ICP trainer and church planter Sara Mohi recently spoke on the topic “What is community” at LIFE! Rotterdam. Here is a translated excerpt from her message. Notes taken by Theo Visser. Translation into English by Mardi Anderson.
When we gather, we celebrate supper with different breads, to emphasize that community is varied. We always tend to partake in what we know, our own bread. But now, very consciously, we take another piece of bread to emphasize that we are all a part of the multicoloured body of Jesus.
When we start a house group in Iran, we always put out an extra empty seat. Even if we are two people, we have three chairs. We pray for that empty chair: “Come home. You belong to the family of God. Lord, who is this child of yours? We pray that everything that prevents this person from coming would be released.”
And when that person joins our community, do they feel like they are coming home, or are they just a number? We drink tea together. We have a meal, something to eat and drink together. We celebrate ‘Koinonia’ (the Greek word for ‘community’) with that person first, not as an after-thought.
Community is all about relationships; I need people who can lovingly point out my mistakes. People who can say, “I see God at work in you and I stand by you.” A community is not results-oriented but is focused on Jesus as King and His work in people’s lives.
Our community is made up of people who are on a long journey to conformity to Christ. We have come into contact with snipers who have killed people, pornographically addicted people, even some who have beaten wives and kids. We have had to deal with great evangelists who were two-faced at home. We offer everyone safety. We continue to pray together, encourage each other, and commune together.
We also help each other to stand in our destiny. Community is helping each other to determine ‘who am I and what can I do?’. Members of the community give each other scriptures as encouragement, or buy things to help meet each others’ needs. We help with kids and errands and problems. We offer homework support. Practice and failure is the climate for growth; it encourages humlity and servant hearts.
Prayer and testimonies keep community healthy. What we experience with God, we owe to God to share with others. We allow everyone to share testimonies, especially of the day-to-day things. “We prayed together last week. Now I could finally speak to my father.” It is great practice. It fills us with hope and faith. It encourages everyone to keep asking God, together. It encourages everyone to be uninhibited! We pray together for miracles, for salvation and for forgiveness.
A community is a welcome place for the spiritually lame and blind. For those who find it difficult to pray or read the bible, we say, “Come on, let’s do it together.” There is growth.
Our group in Iran started with 3 people and grew much bigger. Someone learned to play the guitar; he was encouraged by the group, and now he plays great. We baptize people in our bathroom. In the beginning, if we didn’t have a bathroom, we would fill a tub with water and pour it over someone because we thought you had to be really soaked from the water. Under the bed, we keep a cross that we take out when we celebrate church together.
Community doesn’t have to take a specific shape. It can look like a regular part of life. After a meal is shared, we share God’s word. When we have a baptism, we dance and eat cake! In Iran, we like symbols. As a sign that someone belongs to Jesus, we throw a red scarf around them as a sign that this person is covered in the blood of Jesus. Your typical way of celebrating becomes the community’s way of celebrating!
We do everything together. We cry and laugh together, and share our lives. From our group, 15 small communities have emerged! There are different breads, torn apart yet gathered together. Ecclesia. All part of the multicoloured body of Christ, our King!