An empowered community has always got to experience three conversions:
- For the Christian community to be truly empowered the community must first be converted to Christ; absolutely adore him, be in love with and pursue him. He is the power and the glory! Without him in the picture, then the community may well be Christian but will be feeble and weak.
- Secondly for a community to be empowered they must be converted to the church. What Christ is trying to build is the church. He is not trying to build an institution, he’s not trying to build a ministry. However we see his message about the kingdom and however much it resonates with us we must not lose sight of the fact he’s trying to build the church. If communities are to be empowered they must recognise the chief work of the Holy Spirit in our midst which is to build a strong church. This is not just the church of the strong but a church which embraces the weak, the marginalised and the poor Romans 14:1–3.
- Then thirdly for a church community to continue to live an empowered life, it must align itself with the work of the Holy Spirit and recognise what he is trying to accomplish through the church; which is to heal a broken world. If the community is to be empowered then it will draw power from the purposes of heaven
And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. John 17:11
There are certain ministries which facilitate and enable the inner workings of the community in all three areas of conversion; a bit like bread it goes down smoother with butter. In the church the context of well functioning community is where Ephesians 4 ministries in all their diversity and variety are encouraged and allowed to function.
Leadership must deal with insecurities, anxieties and fears both personal and within the community if they’re not to withhold honour or disempower others that God is seeking to raise up. Therefore every community needs an apostolic anointing on it because apostolic ministry and apostolic mindset breeds the kind of culture where people are raised up. Because of this every church needs apostolic teaching flowing into its midst just as we see in the new Testament. There we read that they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, why? Because it is essential for foundational understanding of the relational context in which we all going to thrive .
Everyone must be made to feel powerful because everyone is! Apostolic teaching brings that understanding. It’s not skewed to one type or style of ministry but champions the diversity of life so there is a church diverse and varied both in ministry style and expression enabling the community to embrace each other . Paul reminded the new testament believers that to some is given the message of knowledge to others the gift of healing. The church learns that there are many giftings and all are to be embraced and celebrated.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42 (NRSV)
For a community to be an empowered community it must learn to make use of the powers it has and have a space in which to practice the graces that have been given. Jesus goes on a walk with his disciples; they learn how to heal and are able to do so. With some others gifts they struggle. With dinner ministry they find the task impossible and needed further coaching. They were allowed to make the mistakes and learn on the job. For a community to be empowered we must allow individuals in the community to make mistakes and not to protect them from such. An empowered community then will perform many signs and wonders.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2 43-47 (NRSV)
Finally if a community is going to be empowered there must be clear and healthy boundaries. Everyone must know what is acceptable and not acceptable in the community; especially in such a context where diversity is encouraged, people are free to experiment, bring new ideas and be creative. Boundaries are essential in a culture where individuals will take risks which may well-land them in difficulty. So what are the boundaries that an apostolic, empowered community should expect to see?
- We should expect to see a championing of Christ in everything. We are all followers of the chief apostle Christ and we should expect everyone to believe in his nature, divinity and person, following him as master.
- Secondly we take our moral compass from Christ, He’s full of grace and truth, he is merciful towards sinners but is absolutely clear about sin.. The Christ we follow is not ambiguous about sin but He also sets a higher standard of love. Moral ambiguity creates uncertainty and anxiety in the community. An empowered community must understand where the boundaries of sin lie and will see the boundaries as inclusive rather than exclusive. In other words if people in the community fail or make mistakes they have an open door policy which welcomes back the prodigal, taking their nature from the Father who is willing to welcome back all the prodigals and doesn’t leave them feeling condemned guilty or rejected. The clear boundaries of scripture show the choices that must be made, will you be in Fathers will or out of it; but the culture of an empowered community is ‘Father like’ and makes clear that you’re always welcome to come back in. Such boundaries enable security in the community and a clear sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
- Finally an empowered community will not just see a healthy and vibrant increase in the character of believers within; but as the scripture implies will see people added to their number on a daily basis