/ January 2015 - Vol. 77
A Community of Disciples on Mission
by Bob Tedesco
In the Sword
of the Spirit, we say that we are a “community of
disciples on mission.” Much has already been written
about this phrase, and I hope only to give an additional
perspective. I believe that this is one of those areas
where all Christian churches could benefit from a
re-examination of each element, and, hopefully, this
might result in a deeper commitment to each
characteristic of the Christian life.
As mentioned earlier, “community” is a word that can
have many meanings and many applications. I was
surprised to read a Model Airplane News editorial which
spoke about the “modeling community” – and even spoke of
“brothers and sisters” in modeling! So, some
applications of the word can be functional or
activity-oriented: the banking community, the racing
community, prayer community, etc. These functions can
and do involve relationships, but it is often the
function that initiates and holds the relationship
Other uses of the word have a more relational intent,
while some groupings imply community without
using the word: family and convent. In these cases
certain activities are implied, but the relationship
continues by definition, whether or not certain
activities continue. I was a member of my parents’
family long after I was not there for evening meals.
Members of a religious order can change the focus of
their work while maintaining their relationship and way
Covenant Christian community is first of all Christian
followers of Christ. It is a set of intentional
relationships (not necessarily family) where the members
seek to live a common way of life described by their
covenant. This relational aspect of community must be
carefully fostered and nurtured to keep from drifting
into becoming functional in our expression of community
life. If we overly identify with our activities, we can
lose the “brother – sister” aspect intended for the
family of God. We might not care for the lonely,
strengthen the weak, visit the sick or comfort the
mourning. We are brothers and sisters for eternity, and
I need to care about your life in the “here and
Within the Sword of the Spirit there are varieties of
expressions that result in brothers and sisters spending
more or less time together; yet we pursue a common way
of life. A single person living with a community family
will spend more time with community members than if
living alone. Folks living in a cluster (community
neighborhood) will find it easier to be together or see
one another than those living at a distance from each
other. Time together is an essential aspect of
relational strength, and decisions should be approached
with the question, “Will this decision mean more
community or less community?” If we decide that
our son should be an Olympic ice skater, we might never
see the Body of Christ again! Moving to that great house
25 miles away may not be as wise as the
less-than-perfect house in a community cluster.
So, community is intentional; it is relational;
it involves spending time together; and it should be a
factor to consider in significant life decisions.
I would like to make a risky distinction here between
believers and disciples. It’s risky because the
scriptural use of the word believer is more serious than
my intention here. I would question the modern pattern
of being a “believer” where we might believe in Jesus,
go to church on Sunday, yet live Monday to Saturday with
little concern for the demands of the gospel. Scripture
says that even the demons believed. (James 2:19)
Discipleship is a discipline that involves instruction,
study, correction and obedience to the Lord. It involves
not only the initial conversion, but also learning
“...to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew
28:20). (See Appendix below – Principles of
Discipleship for us includes pastoral care from
brothers or sisters more experienced in the way of the
Lord. It involves a measure of Christian environment, as
well as having a number of models of Christian living
that we can respect and aspire to.
Our mission involves evangelization and
establishing communities throughout the world who will,
in turn, evangelize and raise up trained and formed
disciples living our way of life.
“...and what you have heard from me before many
witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to
teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2
We support the mission with prayer, with finances, and
with missionaries who join in the work. The Servants of
the Word (our brotherhood) have been key catalysts in
that work and they have been joined by other disciples
regionally and internationally. Our regional
community-building teams have supported communities at
all stages. Our regional youth teams have helped and
supported young Christians. Thousands have given their
lives to the Lord in these outreaches.
Mutual and Necessary Elements
Two pertinent modern management terms are:
- A dynamic state in which combined action is
favored over the sum of individual component
- Behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the
behavior of their parts taken separately.
- Close and often long-term interactions between
different biological species.
- The living together of unlike organisms.
combination of terms
To me, nothing better expresses a combining of necessary
elements in a divine/human endeavor than “a community of
disciples on mission”. As with farming, multiple
elements are necessary, but the Lord provides the growth
(1 Corinthians 3:6). Christian community is made up of
disciples who have mission as the natural expression of
their maturity. Disciples are trained and formed in
community life by older brothers and sisters with whom
they may one day join in mission. Christian mission
re-quires Christian disciples and is supported and
served by the strength of community.
Each element (community, disciples, and mission) is
necessary and mutually important. The Body of Christ
needs all three. When one or another is over-emphasized,
something is lost. When one is almost or entirely
missing, it is “code blue”.
Clark has often described, I may be able to
function without one of my legs, but that is not the
original intent, the original design. Many of our
Christian churches suffer from the lack of community,
the lack of discipleship, or the lack of mission. Some
are even crippled. The Holy Spirit is healing some of
these weaknesses and equipping us to stand.
“And his gifts were to be that some should be
apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors
and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of
ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we
all attain to the unity of the faith and of the full
knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the
measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so
that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and
carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the
cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in
every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from
whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every
joint with which it is supplied, when each part is
working properly, makes bodily growth and up-builds
itself in love.”
- Ephesians 4:11-16
Some Core Principles of Discipleship
the time of Jesus, the crowds were made up of
apostles, disciples, believers, on-lookers,
officials and enemies.
Christians are called to be disciples. (Matthew
worthwhile pursuits require some
initiations/training to begin.
worthwhile pursuits require ongoing training to
varying degrees, discipleship and training are
are multiple stages of life.
is much natural and spiritual wisdom appropriate
to the various stages and challenges of life.
has a plan for my life.
devil has a plan for my life.
is much to learn at each of the stages of life to
embrace God’s plan and thwart the devil’s plan.
involves several elements: the disciple, the
pastoral leader, the community, the scriptures,
the Sword of the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit.
any of the elements of discipleship can help the
process to succeed.
attitudes and posture are critical to the
progress. Am I: teachable? correctible? arrogant?
superior? critical? hopeful? weak of character?
selfish? positive? negative? individualistic?
and commitment are crucial qualities. (Whimsical
“Seinfeld” people will get nowhere).
and societal roles are important to the Lord and
His order. They give us regular opportunities to
either rebel or humbly subordinate our wills,
taming the flesh. (Ephesians 4:11, Hebrews 13:17,
Colossians 3:18-20, 1 Timothy 5, 1 Peter 2:13-17)
are fundamentally responsible for your own life.
are no guarantees about how you will turn out.
are a community of disciples on mission.
believe that Christ has called Christians to be
much more than they have been: for Christ, for
themselves, and for the world.
> See related articles on Christian
Community by Bob
Bob Tedesco is the author of Essays
on Christian Community: Do Covenant
Communities have something to contribute to our
models of church?
Bob Tedesco is past President of the
North American Region of the Sword of the Spirit,
a founder of the People of God community in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and has been one of
its key leaders for the past 40 years.