TFI’s Core Values: A Sense of Community

By Peter Amsterdam

October 29, 2013

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This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.[1]

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.[2]

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.[3]

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity![4]

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.[5]

The Family International’s sixth core value is:

A sense of community. We believe that our faith is meant to be lived in community and camaraderie with others. We seek to cultivate a spirit of unity, love, and brotherhood. Together we can do more.

Our love for God, our shared beliefs and goals help us to forge bonds of brotherhood and love for one another.

TFI does not have a worldwide model for building community on a local level, so there is diversity in how people choose to develop a sense of community locally, build networks, and foster camaraderie.

We are a worldwide network of believers. We have an online, virtual community that reaches all continents with members in over 80 countries. The material that is posted on the many TFI websites serves to keep members across the globe abreast of spiritual teachings, devotional articles, mission news, prayer requests, updates, and announcements. Members also have access to mission-related resources, tools and products in a variety of languages. Though TFI members live all over the world, we are on the same page in our core beliefs, core values, and our appreciation for the mission of preaching the Gospel of Jesus and changing the world one heart at a time.

Though many members may not have the opportunity to physically fellowship with one another, we remain united in spirit, due to our shared beliefs, reading and listening to material available on our websites, and through sharing the vision of reaching others with the love of Jesus.

Members are encouraged to participate in or develop community in their city or country in a manner which suits their situation and need. The organization facilitates community when possible, but the onus to create community rests upon the individual members. When or where gathering together for community is not possible, we encourage building community with other members online, through various means.

Our faith and discipleship grow in community with other like-minded believers. Christianity wasn’t meant to be lived in a vacuum—it is meant to be shared in loving fellowship and unity with others.

Our character grows and matures through being in community with others. The very nature of being in community, working together with personalities which may be very different than your own, having to stretch and give of yourself, makes us exercise those qualities that Jesus wants us to hone. And without that interaction, it is more of a challenge to mature spiritually in a well-rounded fashion. Those challenges are also the staging ground for internal growth; they help to make us more like Jesus, and better equip us to reach out to others and to be conduits of God's love.

John Ortberg wrote in The Me I Want to Be:

God uses people to form people. That is why what happens between you and another person is never merely human-to-human interaction—the Spirit longs to be powerfully at work in every encounter. … Spiritually, as John [the apostle] said, “Anyone who does not love remains in death.” When we live in isolation, we are more likely to give into temptation or discouragement. We are more likely to become self-absorbed. We are more likely to spend money in selfish ways. Not only do we suffer when we live in disconnectedness, but then other people whom God placed around us get cheated out of the love God intended us to give them.[6]

TFI members are pretty creative when it comes to building a sense of belonging and togetherness. Some of the ways we’ve heard that people are coming together for fellowship and community, either physically or online, are:

Doing our part to build community and brotherhood is a Christian responsibility that belongs to each of us. We need to take initiative, make time, and care about our connection with others.

Important elements of spiritual growth come from interaction with others in spiritual fellowship and community. Such growth is manifested in greater understanding, empathy, humility, authenticity, honesty, unselfishness, and acceptance of others. Community is not based on hobbies, economic status, compatibility or similar personality types; the basis of our community is our shared faith.

In building a sense of community, we are participating together as part of the body of Christ. While sharing the same information and spiritual input and staying in touch through fellowship are important, equally important ingredients to our brotherhood and camaraderie are our love and genuine concern for one another.

As Pastor Peter Marty explained:

A communal spirit blooms where people are deeply in touch with one another, thriving because of the faithful interaction with one another. Outwardly, members of a congregation may have little in common. Inwardly, they can be touched by the possibility that they have something to learn from each other. Broad friendship, mutuality of purpose and an abiding care for one another are all by-products of a spiritually grounded community that is working together. The way in which members of a congregation reproduce the love of God through genuine hospitality and a love for one another will indicate whether they are indeed the body of Christ or simply a religious club.[7]

Being in a Christian community is similar to being part of a family. Usually we have a sense of belonging with our family; we are confident that our parents, grandparents, or brothers and sisters love us and will be there for us when we need help. We feel that they’re watching out for us.

That same sense of belonging, concern, and love is what we are to build with our brethren in the Lord. We who believe are part of God’s family.

And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”[8]

To create this sense of unity we need to take the time to care for one another, to pray for one another, to visit those who are sick, help those in need as much as we are able, and try to lend a helping hand when there’s a big job to do such as a move or the launching of a big project. Of course, sometimes what people need most is a listening ear, sympathy, validation of their struggles, prayer, and encouragement.

We have the privilege and responsibility to manifest the Lord’s love to the people in our community who are in need. We are to show love to all mankind, but especially to those of the community of faith. The Bible says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”[9]

One person explained the need to care for one another in community this way:

We need people to walk the ongoing walk with us—sharing in moments of high and low, and all the mundane working it out in between. We want people to laugh with us, to cry with us. Other people to care about and help with our kids. Friends to pray with and that we can call when our car battery dies and we need help. We want Jesus-filled community.

I would suggest that this doesn’t come without commitment. … commitment to one another in Christ—a deep, unique type of relationship that doesn’t require we are all the same. It’s saying our expectations of one another and being okay when they differ, not making you be what I want you to be. Because the point is each of us being who God wants us to be. And we can be that best together!

In living this way, we are the church. Love God, love others, love one another. Help others do the same. Seek God’s Kingdom. Journey together, mission together, be who you are meant to be together.[10]

In the local community that Maria and I are part of, there have been many examples of this kind of care and concern when others in our community are in need. For example:

Such acts of kindness are not unique to our city. We regularly hear of accounts where members have jumped in to aid other members in need. One example which comes to mind is a family in Texas, who received a 22-year-old who had returned from the mission field of Indonesia to undergo chemotherapy to treat leukemia. Their hospitality helped to make her last months on earth beautiful and filled with love and care.

Related to the same situation, another couple, also in Texas, loaned the parents of this young woman their motorhome so they and their children would have a place to live during her sickness and later while they regrouped and made plans for their future after their daughter went to be with the Lord.

At times when there have been serious illness or injury, members all over the world have rallied behind those in need of prayer, and have contributed finances. Some have traveled long distances in order to provide help on the ground. It’s at times like these that the love and camaraderie of our brothers and sisters truly shines brightly.

We regularly hear of members receiving visitors into their homes for periods of time during their times of transition from one mission field to another, or who otherwise give generously of their time, finances, practical support, or encouragement and prayer.

Besides the practical ways we can help each other and bear one another’s burdens, there are spiritual ways as well. One such spiritual element of a thriving, healthy community is when we take time to encourage one another.

Again quoting John Ortberg:

Every day, everyone you know faces life with eternity on the line, and life has a way of beating people down. Every life needs a cheering section. Every life needs a shoulder to lean on once in a while. Every life needs a prayer to lift them up to God. Every life needs a hugger to wrap some arms around them sometimes. Every life needs to hear a voice saying, “Don't give up.”[11]

When we strengthen and lift up our brethren, we are then part of their labors also. Only God knows how many times the great things that have been done by men and women of God throughout the centuries were made possible by another believer who had the ministry of encouragement and prayer.

We are not islands. We are dependent on others, whether we are willing to admit it or not. Uplifting and encouraging those in our community of faith is essentially infusing energy into the mission and the spread of the Gospel, as each of us is buoyed on by others to do God's will probably more than we realize.

The Bible says:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity![12]

Unity doesn’t mean everyone has to see eye to eye on everything or have all the same interests or opinions. Like the amusing quote says, “We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others are bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box.”[13]

Unity comes when you accept each other’s differences and focus on the most important things that you have in common, such as your faith in God’s Word, your desire to grow spiritually, your burden to preach the Gospel and be a force for good in your city.

Not only is living in unity more enjoyable, and a testimony to others; it also makes our work for the Lord more effective. Together we can go further, faster. Together we can move mountains.

A story is told about one of the top bridge builders in the country. He built one of the biggest and strongest bridges in the world and exclaimed that nothing could bring down this bridge. This bridge could withstand the weight of almost innumerable cars. The only thing that the designer said could destroy the bridge is if a few hundred men walked across it marching in unison. So he gave the warning that if any group marched across the bridge, whether it be soldiers marching or a band playing, that the marchers would have to stagger their steps, or else the bridge would collapse. This illustrates the strength of unity.[14]

The impact we make to change the world with His love can reverberate around the world if we walk in unity. The Bible says that one can chase a thousand, but two can put ten thousand to flight.[15] That’s an increase of more than one thousand percent, and that’s just the difference between one person and two.

God wants us to love all humankind and to be examples of His attributes to those we meet and interact with on a daily basis. But He’s even more concerned that we show love for our fellow Christians, the body of Christ. Paul said, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”[16]

Why is it so important that we care for and provide support—whether spiritual or practical—to our fellow believers? Jesus answered that question when He said, “By this all men shall know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”[17]

Love is the most important thing. Jesus wants us, His followers, to be known for our love. So as we seek to build community and to foster a sense of belonging, brotherhood, and camaraderie, let’s do so for and by and with the love of Christ which compels us.


Note:

Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] John 15:12–13 ESV.

[2] Galatians 6:10 ESV.

[3] 1 John 3:16 NKJV.

[4] Psalm 133:1 KJV.

[5] Galatians 6:2 ESV.

[6] John Ortberg, The Me I Want To Be (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 182, 186.

[7] Peter W. Marty, "Community as a Way of Life," The Christian Century, August 23, 2005, 8–9. (Peter W. Marty is senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa.)

[8] Matthew 12:49–50 ESV.

[9] Galatians 6:2 ESV.

[10] Arthur Stewart, “Why Christian Community Requires Choice,” March 11, 2013.

[11] Ortberg, The Me I Want To Be, 188.

[12] Psalm 133:1 KJV.

[13] Robert Fulghum.

[14] As related by Tom Brown.

[15] Deuteronomy 32:30.

[16] Galatians 6:10 ESV.

[17] John 13:35 NASB.

 

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