This article talks about how to keep the church community flourishing. In order for you to gauge if it is flourishing, read here.

“We need not sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because they are indigenous to earth: and so, we need not teach men to complain; they complain fast enough without any education. But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated.” 

—Charles Spurgeon

We have previously compared cultivating church community to the working of a garden and talked about how what we choose to grow flourishes. However, in gardens, weeds and brambles are so prolific that they just come up naturally where we don’t want them to. This is the same as relational thorns that seem to spring up easily in a community.

This is because all of us are works in progress, and our sinful tendencies and selfish ways sometimes get the better of us. Weeds like exclusivity, toxic friendships, coarse joking, and isolation threaten to break the relationship apart.

It is important that each of us contribute to protecting the fellowship with other believers.

Guarding Church Community

What can we do to keep the church community thriving?

1. Clarify the vision.

A clear vision helps us focus on what matters and avoid confusion or distractions. Followers of Christ who grow deeper in their relationship with God build up inside them a zeal for His honor. But without a direction to pour their zeal into, they are like loose cannons, throwing their lives into everything they see to the point of exhaustion. If the vision is clear, people can better channel their energy towards advancing God’s kingdom.

A clear vision helps us avoid divisiveness. When we are laser-focused on what God calls us to do as a community, we avoid looking at each other’s faults and taking offense at each other’s actions. We understand what to prioritize: loving God and loving others. We therefore protect these relationships at all costs.

In Every Nation, we are called to honor God and establish Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered, socially responsible churches and campus ministries in every nation. Is this clear to the students who are taking the lead in our campus ministries? 

2. Establish our values.

Our values are like walls that guard the vision. What are our values as a movement?

Flourishing and fruitfulness were originally mandated to Adam so that in everything he and his family do, they would promote and protect life as God designed it. The Church has received the same commission. Our fellowships are designed to fulfill what the word has proclaimed:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Revelations 11:15

May we each do our part in responding to God’s call for us as a movement and as part of the body of Christ. 

We often hear it being said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Though you may not necessarily be a parent, you can see the truth in this even as you lead others to follow Jesus Christ. We can’t grow in being Christlike apart from church community.

When God gave Adam a mandate in Genesis 2:15—The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it—it referred to not just the nurturing and growing of the garden itself, but the community in it (Adam and his family). 

Even when Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, their natural tendency was to follow God’s design for community. Hence, different cultures were built around various communities. But because these communities were built apart from God, they are rife with conflict and relational dysfunctions that lead to injustice and oppression.

In order to redeem community as God ordained it, Jesus Christ came, died on the cross, and rose again not just to save us individually, but to allow us to live out and experience relationships as He originally intended. This is what the Church is for.

As we make disciples in the campuses, we bring them back to God’s original design for community as we establish them in the church. The best place for students to flourish is when they are in fellowship with God and with other believers.

Cultivating the Church Community

When we cultivate fellowship, it is like working the garden in order for it to flourish. Cultivating means preparing the land for sowing and helping the plant grow by pruning and watering. How do we know when the church community is flourishing?

1. Students get deeper in their relationship with God.

Are students hungry to know God more by spending time digging deeper into His word? Are they looking forward to commune with God in prayer and worship? 

Do they live a life submitted to God, trusting in faith that His will is good, pleasing, and perfect? Do they grow in following Jesus Christ and obeying Him even when it’s hard? Does our fellowship with each other encourage us to grow in all these? 

When we see our students being established in the faith within the community, we know we are doing something right in our fellowship.

2. Students strengthen their connections with fellow believers.

Is the church community a place for students not just to experience comfort and encouragement, but also gracious correction and loving discipline? Is there a high level of trust when it comes to opening up about the difficult and challenging moments of their lives? 

Do they seek godly counsel when making important decisions? Do they ask for prayer and for help from each other? Is the church community a place where they learn to ask for forgiveness, as well as extend it, in order to protect the relationship? 

Our relational ties get stronger in the good times, as well as the bad. When we see students learning to navigate the imperfections of relationships because they choose to honor God and to love each other, we know that the church community is flourishing.

3. The students’ love for the lost increases.

When a student experiences transformation within the church community and sees the difference of relationships within an authentic community from that in organizations or clubs, all the more they would want to preach the gospel to their friends and include them in the fellowship. We know that we have a healthy fellowship when they are not just focused on being authentic with each other or simply concerned with their own growth, but have a missional mindset as well.

So what steps can we take to make sure the community will continue to flourish? That’s what we will talk about next.

Look out for the next part of this series to know how to keep the church community flourishing!