Biblical Kingdom life, Prayer, and Evangelismby Stephen Russell on November 15, 2012
As we have been stirred by the Lord to seek Him together in prayer for revival on Cape Cod, and as we have recently sensed a fresh burden for evangelism to our community, it is hard to ignore a third scriptural element that ties both corporate prayer and evangelism together: Kingdom life or Community life, or "Village life".
Before my family and I relocated to the United States, I was privileged to have travelled to nine African nations for ministry purposes. Often these trips would lead me to rural villages where I had ample opportunities to first-hand observe “village life” in its truest sense.
In a typical village there is a council of “elders” that oversee the affairs of the village. Individual families live together in community, and when one family or individual suffers all suffer; the joy of one becomes a celebration for all. There is an awareness that one’s actions have implications for the rest of the village. The emphasis is on community rather than on the individual, responsibilities are shared and life generally is lived together.
Families brought to the church the same values of one-ness, closeness, accountability, sacrificial lifestyle and integrated living. The church was in other words enriched and strengthened by the way in which families lived their lives at home. The sense of “community” in the church was not difficult to implement.
These experiences of “village life” afforded me a glimpse of the cultural context of early church life in the Book of Acts, and the factors that attributed to the growth of the church. In the Book of Acts the church members were in regular fellowship with one another, doing life together; this in turn provided the stability and framework for the transformation of lives.
One of our strongest impressions as pastors of a New England church here on Cape Cod is how the culture of the day influences the Biblical model of church-life. The core elements of the family as an institution have been eroded by the media - for years there has been a cultural onslaught on the Biblical concept of family. With disintegration of the family life in our culture, the church is left without a model or grid on which to build a foundation of church family life.
Added to this is a society that overly elevates the rights of the individual. These two factors play into church life where the sense of community and “village life” as per the Biblical New Testament model, remains illusive.
Many folk in our churches may participate in activities and programs; there is however a difference between activities and “village life” relationships. Jerry Bridges in his book, “True Community: The Biblical practice of Koinonia” says, “The first Christians of Acts 2 were not devoting themselves to social activities but to a relationship ” He goes on to say that the New English Bible translates Koinonia as, “Sharing a common life”. William Hendriksen (Exposition of Philippines, page 93) states, “Koinonia, then, is basically a community relationship”; by this he also means it is not activity but relationship.
In 1 Corinthians and other Scriptures Paul points out the importance of living beyond oneself and live as part of the wider Body. He emphasizes mutual accountability, honoring one another, supporting one another and sharing life in the context of the church family or body of believers. There are myriad of Scriptures pointing to church life in a family or corporate sense.
Some of the Pauline letters were addressed to the corporate Body of Christ - the letters to Galatia, Thessalonica and Corinthians for example - and actually should be read as to a group of people and their collective behavior and doctrine.
The Bible talks about "unity"; For years the church has pursued unity, believing that unity is the absence of strife. Invariably the unity that is experienced is in essence really Sunday morning “politeness”. Unity in the early church was the one-ness of being family where the various members in both its natural and church sense, lived life together with all the sacrifices and challenges associated with it, as did the early church in the book of Acts.
This "village life" scenario in the church is precisely what builds into us what an overemphasis on individual and personal development can never do. Whatever and however we personally grow will have to be tested within the reality of doing life with one another. Most agree that family can be messy, but exercising our faith towards that which God has called us is not a neatly packaged sanitized project. Obedience, sacrifice, love and Christ-likeness are not only revealed in the Bible as solely individual excercises but also in the context of fellowship and relationship with the body of Christ.
It is important that we foster this biblical Kindgom life and culture in our local churches, which is an expression of true "family" in Christ. This will actually attract those who we are trying to reach on the Cape, who have not yet met Him. Jesus talked about the relationship between this Kingdom life and evangelism " That they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" John 17:21
A cry from the streets that is heard more and more is that people are looking for family and not just church. Jesus Christ promised to build His church. We are to build His people and this “building” has to extend beyond making individual disciples to preparing them for the joys and challenges of living as family; a family that is integrated and in its one-ness, reveals the greatness and glory of His Kingdom here on earth.
Stephen and Dalene Russell
Pastors: New Life