And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
This passage is the banner and mission of our church and the global church across the world. We recite this at the close of every service on Sunday mornings. It is the passage that our church is founded upon and what drives our missionary efforts because Jesus has charged us to make Him known throughout the whole world. However, I wonder if many of us realize the importance our relationship with other believers and our involvement in the local church plays in our role of disciple-making.
In John 13:34-35 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This has a profound impact on disciple-making, because if we don’t love one another or know how to live in community with one another, then we are not being a witness of what a true disciple looks like. Therefore, other believers play an important role in our effectiveness in making disciples.
Another example of the role the church community plays in disciple-making is with all of the one another commands in Scripture. In the Great Commission, Jesus says in our effort to make-disciples that we are to teach them to observe all that He has commanded. The "one another" commands are some of those things that we must teach them to observe, so being a part of a biblical community, a local church, is not optional in our Great Commission efforts, but necessary to be faithful to this call.
I say this, because I desire that young believers would be involved in the local church, in the College Ministry, and in a small group where biblical community is best represented. The church should be a place and a people that helps us grow in our faith and love for God. It is a place that we can come to, wearied and burdened, and be encouraged by the truth from others who seek to love us by walking alongside us in our struggles. The church should be a safe place to be dealing with sin, because everyone else is struggling with sin. Ultimately, going to church and spending time with brothers in sisters in Christ should not be something that we just feel obligated to do every week, but something we eagerly look forward to. The church should be a testimony to the people of the world what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. It should be a beautiful picture of the glory of God that attracts unbelievers to the gospel.
Being involved in the church and having biblical community is also crucial for your personal walk with the Lord. We are not made to live life isolated, but in relationships. In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-10, Paul is writing to brothers and sisters in the faith, and he talks about how he sent Timothy to them to “establish and exhort them in the faith.” In the entire passage, Paul mentions their faith four times, and you can sense the urgency and desire he had to make sure that they were remaining in the faith. In verse five, Paul gives us the reason for sending Timothy to them...“I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.” This is crucial to understand, because it means that other believers have a profound and encouraging impact on our own faith. This is a major reason why we are called to be a part of a local church and in community, because we are meant to help one another grow in our faith. This is like Hebrews 3:12-14, which says to exhort one another so that our hearts will not be hardened. We have a part to play in one another’s perseverance of faith. We have a role to play in helping one another be more conformed into the image of Christ. We have a role in helping one another glorify God by making disciples of all nations.
This is the role that small groups play in our church. Our church has too many people for us all to have community with one another, but small groups condense that so we can have a few relationships where we invest in one another’s lives. Let’s make this our aim in the relationships we have and build in the church and in small group. Let's aim to be a people marked by the gospel and love one another in the way Christ called us to love. Let's be willing to be honest and transparent about what’s is going on in our lives so that others can love and walk alongside us to strengthen our faith. Our relationships should be life-giving and deeply founded on the Word of God that sanctifies us.
I pray that this would help others be motivated to be involved in biblical community, because they see it as beautiful and worthy of their time and attention. I know for some people, this might sound crazy or counter-cultural. Some might have grown up in the church, and it was never marked by love and grace. Others may have been hurt by the church and think that these types of relationships are not possible. Sadly this is true; some churches aren’t marked by the traits the Bible calls the church to exemplify. But this is what we want to pursue in the College Ministry at Brook Hills. We want to help one another behold the glory of the Lord so that we are transformed by one degree of glory to another, so that we may bring glory to God and be better equipped to make disciples.
And let us watch out for one another and provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 (CSB)
Chad Cortner and his wife Rebekah currently serve as small group leaders in the College Ministry.