I’m not a prophet, but I’d be willing to put money on what I’m about to say next. You have young adults in your ministry who are contemplating suicide, obsessively addicted to pornography, having marital affairs, so angry with how they look that they’re not eating properly, embarrassingly greedy and materialistic, and paralyzed by fear.
If you’re surprised by this, you shouldn’t be. Satan has made his mission pretty clear (John 10:10).
If you’re mad about this, make sure you’re mad at the right thing (Ephesians 6:12).
If you’re saddened by this, brace yourself because you might be partially to blame. Let me explain why.
As ministry leaders, way too many of us have settled for large group gatherings and lots of Sunday school-like Bible studies and very little authentic, gospel community.
Again, Satan has made his goal pretty clear. John 10:10 warns us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (ESV). His number one tactic for accomplishing this is by luring our people (and us) into isolation. We’re weak and vulnerable when we’re alone. Satan can have his way with us when we’re alone because there is nobody there to pick us up, share the burden, encourage us, speak truth into our lives and give us perspective. Therefore, large group gatherings and Sunday school-like Bible studies aren’t enough. We have to do everything we can to lead our people to be in authentic, gospel community!
There are three critical pieces to authentic, gospel community that uniquely help us to stand up and fight against Satan’s destructive and deadly schemes. All three are seen in Hebrews 3:13 and 10:24-25.
First, to be in authentic, gospel community is to have people closely involved in our lives who call us out in our sin. Read Hebrews 3:13. The word “exhort” is the Greek compound word, parakaleo. The first part (para) means, “from close beside,” and the second part (kaleo) means, “to call.” So, to say, “But exhort one another,” is to say, we should have people who are close beside us in our lives who can call us out on stuff! This isn’t something that can happen in a big gathering and it’s not something that typically happens in a Sunday school-like Bible study. Parakaleo involves proximity and intentionality. Satan does not want you in authentic gospel community because he knows that when you have that kind of community, you can be called out on your sin! This is why when we’re being enticed by sin we’re almost always simultaneously being enticed to fall into isolation. It’s easy for people to see our sin when we’re in community; it’s impossible for people to see our sin when we’re isolated.
Side note: Who are people in your ministry that have fallen off the radar? You should probably go after them. Why? See the verse above.
Second, to be in authentic, gospel community is to have people closely involved in our lives who provoke us to love others and serve God more faithfully. Read Hebrews 10:24. The words, “stir up,” literally mean to provoke or irritate. If you’ve ever had poison ivy, then you understand this word. You’re so irritated that you can’t stop itching! That’s what this word means. We’re to consider how to provoke/irritate one another to the point that we can’t help but scratch the itch! Specifically, the goal of authentic gospel community is to provoke each other to love and serve others like God has loved and served us. It’s terribly difficult for things like materialism and greed to thrive in authentic, gospel community.
Third, to be in authentic, gospel community is to have people closely involved in our lives who continually encourage us with the gospel. Read Hebrews 10:25. When Satan lures us into isolation, he buries us beneath the guilt and shame of our sin. It’s so easy for us to lose sight of the gospel when we’re isolated. Weirdly enough it’s often not hard for us to see that the gospel applies to the people around us but it’s hard to remember that the gospel applies to us too! Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We need people in our lives who continually encourage us with this truth!
If we’re not doing everything we can to get our young adults into authentic, gospel community, then we’re not doing our job.
Are you leading your people to be in authentic, gospel community? If not, why not? And if not, why not start now?
Austin Wadlow and his wife, Lesley, live in Iowa where he serves as the Teaching Pastor and Salt Company Director at Keystone Church in Ankeny, IA. You can connect with Austin via Twitter: @austinwadlow