Created for Community
Jan 08, 2018
As we continue to consider “What characterizes our movement?” from The Navigators Vision Statement, we come to another characteristic: “Both personally and in committed communities, they seek to know and pursue the purposes of God.”
Community is essential to the fulfillment of our vision. In fact, in Nav Neighbors, I believe our ultimate success or failure rests on this small phrase, “in committed communities.”
As I have processed the lessons that I learned in missional community and studied the dynamics of community in God’s Kingdom, I have become convinced we must grow in our understanding of community and in our ability to create and foster it.
To be honest, community has not always been a Navigator strength. Our movement, after all, was begun on the highly individualized question of, “Where is your man?” or “Where is your woman?”
While we’ve created strong but temporary communities on college campuses and military installations, in the rest of life we’ve tended to outsource community to the local church.
One danger is that we can focus on “discipleship” and allow others to focus on community—as if true discipleship can ever be separated from the context of Christian community. Or community becomes a “program” of the local church, as people are assigned to life groups, age-appropriate affinity groups, or so-called missional communities.
In spite of all that fights against the creation of committed communities, this fact remains: God created us for community. It is not good for man to dwell alone.
Members of a committed community as we are defining it should be committed both to Christ and to one another as family. At the same time, they are committed to the broader community that they dwell among.
In Nav Neighbors we want committed communities that are integrated into neighborhoods. Here are several qualities of these committed communities:
They seek God. One of the most powerful blessings of the Christian life is the privilege of seeking God together. God delights to meet with those who seek His face. When a group of people are seeking God together and working together, it is an incredibly powerful thing.
They are relational. Most of the words in the New Testament describing relationships among believers are family words. The gospel is designed to flow along relational lines. The work of Jesus adopted us into the family of God and made us brothers and sisters. While structures and programs may be needed to support ministry, they can never substitute for relationship in the advance of God’s Kingdom.
They are outwardly focused. They carry the gospel into the broader community, not asking the broader community to join a new community. The scattered community is just as important as the gathered community. The community should see itself as people sent to a place, not as a place to bring people. The Good News is planted where people live, they are not uprooted and replanted so they can find the gospel where we live. This is why our communities must be well connected to the broader community.
They advance the gospel. The gospel should advance in multiple ways: into the community, in the individuals that make up the committed community, through the community, and into the broader community. I think of the advance of the gospel like this: in me and in us; through me and through us.
In my experience most Christ-followers have learned to pursue God’s purposes as individuals. The second part of this characteristic of our vision is crucial as well. As we learn to grow and minister as communities, we will function as God intended, opening the door for greater fruitfulness.
For Your Consideration:
What are some ways in which a committed community can build relationships, seek God, and pursue God’s purposes, without focusing on one to the exclusion of the others?
If you are part of a committed community, think about how it lives out the four qualities listed above. On which is your community strongest? Where might it need to improve?
If you are not part of a committed community, what first steps could you take to build or join one?
Al Engler is the director of Nav Neighbors. To contact him or to learn more about his ministry, click here.
Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles unpacking the Navigator vision. The series begins with Unpacking Our Vision: An Introduction.