A Healthy Leader Needs Christian Community

diverse friends meeting together

The labor of childbirth began in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. I didn’t have to race to the clinic, but I wouldn’t be teaching the children at church that morning. My husband called the Bolivian pastor to tell him we wouldn’t be at church. An hour or so later, there was a knock at the door and in walked the pastor with about 8 church members. I thought, What? I’m a mess! I’m in labor, for crying out loud. But I smiled and welcomed them. I can’t remember if I offered them water in the culturally appropriate manner. Probably not! They laughed and talked and then prayed for me. Within half an hour, they left for church.

What was the best thing about being a part of that faith community? They came when I was in labor and prayed for me. What was the worst thing about being a part of that community? They came when I was in labor and prayed for me!

Oh, community . . . if community makes us irritated, we are in good company. In the Bible, Martha wasted time complaining about her sister, Mary. If community makes us want to go our separate ways, we can call to mind the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36–41). When people in community don’t act the way they should, we can see how Barnabas had to persuade Jesus’ followers to include Paul in the group.

Living the Grace-Life

Like it or not, the church, which is a community of believers, was designed to live life together and proclaim Christ to each other and the world around it. For that to work, grace is required. Sometimes we are the receivers of grace. And often, especially as leaders, we are the ones who extend grace.

This can be an even bigger challenge when we are working at living a missions-permeated life. When we choose to live beyond ourselves, the efforts required at extending and receiving grace are much more challenging. What may seem a loving gesture in one culture may be rude in another. What may seem a trivial gift to you may have cost the giver a great deal.

Back to that Sunday long ago: a healthy baby boy was born and the church celebrated with us. They prayed over him, dedicating him to the Lord and promising to love him and pray for him as he grew. He played with their children and worshipped with their families. Were we always pleased with our life in the community? Maybe not. Did they understand everything we did? Also, likely not. But we are all richer for having lived shoulder to shoulder with followers of Jesus who were not just like us. And the reunions around the throne are sure to be sweet!

How are you doing at living the grace-life in your community of believers?

Danette High is an International Mission Board missionary emerita, the editor of Missions Mosaic, and the main presenter of the CWLC course Follower Skills.


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