Editorial

Building godly relationships in Kingdom Communities (Graziano Crepaldi)

At the heart of the Jesus’s disciple life is community that are built on strong relationship. How can we build healthy connections with other believers in a fallen world full of challenges (Eph. 6:10–20)? The devil doesn't want to see our churches grow with loving relationships that are filled with godliness, grace, encouragement and forgiveness. He desires to see us discouraged, fighting against each other because if we're so caught up in our own issues, our focus will not be on Christ. This is the reason why Jesus said that: "... everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). In these months of crisis we have sadly observed many fearful people withdrawing from relationships and the main reason was not because of covid-19 virus. Our spiritual lives seems more comfortable if we sit at home and listen to our favorite online preachers or watch Sunday morning worship on a screen. Community and building healthy relationships can be complicated and dangerous and surely takes effort and sacrifice. Sadly the self- centered culture of the world has crept into our groups, but God didn't design us to be loners in our walk, but He wants us to be in a local body where "love and good works" can be lived out among family. The Scriptures are full of guidance in doing relationships God's way. Let's look at some specific reasons community might have more benefits than we think it does:

COMMUNITY MEETS THE PRACTICAL NEEDS OF THE DISCIPLES

In the early Church people were able to get their physical needs met. In today setting we are often too proud to ask for help and many feel ashamed to let down their walls and be rescued. Since several years we are involved in helping people in need and our workers had not other options in these months to enter in the culture of Acts 2:42-47 when the disciples "devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved". It was a surprise to see so many unbelievers getting involved in our projects as well. The body of Christ was made to support and love one another in practical ways and we can learn a lot about love within the exchange of practical needs. In the community God is opening our eyes to the needs of others. Paul said: "and we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (1 Thess. 5:14). The Bible is teaching us to strengthen those who are down and the community is calling us out from our self-centeredness and self-absorption in order to focus on God and other people in need.
Are you ready to serve others in the community and learn to die to yourself for the sake of love for God and your neighbor?

COMMUNITY CHALLENGES YOU TO BE MORE LIKE JESUS

God’s best tool of transformation is the life of people around us. We often think that about marriage, but God has given community to us as a tool that will help us to become more like Him. "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:24-25). We have a responsibility to encourage one another through discipleship to seek God and His Kingdom. Sadly many churches are more focus on programs than relationships and consequentially many people have learnt to keep their masks (and buy religious ones) and hide their problems. In Proverbs 27:17 we read that "as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another". Kingdom community is a place and a secure environment where God is bringing us back to our past hurts and wants to minister to us through our brothers and sisters and this will give us the opportunity to be refined as followers of Christ.

Are you willing to get out of your fears and isolation and allow people in your community to help you became like Jesus?

COMMUNITY HELPS YOU IN THE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND REVEALS YOUR GIFTS

There is an incredible power when believers come together, make each other accountable and are available to encourage other disciples in the relationship with the Father. We need people that ask hard questions and challenge us to live our faith in the light. "having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude" (Colossians 2:7). The community will help us to became more sensitive to God’s presence and will give us the opportunity to discover our gifts and then use them to bless others. Each one of us has a specific role in the body of Christ and if we learn to work together God will be glorify in our midst (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Are you available to bring your gifts in the community and help others to grow in the relationship with God?

COMMUNITY MEET OUR NEED FOR LOVE AND STRENGTHEN EMOTIONAL FITNESS
The emotional needs are also very important in our life and spiritual growth. Paul challenged the Galatians believers to "carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). We have a responsibility towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. This doesn’t mean that we have to be abused by people around us, but we need to be sensitive and available to those that God has given to us. Our burdens should be first cast on Jesus and not being constantly vomited on others! 1 Peter 5:7 says "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for us". In the last years we have seen few people leaving their teams and churches in time of crisis, where they mostly needed to be helped and corrected. The reason for their reactions often lies in past conflicts (specially in the family) that have never been resolved and the inability to receive input from other people. It’s important to learn to be real with one another, because that’s what a true community is all about. "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Can you receive love and correction from other people of your community? Are you sensitive on the needs of others?

COMMUNITY OFFERS OPPORTUNITIES FOR HEALING

The church, by its very nature as the body of Christ, calls its members to become healing communities. The experience of love, acceptance and support within a community where God's love is made manifest can be a powerful healing force. The Kingdom communities are spiritual families that God has designed to teach us to get real with one another, confess our sins and break free from the things that are holding us back from God’s love. We are so thankful to God for all the leaders and churches that He has used to work in us. "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).

Is your church a place of healing with people available to disciple you and help you get out from your past?

COMMUNITY TEACHES YOU TO FORGIVE AND WORK THROUGH CONFLICTS

In every group and family conflict is inevitable. God is calling us to work through our divisions and seek restoration in our relationships. Our Father is asking us to be peacemaker and not only peace keepers (Matthew 5:9). Recently we saw some dear friends that just stopped speaking to us and completely drop communication. We gave our best to arrive to their hearts, but there was not way."A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city" (Prov. 18:19). They simple stop talking and let the fear of conflict and being confronted taking over their souls, consequentially they escape from valuable relationship. We have notice that often these people are idealizing relationships and keep dreaming of community without conflicts and disagreement. This is not at all a biblical model, but Jesus called us in Mt. 18 to work through our divisions with one another as a team and where is needed with the help of mature leaders. Unity cannot be reached naturally, but it is the work of God in dealing with our pride, past hurts, wrong attitudes and communication weakness. "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought" (1 Corinthians 1:10). Forgiveness is not a religious formula that we speak when we have already decided to move out from difficult relationships, but it is a deep work of God through our interactions in the community. Jesus suffered at the hands of the friends He loved and decided to restore them after they have deserted Him. This is the hardest step we have to take: "above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins..." (1 Peter 4:8-11).

How do you deal with conflicts in your community? Are you willing to grow in relationships in spite of differences?

The believers in the early Church were "continually devoted to one another" (Acts 2:42). This kind of love was unknown in to selfish and evil people and turned the world upside down. We can't devote ourselves to Christ (that is the head of the body) without being devoted to the Church (his body). It is too easy to become offended and cut ourselves off from fellowship, but God gives us the gift of each other as a way to meet our needs for love and learn to became like Him!

Do you want to know how to get started in pursuing a disciple making movement and start Kingdom Communities in your area? We would be honored to walk with you on this journey!

TIPS FOR BUILDING HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

In the book of Ephesians God gives very practical insights into how we are to treat each other.

- Ephesians 4:2 - "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love". Be humble, gentle, bear with one another.
- Ephesians 4:3 - "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace". Keep unity.
- Ephesians 4:15 - "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ". Speak the truth.- Ephesians 4:25 - "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body" . Don't lie to each other.
 - Ephesians 4:26 - “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry". Watch your anger.
- Ephesians 4:29 - "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen“. Watch your words.
- Ephesians 4:32 - "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" . Be kind and forgiving.
 - Ephesians 5:1-2 - "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". Sacrifice for one another.
- Ephesians 5:3-4 - "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving". Watch your jokes.
- Ephesians 5:21 - "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ". Be submitted to one another.
- Ephesians 5:22 - "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord". Wives, submit to your husbands.
- Ephesians 5:25 - "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her". Husbands, love your wives. - Ephesians 6:1 - "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right". Children, obey your parents.
- Ephesians 6:4 - "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord“. Fathers, teach your children God's ways.
- Ephesians 6:5 - "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey
Christ". Employees, obey your boss.
- Ephesians 6:7 - "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men" . Employees, serve Jesus at work.
- Ephesians 6:9 - "And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him". Bosses, treat your employees fairly.
- Ephesians 6:12 - "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms". Don't fight people. Fight the enemy, the devil.
- Ephesians 6:18 - "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints". Pray for your brothers and sisters.