The Community of those who follow Jesus
Growing in Christ


The community of those who follow Christ is described in the New Testament Book of Acts. This early community is described in dynamic terms, committed to living out the Gospel and often suffering for that commitment. God's purposes for this New Humanity is spoken of in the New Testament the loftiest terms.

The Unevenness of Christian Community: Christian community was not however perfect in its origins, and it will come as no surprise, today Christian community also has its flaws - simply because it is composed of human beings, individuals in various stages in the process of following Christ. The community includes both mature believers who have made great strides in loving one another, and those who have been deeply wounded by sin, participate in the community out of tradition or for lesser motives, or are even without a personal vital link to Christ or His promised Holy Spirit. (Jesus pictures, in John 15, this vital link with Himself to be like the organic connection between a grape vine and its fruit-bearing branches. Growth in Christ-likeness is dependent on vital connection with Christ.)

As a result of this mixture the quality of the community of those who follow Jesus is, and has been, uneven. (Jesus speaks of this in a parable in Matthew 13 which compares it to weeds and wheat growing in a single field.) This unevenness produces points at which this community hasn't risen to its calling - and critics of the church often have valid points. At other points, members of communities of those following Jesus are, often quietly and unobtrusively, salt and light bringing grace and redemption to places of darkness and quiet pain. In fact, the results of this healing and helping reality are widespread and here for good. (Please click both previous links.)

The Necessity of Christian Community: Despite the unevenness of Christian community, very few of those who follow Christ can do so without the support and encouragement of some expression of that community. For this reason I encourage you to find or form community which will help you in your walk and expression of the mission of Christ.

The Many Expressions of Christian Community: I know many readers will think "community = church" and that equation is entirely understandable. After all, the term "church" has a strong role in the history of the movement of those who follow Christ and will not soon be abandoned because Jesus Himself used the term to speak of those who are "called out" of the world and into His Kingdom for the redemptive purpose of God in healing His broken world.

Yet the historical form and expression of "church" has been greatly influenced by the decision of Emperor Constantine in 313 AD to declare all the Roman Empire to be "Christian" and the resulting "church" to which believers and non-believers were invited was immediately diluted by a wide range of influences.

A more helpful term and image in my experience is simply that of community - "disciple-making community," "missional community," "worshipping community" or the like - in order to return to Jesus intention and example. These expressions will be found in many churches and most followers of Jesus can find a community of those who follow Him within walking distance. I strongly encourage you to do so.

Forming a Vital Expression of Christian Community: If this is not available I would encourage you to find a like-hearted friend and together form the embryo of a simple community committed to Christ and growing in the basic spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading and meditation, worship and loving service to those around you. This isn't easy but the community of those who follow Christ is vital to growth in Him.