Community development and facilitation should be THE primary function of leaders, pastors, and elders. Their job is to equip the body to do the ministry of the gospel, not to just do ministry to the body. If leaders do all the ministry, it is like parents always picking up after their children, a dependency, not independence is developed. The focus of leader activity should be on helping people to so fall in love with Jesus that they will love their brothers and sisters and that will draw the lost to this love faith family. When Jesus is real and the Holy Spirit is working within the faith family, worship, prayer, singing, and sharing are natural outcomes. Howard Snyder reminds us: “If Jesus Christ actually gave more time to preparing a community of disciples than to proclaiming the good news (which he did), then the contemporary Church must also recognize the importance of community.”
It takes time and a great deal of effort to get to know people in churches today. We are no longer a few doors away. Leaders need to work diligently to facilitate and use every sort of means to help people to know one another, know their burdens, and have opportunities to encourage and be blessed by one another, etc. This will happen best in smaller groups, but somehow the whole church family also needs to be brought closer together. Various small group interactions provide the best and most intimate setting, but involving people with each other, getting people acquainted with victories and defeats, blessings, and pains — a feeling like the “group” is actually a caring family, can be developed through many avenues that most church don’t actively push. Leaders should seek to make spiritual community building a part of every aspect of church activities. If people don’t even know the names of the people they sit around, it is often a failure of the leaders. If people are going through crises, have special needs, have an exciting blessing, and those around them have no way of knowing or hearing about it, it is often a failure of leadership.
Without loving care, modeling, and planning by the leaders a church is merely a conglomeration of individuals and maybe pockets of spiritual community. The church-wide community is often neglected because leadership focuses on some of the small groups that seem to be showing solid community. It is much more enjoyable to work with people who are blessing the Lord through their committed service and involvement. Their work, however, is to the whole body. If leadership could get a fair survey on how much of the church family under them is functioning on a spiritual interactive level, most would have to be considered “handicapped”. Most people feel they are somewhat handicapped if their knee is painful, or their little finger is sprained. What if a major portion of the body is asleep or non-functioning? That is the report of many churches. That may be the lack of leadership.
~ Sally Morganthaller