A More Effective Focus for Growing Deep Spirituality
Community building involves equipping and developing the skills for us to connect with, care for, be vulnerable to (allow ourselves to be loved) learn trust and faith with others. It is learnt best through a very interactive process. When we teach in a manner that develops community, spiritual, emotional and relational growth accelerates .
Concurrent Change Being Developed on Three Dimensions
A focus on community building is a focus on putting into reality the “one another” guidelines in scripture. This life-changing approach goes beyond just teaching concepts. It combines
- the learning
- new habit formation and
- the environment changes (in others who interact with me)
All three dimensions are guided to change at the same time. This whole process provides a practical way to make straight paths for the feet of those trying to learn new relational practices. Without all three changing at the same time, it is very difficult to put into practice new approaches to relationships. If I don’t have others around me learning how to interact with and reenforce the new practices being taught, putting them into practice becomes difficult when the new behaviours I am trying to practice are rejected by those around me.
When community building happens with groups that will continue together after the event, the results become sustainable over time.
Spiritual Maturity is Measured in Community Unity and Absence of Divisiveness
Eph 4:12-13 (the leadership gifts are to) “build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood”
The above verse clearly states that unity is maturity. As leaders we are responsible to lead this dimension and be aware of progress or lack of progress as it happens.
1 Cor 3:1-3 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way”
In this passage lack of maturity was identified by divisions existing in the group. If divisions are a measure of lack of maturity, flagging the need for milk and the inability to eat meat, where are we if we measure ourselves on this spiritual maturity scale? The Apostle Paul paid serious attention to this dimension and took action to fix it when he saw it was broken.
Community unity is a prime measure of spiritual health! Shouldn’t we figure out effective ways to master efforts to develop it?
Unity is Christ’s Prime Hope for His Church
John 17: Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one . .
John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
John 17:22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
John 17:23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
These are amazing verses. If the goal is that we be one, we cannot get there thinking that spirituality is achieved through individual growth and have all our efforts focused on the development of the individual while ignoring the development of relational (group) practices.
Community is Where Love is Caught & Taught
Eph 4:16 “the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love”
If growing in love is critical to spiritual health, community shepherds need to focus on developing within the community the skills to care for each other and be known by each other – especially when this is a counter-culture skill-set. As a community shepherd, attention can be paid to how well loving others and receiving love from others is practices and teaching can be adjusted to the specific hurdles being faced within specific relationships.
Most of us love well when we are loved well by others. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
God’s Presence is Attracted to Mature Unified Community
Eph 2:21 “the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit”
Growing into a temple means growing into a place where God dwells. This means there is a presence of God that is available to rich community that is not available to believers when they gather in shallow community. Being built together into a dwelling place means that rich individual connecting and all the parts being healthy is critical for the formation of a temple, a place where God dwells. We must build community to experience this rich dwelling of God. Quite a challenging objective. How do we become such a community without focusing on it?
Fellowship with God Cannot Happen without Rich Fellowship with Each Other
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death
1 John 3:23 This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him.
1 John 2:9 “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
The light that is essential for fellowship with God is developed in relationships with one another. The way we love affects the light we experience. It would appear there is little benefit from teaching if change doesn’t happen in how we relate. The way we love each other affects the light that is available from the Word of God. WOW! This implies a big change in how we do discipleship and lead spiritual formation.
The “Glory to Glory Transformation” is Unleashed when we Know Each Other Well
2 Cor 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”
This passage is referring to an activity that happens collectively or when we are together (we all with unveiled faces beholding…). The thing being beheld is the glory of the Lord which 2 Cor 4:6 says has been put in our hearts. This verse started to take on new meaning for me when I asked the question: Why are people changing so fast in communities where we live with less hiddenness?” So here is the meaning that I see in these verses. When we are together with unveiled faces (in open relationships) the glory can be seen that transforms and moves us from one level of glory to another. This glory has been hidden in jars of clay (2 Cor 4:7) and is only well seen when we stop polishing the clay and let the glory be seen within our brokenness. Hence the need for the unveiling, the removal of the masks that hide our brokenness along with His glory that is within us. Only in this type of environment is the Spirit unleashed to effectively transform us from Glory to Glory. It should be noted that the transformation process here exceeds the glory that Moses experienced on the mountain when his face shone from being in God’s presence.
This transformation process is only unleashed when we move to deep levels of knowing each other as we move towards oneness.