In the post “What Are You Seeking to Produce,” I stated that individual growth was a goal in shepherding/equipping. In addition to this, the second goal is a transformed community.
You can’t think of the Christian life in purely individualistic terms. We are part of a new family and that family is to nurture one another as we all grow up into the likeness of our elder brother, Jesus. Hebrews states explicitly that this kind of growth happens in the context of redemptive, mutually edifying friendships.
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 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.
It is important to stress that this does not happen automatically, nor without a lot of work, and sometimes it can possibly not happen at all.
One final passage that provides a picture of life in the body of Christ is Colossians 3:12-17:
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Here are a few practical questions for reflection:
- Do I have friends like this in my life?
- Am I that kind of friend?
- Is the church I am part of functioning like this?
- Does our pastoral staff and leadership resemble this kind of redemptive, mutually-edifying friendship?
- How can I grow in this way over the coming year?
In Ephesians 4:15-16, the apostle Paul says that when we are living in these kinds of relationships, we will all grow in maturity.
Copyright © 2013 Tim Lane. All rights reserved.