn from and even grow closer to God because of those relationships?

What do you think? I know that some Bible knowledge needs to be taught, but what about helping children and families to build relationships with the people around them? Do you see this as important? What do you do to facilitate relationships with those closer to God and those far away from God?

6 Responses to “Spiritual Growth via Community”

  1. @mattguevara May 5, 2009 at 4:51 pm #

    You are zeroing in on an idea that the great theologian and ethicist Stanely Hauerwas introduced – the idea of discipleship as craft. I'm working on something to post on this very thing so it is cool to see other iterations of the community aspect to discipleship brought to the fore in our field. There is another theologian (the late Stanley Grenz) who presented all doctrine through the lens of community (see Theology for the Community of God). This is a hard read, but by way of example it presents God as community, sin as that which breaks community, Jesus humanity and divinity through community. We should be about the fostering of discipling relationships and a community of discipleship. It's easy to focus on stories or virtues (goodness, we get caught up in teaching virtues) that are great material, but they are missing critical components of the Story God is telling. I think we can do better.

    • Henry Zonio May 5, 2009 at 11:49 pm #

      Cool! I'll have to checkout that book by Grenz sometime… sounds like I would resonate with it and learn A LOT!

  2. jabberfrog May 5, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    My thoughts pale sitting next to Matt's but I'll give it a swing. I agree with Matt. Fostering discipleship as a craft is a challenge until someone buys into what God has to offer through them. When one actually steps into a God-given confidence in what they have to invest in someone else, they are ready for that 'Timothy" relationship. When that happens it's a beautiful picture of following Christ.

    My goal in ministry is to lead decades to pour into decades. Meaning adults seek out opportunities to invest in young adults while young adults invest in kids, etc, etc. I'm not introducing anything new. I have nothing original. But years of silos have divided one decade from the other. Each one seeking their own form of entertainment/teaching from the church.

    Currently we are venturing into fostering relationships via hands-on community missions. In working together we hope to set the stage for relationships that sharpen each other to spawn.

    • Henry Zonio May 5, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

      I like that: "decades pour into decades." Great way to phrase that!

  3. Erin Z May 5, 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    This seems to apply to family life too. As with most believing parents, my greatest goal in motherhood is to guide my children to a life-long relationship with God. It will be heart-wrenching if any of my kids choose not to follow Jesus. I think this is another principle we need to base our parenting on. When I see adult children who adore their parents and love being with them, I've noticed that the family, while being a very solid unit, was also very outward focused, serving others.

    I would like my family to not just exist because we live together or because they are the kids I gave birth to; I hope that we would see a larger purpose for our family. In turn, I hope that my kids would become less self-seeking. Instead, they would be generous, humble, loving, and kind. So it makes me ask myself, "How does my family benefit our community? Who are we, as a family, influencing?"

  4. Desiree May 9, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    Good thoughts by everyone. I started out being involved with children's ministry and have moved on to helping kid's parents. Right now I am only teaching, but I'm trying to get more of a community going between the 20's/30's people. The group is made up of people with different amounts of understanding but I think we have been successful in teaching about foundational things for those who need to learn it and then discussing it for those who need to gain a deeper understanding. We recently just talked about what it means to be born-again and had very good discussion. First we talked about where the term came from and then I asked them if they were to explain to someone what that meant what they would say. It was great for the more experienced people to talk it out rather than somewhat take it for granted. Our church also did a study called The Truth Project. I encouraged my group to attend and that was a good way to get into inter-generational conversation.

    I recently came across a three part lecture on the Resurgence blog that I think goes in the right direction in explaining gospel centered communities. It is given by Steve Timmis, who wrote the book Total Church. He is now the director of Acts 29 in Western Europe. I think it has hit the nail on the head in saying that our communities need to be gospel centered. In a way it seems obvious but on the other hand, I am coming across (and used to be) so many who don't understand the gospel. They take the forgiveness part and then treat being a christian like a club membership. We don't need super fancy gimmicks. We have GOD! I think Steve Timmis explains really well how to the BE the church instead of just "going to church". As Steve puts it, "Community isn't optional". Here is the link.


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