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Discipleship Through Community

Every follower of Jesus is called to be a disciple maker. In this excerpt from his book, The Community of God, Pastor Doug Bursch shows us that the New Testament says discipleship happens in and through community.


God cares equally about the individual and the group. He does not give preference to the development of one over the other. With the formation of Eve, God created humans to exist as communal beings, dependent upon each other and their Creator to be one. Before sin entered the world, God declared that “it is not good” for Adam to be alone. What was true for Adam, remains true for every human being. For the children of God to understand fully the goodness of God, we must dwell in meaningful ways with each other. Consequently, community plays a crucial role in any healthy discipleship process.


Jesus discipled through community

This article is Chapter 12 from Douglas S. Bursch, The Community of God: A Theology of the Church from a Reluctant Pastor (Seattle, WA: Fairly Spiritual, 2017), 240 pages, ISBN 9780692868386. Read the review by John Lathrop.

Community was central in New Testament discipleship. Jesus ministered through a group of disciples. The New Testament church continued Jesus’ ministry and discipleship model after Christ’s ascension. In the New Testament, almost every stage of discipleship and growth occurred within the gathered community, specifically through ministry pairings.

Jesus did not minister the kingdom of God alone. Instead, he began his official ministry on Earth by gathering a group of disciples. Jesus ministered to and with disciples because he was fully God but also fully human. Just as it was not good for Adam to be alone, it would not have been good for Jesus to be alone or minister alone. God created humans for community. To rightly express his humanity, Jesus needed to abide with and work through meaningful human relationships. If Jesus had not shared his ministry with other people, he would not have been the perfect expression of a righteous human. To exhibit the perfect expression of humanity, Jesus shared his ministry with others. Through his incarnation, Jesus allowed himself to be dependent upon human relationships. He shared the plan of God with a community of disciples. In gathering the twelve, Jesus showed us that the gospel is fully realized in and through community.

In Jesus’ communal method of discipleship, he did not individually disciple his followers before bringing them into the larger group. Instead, he asked each disciple to join him and learn about him within a community of followers. The disciples discovered God and themselves within and through fellowship with each other. Their knowledge of God and their ministry giftings developed together. Jesus took twelve equally ignorant disciples and discipled them as an interactive group.

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2019

About the Author: Dr. Douglas S. Bursch co-pastors Evergreen Foursquare Church in Auburn, Washington. He is married to his lifelong sweetheart, Jennifer. They enjoy raising their four children together and ministering as a team. Doug serves on the Doctrine Committee and Education Commission of The Foursquare Church and has taught theology courses as adjunct faculty for Life Pacific College and Life Ministry Institute. Doug received his Master of Divinity at The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry at Portland Seminary of George Fox University. Doug has produced and hosted over 1,200 Christian radio broadcasts and currently hosts The Fairly Spiritual Show radio and podcast program. Twitter: @fairlyspiritual

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