Dustin Willis has planted, pastored, and now serves thousands of churches in his role at the North American Mission Board. Dustin co-authored Life on Mission and blogs regularly at SendNetwork.com. Additionally, Dustin just released his new book, Life in Community: Joining Together to Display the Gospel. Dustin has a heart to see everyday people join together in the history-sweeping mission of God. I am grateful to have him answer some questions today based on biblical community and his new book.
- You co-wrote the book Life on Mission. Why write a book on community following such a strong word on everyday mission?
I believe that as people live on mission with others, they discover community. And as people live in true community, they will seek mission. If we are not careful, we have the tendency to make an unnecessary divide between mission and community. My friend Todd Engstrom at The Austin Stone said, “The most persuasive argument for the Christian faith is the Christian community.” We must aggressively fight against the false idea that community happens over in one area while mission and evangelism take place separately within their own space or program. When this dichotomy exists, the church’s effectiveness is diminished severely because it compartmentalizes our lives as believers. Community and mission are not in competition with each other—they are inseparable. Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” “Outsiders” need to see the values of biblical community lived out.
- What’s the goal of Life in Community?
The heart behind this work is not more small groups but rather more people experiencing true community. Being in a small group can be a start, but it does not equal biblical community. I have seen many people in group life who hide their true selves and the reality of what is going on in their lives. I want to do all that I can to help people build communities of vulnerability that are centered on the gospel, operate as a family, and live on mission together.
- What’s the starting point of biblical community?
The starting point of a healthy community is our understanding of the gospel. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated, “Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us.” Biblical community is not an affinity group that meets together but rather a people who walk together through the good, the bad, and the ugly while applying God’s grace to one another. I love the way D.A. Carson says it: “What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together…because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance…They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” The gospel has the ability to take people who are very different and make them brothers and sisters.
- In the book, you walk through Romans 12:1-13 while giving practical steps and extremely powerful stories. What would you say are some simple values for biblical community?
A healthy community centered on the finished work of Jesus will facilitate the following actions:
- Confront—Lovingly confront the sin that is hurting your brother or sister.
- Confess—Confess sin to one another.
- Repent—Turn from sin to Jesus with communal accountability.
- Forgive—Receive forgiveness for our rebellion while forgiving one another.
The cross confronts our sin, causes confession, leads to repentance, and delivers forgiveness. As people live out these ideologies and experience the grace given in the cross, living on mission acts as an overflow for that group of people.