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The Importance of Community

If you would have asked me even several years ago what makes a great missionary, I probably would have given you a very loaded response that included these main points.   

  1. Loving God with all their heart-including a deep life with Jesus, that is characterized by  of prayer, worship, Scripture reading and  fasting
  2. Commitment to learn and love people well.  This includes being a learner of culture, of history and of course serving.
  3. Clear focus on the task and the unwillingness to give up despite obstacles.
  4. The ability to communicate the vision and task with others-if you do this well your funding will not be an issue.

Today I still believe that all four of those components are essential to producing great missionaries. However, today I believe I would add a fifth component.  This fifth element I believe is the secret weapon, the “secret sauce” in not only in producing a good missionary -but in producing effective, long term missionaries.  The fifth component is “commitment to community and relationships”.  

I am well aware that when I say “community” some people may cringe because of bad or disappointing experiences.  However, we must throw that aside these setbacks and ask what does God want us to aim for when we are striving for community, and how does this type of community equip a person for long term missions? It is easy to define the word community as  a group of people that center the lives around one core reality.  But I believe the definition falls short of conveying the fullness of Biblical Community.  I believe in order to understand  how a community can train someone to endure the hardship and sacrifice of long term missions-we must speak of the characteristics of this community not just its definition.  

True community is the making of family by the intentional weaving together of resources, time, energy, goals of that community around the truth of the gospel.  The individuals in this community adhere to the Great Commandment to love God with all of their hearts, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.  The individuals are committed to living out the Sermon on the Mount in such a way that their hearts continually are cultivated for the fruit of the spirit to be manifested.  Finally the individuals know they can not obtain these characteristics individually but they are only able to live these components out in fullness -in the context of relationships with others that are equally committed to do so.  

When you have a group, or team of people that adhere to these standards -community is birth.  It is the intentional walking out of this lifestyle that not only births community but sustains the life of that community. This type of community equips one to be ready to endure hardship, to embrace sacrifice and to become missional.  

 

Ronnette Cooper, MAP Leadership

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Communities of Glory

“The glory which You have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You have sent Me, and loved, even as You have loved Me.” John 17:22-23

Community, or recently I have heard it described as Common Unity is the pulse of the Church. It is what every human heart yearns for, to be placed in a family where they are understood and appreciated. That we all may be one, just as the trinity is one operating as individuals but with the same heart and mind. Obviously, this is something that I want for the Church both the small expression that I attend and the bride of Christ represented throughout the world.

Where I have seen this best manifested are in groups that seem to be anything but similar, mismatched in background, race and nationality. I feel like the Lord does this so that we can take no credit with our cool meetings and exciting language. It is simply the love of Christ that is compelling us to be gathered together. I have experienced that unity first comes from being united with Christ, when we are abiding in Him we are connected to the glory that Christ has given us. Because of this, it doesn’t matter whatever outward expression is going on around us. For, as long as we are connected with Him we are able to connect with others with love and understanding.

Being perfected in unity does seem like a pipedream, in a world full of blog posts and shouting matches the idea of the whole bride of Christ being fully one feels a little far off. However, we have been given an invitation to this reality. Where the Lord invites us, there is always grace and a way to walk it out. We can be a reflection of the trinity of perfect love and communion.

We do this so that the world may know that Jesus was sent for them. This glory that we hold and this love that we can show is the community that the world needs to see so that they may know Him. May we be that community that is able to overlook an offense, that is able to love even when we have been wronged. We must ask ourselves, can a group of broken people carry such a heavy weight of glory that an outpouring of love may be shown to those on the outside looking in? I’d like to think so, because I have seen little glimpses here and there, some of these glimpses have been in little rooms in the middle of the desert and some have been more close to home in classrooms and sanctuaries. I see the kingdom coming through communities of glory.

Leah Grace Mix, MAPS Leader

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The Pruning of Time

Training can come in a variety of forms. Some believe that it is merely found in books, others in experience. I believe that true “training” can only come through a careful mix and balance of the two. But most of all, training comes through time. Time is the great test of all things- is the test of sustainability. Time is the test of fruitfulness; time is typically the greatest question or complaint when it comes to our program.

I grew up as the youngest of four kids, meaning that I always tried to race ahead and to excel as fast and as best as I could and my parents would always correct me saying,”Rome wasn’t built in a day.” And I’m sure, if you were anything like me, you have probably heard something to a similar effect as well.

When I left for college, I imagined that shortly after I would find myself in a solid career path and onto the next thing.

However, God clearly had other plans. While pursuing my degree in Global Studies and Biblical Studies, I ended up going through a crisis of faith – during which, I cried out to God to show me His love. He answered, and as I learned to rest and lay in His love, He began to whisper to me the plans and the destiny that He had created for me.

Like many young people, I thought that that meant that next week I would begin to walk in these “great and wonderful things”.

And like many young people, I was mistaken.

I had no concept of the test of time. I didn’t understand that a Great Pruning was coming my way, a pruning that would take a lifetime, a pruning that I am still in the midst of.

James writes in James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” God calls us to joy in the midst of our trials, even the trial of time.

He has made a way for us to gaze upon His beauty, a way for us to be fully captivated and in love with Him as we wade through the oftentimes daily monotony of life and time. We must fix our eyes and wade through the challenges of our current situations hopeful and secure that God is the Keeper of His promises to us.

I believe that most of our problems or frustration with time boils down to a lack of faith in the goodness and the glory of Christ. We doubt that He is able to keep his word and we rely on human wisdom as to how He may not be able to fulfill His word in our time schedule. However, if we read this passage from James we can see that God actually has our Best in His Mind. He desires us to be Perfect and Complete, lacking in nothing. This type of wording directly insinuates that we are, in fact, Lacking.

This means that He has the best for us in His mind, which may only be fulfilled through the arduous training and the test of time. We must not despise this test, but rather we should press onto the fullness of God’s joy which is ready and available to all.

That we would be ones to cling to the Philippians 1:6, “…that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Faith Kinzer, MAPS Leader