Community Building

by Morris Ruddick on July 16, 2012


© Morris E. Ruddick


“For creation itself longs for the revealing of the sons of God that it might be delivered from the bondage of corruption as it gains entrance into this glorious freedom.”   Romans 8:19-21

Biblical community is the pinnacle of God’s people operating together with a common purpose. Abraham portrayed the model with the interrelated dimensions of being God-centered, entrepreneurial and community-driven. The Jewish Torah gives keen focus to the operating principles for biblical community. Jesus indicated when the community of God’s people function together as God intends that it demonstrates God’s reality and draws the world to Himself.
“Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16

While the world has come up with many approaches to community; none begin to compare. Biblical community is an expression of both the discipline and maturity of its members. It thrives on a high-level of trust and service, fueled by the community dynamic of tz’dakah, which is charitable righteousness. It grows through a unique use of spiritual power driven by servant leadership. It is a safe place of spiritual nurturing, while simultaneously being an incubator for the encouragement and growth of the giftings of its members. With that will be a common higher purpose that endures beyond its generations.

According to the standards in the Jewish Mishnah, the smallest element of community is known as a minyan. Whenever ten Jews live within walking distance of one another, a minyan is formed. This small group serves simultaneously as the most basic element for public worship; but also as a means of mutual support and connection in order to cultivate the success of its members.

Then, when a hundred Jews are within walking distance, they form a congregation, which continues to serve the same functions on a larger scale. These proactive approaches to community address the realities of a people of faith living in a corrupt world. It’s the basis of Jesus’ charge to be a light to the world.

God’s Gift of Community
The biblical response to the oppression, affliction and sorrow evident in the world’s system is tz’dakah or righteous charity, which is community faith-in-action. However, far more proactive than benevolence, Jewish tradition holds that the highest form of tz’dakah is helping someone to start a small business. This community standard within Judaism upholds that none within the community will go hungry or be homeless. Members of the community take care of their own.

As such, community is a gift of God, the unique elements of which are unveiled in Psalm 107. This psalm describes the reality of the challenge of living in a fallen world; and the solution that keeps God’s people from being seduced and overcome by the evil that devours and evolves into the stronghold called wickedness.

Community. Biblical community is a safe place with God at the center. In the opening verses of this psalm, when God’s people reach out to Him, the foundational step in this divine protection and provision is in establishing community.“They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; they found no city [community; safe place] to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses.  He led them forth by the right way, that they might find a city [community] for a dwelling.” Psalm 107:4-7

Righteousness. The second step in the development of biblical community is breaking the bondages of corruption and establishing the biblical standard of community righteousness.
“They sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and irons; because they rebelled against the words of God, and despised the counsel of the Most High. Therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces.”
Psalm 107:10-14

Spiritual Autonomy. As the community matures, previously subtle, but embedded evil will manifest giving challenge to the spiritual authority within the community. The result of this community dissonance releases afflictions that either needs to be cleansed or removed. When that takes place, God’s supernatural power will be released.
“Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted. Their soul abhorred all manner of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”
Psalm 107:17-20

Dominion. When the community has developed to the stage of embracing its common purpose, there will be challenges that need to be overcome in making it self-sufficient and a means to facilitate increase and provision for its members. Establishing God’s authority over the resisting elements is foundational to God’s original purpose for creating man: to rule over the work of His hands. It involves a proactive community response to their dependency on God.
“Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven.”
Psalm 107:23-30

This incredibly revealing Psalm goes on to give a picture of the conflict going on in the world. It explains the consequences to corrupt power; and the eventual righteous intervention of the Lord when oppression, affliction and sorrow amass in manifesting against the righteous.

God-Centered Community
The dynamic of God-centered community evolves around a shared identity. With the foundation of this shared identity in God will be a unity that comes from a common purpose that brings increase and provision; and serves to the benefit and development of the entire community.

Tz’dakah extends opportunity to all. It impacts the way that “increase” is handled. Contrary to the way the world normally operates, the Torah admonishes us not to squeeze everything we can out of a deal.  In the Jewish principle known to this day as gleaning, room should be given for part of the increase to spill over to the poor and less fortunate; allowing them the dignity of work in order to establish themselves.
“When you are harvesting in your field and overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.”
Deuteronomy 24:19-21

Having served the leadership of communities of believers in sixteen nations, I’ve seen an array of communities-in-action. These range from the most common conception of a community of believers: as the regular attendees of Sunday services; to the more proactive members of the persecuted Body who encourage opportunity for its members and are a true light to the extended community around them.

One of the more dynamic groups we have extended our program to is a Messianic congregation in a former CIS state. Its members participate, as one, in an Alpha Course specially adapted to engage the Jewish community spiritually. They have a special approach to honoring and serving holocaust survivors. They are responsive to the needs of those in lack.

However, one of their more dynamic initiatives is their entrepreneurial groups that we helped them set up. Based on the minyan concept, these groups are led by spiritually mature persons with business ownership expertise, who meet twice a month. These two hour sessions include the first hour for prayer requests directed toward the success of existing businesses; or for the businesses being planned. The second hour is an interactive time of sharing wisdom designed to develop plans, overcome hurdles and otherwise foster the success of its members. In short, these minyan-sized groups build community by serving the dual purpose of spiritual mentoring and business incubators for people of faith. They’ll be explained in more detail in the next post.

Community Builders
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul clearly explains the key elements in this dynamic for building biblical community. Nurturing and harnessing the combined gifts of its members serves the common purpose of a higher good for the community and the Kingdom.
“For because of Him the whole body, closely joined and firmly knit together by the joints and ligaments with which it is supplied, when each part [with power adapted to its need] is working properly [in all its functions], grows to full maturity, building itself up in love.”
Ephesians 4:16 (AMP)

When God-centered community develops according to this standard there will come a maturity in the way it operates, that not only releases its members into their callings, but prepares them with a mantle of leadership, each within their own sphere.

It is the “something more” spiritual dimension that can only be ascribed to working together in unity under the power of His Spirit.  It is released to the members who become enablers; who facilitate opportunity for others. This enablement of opportunity is at the core of those we describe as community builders.

Job was a genuine community-builder. God was preparing him for promotion; for something more that only could have come from God. His friends misread the intent of his reversals with their limited view of success. Job not only prevailed, but despite the dubious part played by his friends, was instrumental through his prayers in bringing them with him, as he was released into new, higher dimensions in his effectual role as a community builder.

Community builders advance God-centeredness. They exhibit tz’dakah in all their endeavors. Community builders embrace community responsibility and provide an entrepreneurial, growth orientation with their activities. They are people who demonstrate integrity, fairness and trust in all they do; while promoting the work ethic. Community builders operate with faith as risk-takers and cultivate both vision and opportunity among other members of the community.

The bottom line is that community building is the practical application of the exponential of man ruling over the work of God’s hands. Community builders serve as enablers and replicate themselves. They mobilize and enrich the function of others to serve in building community with the balance between the spiritual and economic riches of His glory. They are catalysts for growth among gatherings of those breaking the mold and embracing the model of God-centered entrepreneurial community. Community builders are leaders and examples in their own entrepreneurial community building agendas. They are standard-bearers for the model, the mandate and mantle; as servant-leaders advancing the community good.

The Community Builder Challenge
The community builder challenge is in bringing change and making a difference through community. At its core is the mobilization and equipping of the believing entrepreneurial community; the nurturing of the combined gifts; the impartation of a Kingdom perspective; the release of the entrepreneurial initiative; and opening the gates for their light to shine while building bridges with the broader community.

In the next post we will address the dynamics of the strategy we use to build community builders; how in environments hostile to people of faith, to make God’s people to be the head and not the tail.

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