How to Cultivate Community and Purpose

Spiritual unity is crucial in the body of Christ.
Spiritual unity is crucial in the body of Christ. (Lightstock )

In the Great Commission, Jesus told us to make disciples. But making disciples means more than just winning people to Christ—as important as that is. It also means helping them find two things everyone needs and only Christ can provide: community and purpose.

Deep down, we all want to be fully known and fully loved. That's community. We all want to know our life matters. That's purpose. When all is said and done, we want people to come to our funeral and be able to celebrate our legacy.

For believers, the church provides the backdrop for both community and purpose. I know that from personal experience. The first time I sat in church, I felt invisible. I was a teen who had no community and no purpose. My mom was dealing with addiction, and my father had just passed away. I struggled to process the violence and poverty of my childhood in the context of my new relationship with Jesus.

I knew I was a child of God, but I still felt alone. I needed what everyone needs: community and purpose.

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In the Gospel of John, Jesus prayed for the believers He was sending into the world. He wanted them to understand their mission (John 17:18), but He also wanted them to experience unity with one another (John 17:23). Simply put, He prayed they would find community and purpose.

When we find community and purpose, a genuine sense of satisfaction settles into our hearts—a peace that provokes us to action. Errands become divine appointments. Cubicles become a mission field. Church becomes the launching pad for amazing things.

Leading people toward community and purpose is one of the greatest ministries church leaders can provide. I see four ways you can help make that happen in your congregation:

1) Focus on gifts not burdens. In Numbers 13, Moses sent 12 spies to check out Canaan. Ten identified the obstacles, while two embraced the opportunities. The majority saw only the burdens, but Joshua and Caleb recognized God's good gifts.

Pastors can help church members discover their gifts rather than burdens by plugging them into service. Serving others offers a sense of purpose and connects members with others who have similar passions. For believers looking to be part of something bigger than themselves, nothing works better than service.

2) Talk about "and" not "or." Too often, we segment and specialize ministry to the point that people must choose purpose or community instead of embracing both. In reality, emphasizing one to the exclusion of the other creates unhealthy situations. Purpose without community feels like manipulation, but community without purpose is just empty talk with no intentionality.

As a leader, it's important to draw a clear connection between purpose and community. Remind members why they're doing what they're doing in the church and who is being blessed along the way. Make sure members know they are making a difference not just going through the motions.

3) Add more "on ramps." The time between a guest's second visit and his complete disconnection from your church is short—and getting shorter all the time. Churches that provide multiple options for building community and finding purpose have a better chance of making those connections stick.

While you don't want to schedule things just to fill a calendar, you should think about creating different kinds of groups that perform different kinds of service at different times. That takes creativity, but it also creates a culture in which community and purpose can flourish.

4) Expect results. Nothing provides a sense of purpose—and teamwork that builds community—like good, old-fashioned results. When members see their hard work pay off in changed lives, it matters to them, and that's important.

As a leader, you cast that vision. You're the one who reminds believers that while they can't earn God's love, their good works can make a difference for the kingdom. Tell them you're praying for a big harvest—and invite them to be a part of the adventure.

If you listen carefully, you can hear the cries all around you. People are busy yet unfulfilled. They have a thousand friends or followers on social media but feel anonymous. They love their job and still long for work that matters.

People passionately pursue community and purpose. The church can help meet those needs, and your leadership can create the culture that makes a difference in their lives.  

Chris Brown is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor and dynamic speaker carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide. Available on radio stations across the country, "Chris Brown's True Stewardship" provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. Follow him online at, on Twitter @chrisbrownonair or on Facebook (chrisbrownonair.)

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