Influence

 the shape of leadership

The Importance of Community in Ministry

Avoiding the trap of isolation

Stephen Blandino on September 7, 2018

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We live in a world where it’s easy to experience what some call crowded loneliness. You can be in a large crowd and yet feel alone. And because ministry often comes with its share of relational pain, it’s easy for loneliness to turn into isolation as we protect ourselves from unnecessary conflict or relational drama.

The problem with isolation is that we spend our days listening only to the voice inside our heads. The longer we listen, the more convinced we are that we’re right. We shut off ourselves from the wisdom others bring to the table, and we become self-absorbed. If you listen only to you, you’re foolish. That’s not how God designed us to live.

In the opening pages of Scripture, God declared His creation as good, and yet, in the goodness of God’s creation, He recognized one thing that wasn’t good. According to Genesis 2:18, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”

Author John Ortberg described the scenario like this: “No substitute will fill this need in your life for human relationship. Not money. Not achievement. Not busyness. Not books. Not even God himself. Even though this man was in a state of sinless perfection, he was ‘alone.’ And it was ‘not good.’”

God created us for communion with Him and community with others. Our community with others can never replace our communion with Him; and our communion with Him can never replace our community with others. We need God, and God created us to need one another.

Similarly, God didn’t create us to do ministry alone. A quick look through the pages of Scripture reveals a relational ministry approach.

Moses needed Aaron to help deliver the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. David needed Jonathan as a faithful friend. Nehemiah and the people needed each other as they rebuilt the wall in Jerusalem. Mordecai needed Esther when the Jews faced the threat of annihilation. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego needed each other as they stood before the fiery furnace. Mary needed Martha’s strength of serving, and Martha needed Mary’s strength of sitting at the feet of Jesus. Jesus needed the twelve disciples who would one day turn the world upside down … and, of course, the disciples needed Jesus. Paul and Silas needed each other in prison. And in the Church today, we need one another.

We truly are better together, and we truly do better ministry together.

Author Jon Gordon describes a conversation he had with a U.S. special operations forces leader. Navy SEALs are among the best in the world, and within the SEALs is the highly specialized unit, SEAL Team Six. The selection process for this elite group is extremely rigorous. Thus, it’s not uncommon for candidates to hear, “Thank you very much, but you’re not the right fit.”

We need God, and God created us to need one another.

What is SEAL Team Six looking for? According to Gordon, this special operations forces leader said, “What we are looking for is not just someone who performs at the highest level but who, while performing at the highest level, also looks out for his team members, making them better in the process.”

In the body of Christ, God calls us to do the same — looking out for one another and making one another better. In other words, we have a responsibility to care for one another, and a responsibility to help grow one another.

This caring responsibility is evident in Paul’s words to the church in Galatia: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves” (Galatians 6:2-3).

Meanwhile, Hebrews 10:24-25 captures the responsibility to help one another: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Too often, people give up on church after experiencing hurt there. Yet part of the Church’s mission is to care for its members and to help grow its members. Have you been hurt? Maybe so. But remember, pain in the body of Christ is not a license to cut off the body of Christ. We need each other.

You need community, and the community needs you. You need someone to care about you, and you need to care about someone else. You need someone who will cheer on your growth, and you need to cheer on somebody else’s growth. But giving and receiving care and growth requires you to slow down. That’s the only way relational community can flourish.

Author and pastor Wayne Cordeiro said, “Friends are rare these days, but it is not because they have diminished in importance. It is because we have increased in speed. Friendships are not made in the blur of life. They are made in the margins.”

Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert is not the issue. In both cases, you need people. God did not design you to do life or ministry alone. If Jesus, the Son of God, lived in community, and did ministry in community, how much more do we need to do the same?

Who is another pastor you can connect with once a month from outside your church? What group of people can you invite to your home with whom you can begin doing life together? Whom do you need to forgive so that you’re willing to trust people again? What friendship can you rekindle that has been separated by geography? Rather than waiting for someone else to take the first step, why not take the first step yourself?

Life is too short, and ministry is too hard, to do in isolation. Take a step toward community today.

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