What makes our church unique is the concept of “communityship.” But what is the meaning of this word? For one thing, you won’t find this word in the dictionary. We just coined the term. Here is our definition:
Communityship is the art and method of establishing a community of faith among a specific people group in a specific target area by the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.
The goal is to create a medium-sized body of believers (about 20 to 50) who are reconciled with God, who are reconciling with each other, and who are reconciling others with God. The main tool used to accomplish this is the word of God through power of the Holy Spirit. The end result is the glory of God.
What does a community of faith look like? Using Philippians 2:1-18 as a model, we can identify at least seven characteristics of a true community of faith.
First of all, it is composed of saved people. Paul says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…” All these “if” statements presuppose that Paul expects the Christians in Philippi to respond to his exhortation because they are believers in Christ. A communty of faith is founded in Christ. People who are saved must be gathered together to form a community.
But I must clarify that communityship is a gift from Christ that must be received. We are already a community when God unites us together in Christ. We cannot really build a community per se; we can only keep it (see Ephesians 4:1-6). We create structures and we teach people how to live in community, in order to keep the unity of the Spirit in a bond of peace. But we cannot create a community. Only God can create a community through Christ. This is a very important theological understanding of communityship.
Second, a true community of faith is characterized by a single purpose. Paul exhorts the believers in Philippi by saying, “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” To build a true community of faith requires a common vision. People must agree together to build such a community. Therefore it is necessary to implement a covenant agreement, first between the people and God, then between the people themselves. Without a covenant, a community of faith cannot begin to exist.
Third, a group of people cannot become a community unless they are characterized by selfless pursuit. Paul summarizes it well when he said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” He does not mean that we should look down on ourselves in relation to others. Instead he is exhorting believers to be selfless.
Fourth, Paul advocates a small-group perspective in order to create a true community. He says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” The word “look” involves a “closer look,” not a “casual look.” In other words, he is instructing believers to get interested in each other’s needs. This involves getting up-close and personal. So a community cannot be too large. They should also not be too small.
In our experience, 20 to 50 people is the upper limit. At the same time, small does not mean too small. A group of less than 20 people is really too small to be a community. (For us, a group of 20 to 30 people is really a proto-community, while a group of less than 20 is just a small group.) That’s why the term “medium-sized group” is better than the term “small group” when referring to a community of faith.
Fifth, a true community must be characterized by a servant posture. In Phil 2:5-11, Paul describes the attitude of Christ. But in verse 5 he emphasizes that “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” What is this attitude? According to verses 6 to 11, it’s servanthood. So a true community must be composed of those who are willing to serve one another in love. This begins with leaders, but it must also be seen throughout the community.
Sixth, a group of people must covenant together to pursue steady progress. Paul says, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but no much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” What this means is that each person in a community must be responsible for training themselves toward godliness. At the same time, the whole community is a training environment. Each one is pursuing steady growth as each part does its work.
Finally, a true community is characterized by a shining proclamation of Christ. Paul says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life…” It goes without saying that, in the end, Christ will be glorified in and through a true community of faith. In fact, the people themselves will be glorified in Him as they live their faith as a true community.
In other words, a true community of faith is able to stand on its own through the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to do the ministry that God has called them to do. This is what communityship means, and this is what we are endeavoring to accomplish in our ministry.