Displaying Christ-centered community to our international neighborsby Andrew Sheely, Contributing Writer
“I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message…..may they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.” – John 17:20, 23
On the night Jesus was betrayed, He spent an extended time of prayer with the Father. He asked that God would be glorified as Christ fulfilled the work He was sent to accomplish. As Jesus was looking toward the cross, our Savior also interceded on behalf of his followers.
A truly unique element of this prayer is that Jesus prayed not only for His current disciples, but for all who would come to believe because of the testimony His followers would soon share.
In these moments, Christ asked that His future followers (including us today) would be unified just as He and the Father are one. He asked this so that the world would believe God had sent Him and would know the abounding love the Lord has for them.
How fascinating it is that one of the primary mechanisms God uses to display His love to the world and affirm the truthfulness of Christ’s incarnation is the unity of His church. Unfortunately, this is an element that is lacking from much of our evangelism and disciple-making today, particularly when it comes to reaching our international friends and neighbors who are far from Christ.
Many who come to the United States as refugees, immigrants and students are coming from environments that deeply value family and community. These new neighbors are often confused when they encounter the individualistic culture that dominates many of our Western churches.
Christ’s powerful prayer should challenge us to evaluate the way we view the church’s role in relating to outsiders. There is profound value in displaying deep Christ-centered community to our international neighbors. If we can learn how to better embody this unity, we can confidently expect those who are far off to be drawn near to the truthfulness of Christ’s message.
We have been redeemed into a new community, so let us live as that kingdom community and invite those who are lost, hurting and broken into it. This goes beyond merely inviting others to church (although there is a time and place for that). Instead, we should learn how to actively display Christian community as we invite others into our daily lives throughout the rest of the week.
Combining this lifestyle with an active, verbal proclamation of the gospel message accomplishes two things. It not only verifies the authenticity of our words, but it also shows the true belonging others can find in Christ Jesus.
At the end of the day, you do not have to add more events to your calendar. Simply be willing to add more lost people into your weekly rhythms. Simple events like dinners, games nights, and sporting events can all be transformed when we view them in light of their potential kingdom purpose. Let’s learn how to break down our cultural tendencies and start sharing Christ through the way we interact with our brothers and sisters among the lost.
May we be made completely one so that the Father’s love would truly be made known in this world and all would understand that Christ came to establish an eternal kingdom community.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Andrew was born in Meridian, Miss. He is currently pursuing a master of divinity in missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is passionate about reaching the nations near and far with God's glorious gospel and empowering Christ's church to do the same.