Biblical community—the local church and its smaller expressions—is the main way God intends to accomplish his mission of disciple-making. But we don’t often think of mission, evangelism, and disciple making in corporate terms, and instead, framing them in individualistic language, we miss the effectiveness of biblical community for making new disciples of Jesus. Consider these three ways that community fosters Christian disciple-making.
- Christian community nourishes disciple makers. Christian living is no easy task, filled with the challenges of life and fraught with particular pressures that face Christians who take the great commission seriously. For as much as our culture loves the lone, gritty hero, God has not designed the church that way. Christian disciple-makers need encouragement and nourishment, both of which can only be found in Christian community. When Christians gather there should be discussion about who is trying to reach whom with the gospel. And encouragement, in-the-trenches style support, should also be freely given.
- Christian community trains disciple-makers. Christian community also prepares and equips disciple-makers. Classes on evangelism are fine, but they are also a sign of ailing community. Young Christians, who are learning to share their faith, should be able to attend regular gatherings of Christians to find out how to share the gospel with lost friends and family.
- Christian community makes disciples of visiting skeptics. Christian community should also welcome skeptics to come and see what Christians are about. Inviting skeptics into our community provides them an opportunity to see how Christians love each other (John 13:34) and understand the gospel (1 Cor 14:24-25). One of the most evangelistic actions any Christian can take is inviting another person to a service of Christian worship.
For these and other reasons we should resist the temptation to think of evangelism in individualistic terms. And we should also rejoice in the community that God has given to us that is so well designed to strengthen and grow the church.