Communal and Individual.
Like a tightly knit military unit, Christians stand alone together. Our godliness, service and mission have both an individual and a communal aspect.
The entire community of Christ-followers needs teaching and exhortation about submitting our lives to the King and living lives worthy of the gospel. Gifted teachers and godly shepherds provide this for us, and we also encourage and exhort one another to live lives worthy of the kingdom. We grow together and we do life together.
The entire community also needs teaching and exhortation about the mission God has entrusted to us. We serve in this mission collectively. One important way of doing so is that loving relationships among us make known that we are disciples of Christ (John 13:34-35). The body of Christ has also been entrusted with a wide range of spiritual gifts which collectively enable us not only to build up the body, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, but also to serve the world, as we are discussing here. We sometimes reach out to serve and tell the good news in groups or pairs of people (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1; Acts 13:2-4). In these ways and more, our godliness, service, and mission have a communal aspect.
Yet each of us must also take responsibility for these things individually. I hear teaching and exhortation from my brothers and sisters, but I must personally take it to heart and act on it in my life. This includes my general lifestyle, how I conduct my relationships, the way I use my gifts, and my responsibility to reach out to those not in Christ. Those who have a gift of being an evangelist may do more of the latter than others, but all of us are called to participate in sharing the good news when God gives us an opportunity (1 Peter 3:15; post).
I do have freedom to choose whether I respond to the teaching and exhortation I hear. The church does not “make” me do these things, because Christianity is not imposed as law from the outside but rather begins in the heart and then works its way out in our lives. I will be better if I do respond to the teaching and worse if I don’t, but my will is preserved regardless. The choice is mine.
Because people have a choice, and also because people have been in Christ for different amounts of time, there will always be different levels of maturity among God’s people as well as differences in readiness and ability to reach out to others. Hopefully, though, we will all live and serve to the point we have already attained (Philippians 3:15-16) but still keep striving to grow to full maturity (Philippians 3:12-14).
Empowering Subjects takes into account both the communal and individual aspects of Christianity as well as the different levels of maturity and readiness.
The seminar portion of Empowering Subjects focuses primarily on the kingdom of God. Consequently, is appropriate for everyone, regardless of whether they have the inclination or maturity to reach out to others. Learning the meaning of Christ’s kingship and taking it to heart will benefit all believers. Any individual who attends and takes the teaching to heart will grow spiritually. The experience of hearing the kingdom message together will also provide a basis for participants to encourage and exhort one another collectively in the future.
The seminar portion of the ministry includes an explanation of the follow-up portion that follows. That portion is for those who are ready and willing to be trained to be the workers Jesus said are needed in his harvest field (Matthew 9:37-38). Each individual will decide whether he or she is ready and willing to make the time and investment for this training. Though a person may have come to the seminar with little inclination to reach out to others, a heart-grasp of the teaching about the kingship of Christ may provide a basis and motivation for them to consider being equipped as a worker to share this good news with others.
In all cases, however, the choice to participate in the follow-up training is a free will decision of each individual. The need and opportunity will be described, but there is not a high pressure or emotional appeal for everyone to sign up. After all, it is the Lord of the Harvest who sends out the workers (Matthew 9:38). So I will be praying that the Lord will indeed do this, and the leadership will be invited to pray the same in the weeks leading up to the seminar. Then, each individual can decide. Those individuals who have the inclination and can make the time to do the work, sign up for the follow-up. Here they will offer their hearts to God in a special way for thirteen weeks so that he can mold them into the workers he desires.
The follow-up portion of Empowering Subjects includes both the individual and communal aspects. Each person is asked to watch a ten minute video each week and then download about fifteen pages of material. This material includes reading, reflection, questions, prayer, and practical applications. This provides a structure and material that each individual can work on throughout the week so that God can equip them.
Each week those who are working on the material individually will also come together collectively in one or more small groups to share, listen, and support each other in the growth and training. There is a facilitator to keep the discussions focused, but the group members together will share, “teach” and learn from each other.
Some aspects of Empowering Subjects are either individual (the reading and study) or communal (the small group). Other aspects can be either or even both. For example, some of the practical applications will need to be done individually but some are best done with a partner, and this is encouraged. Likewise the videos can be watched alone or the group may choose to view the upcoming week’s video together at the close of their group discussion.
At the end of the follow-up, each individual will hopefully apply what he or she has learned in their everyday lives, even as they will have begun to do during the training. But it is also strongly recommended that those who have shared this experience will also discuss and decide on one or more ways they can continue the focus on changing the world like Jesus together. The support and camaraderie of the group that has developed along the way can continue to provide support for God’s mission at that particular congregation. If a church has enough people doing the follow-up that multiple groups are formed, even people who were in different groups will share some camaraderie in the mission because of the common experience of working through the same material. In these ways, Empowering Subjects preserves the free will of people and is both individual and communal.
For more about how Empowering Subjects is equipping workers for the harvest, see here.