As we continue to reflect upon Biblical Community this year, we consider another aspect of vibrant community – its ability to incorporate others into the fabric and life of the existing community. Any group of people that is unable to incorporate others will eventually flounder and die out as the members do the same. But what does it mean to incorporate others?
To incorporate means to include, enfold or absorb. When a community is able to bring others into the inside of the gathering instead of leaving them on the outside, then a healthy vibrancy exists.
So, what does this look like practically? Incorporating others involves inviting them into your networks, social gatherings, recreational times, and bible studies. People feel included when they receive personal invitations to gatherings, not only to official events but to unofficial hang-out times. It is the latter that truly marks the completion of the enfolding process. When a person becomes an insider, part of the fabric of the organization, then true community has happened. Anything short of this merely looks like a facsimile but is devoid of the power of community. And the test of whether someone is on the inside is played out by his or her ability to take the initiative to invite others from outside the group and see them included too.
Incorporation is a powerful part of building a healthy church life. We see Jesus drawing people into his sphere of discipleship and then as the church grows, we see disciples drawing others into the body. One of the most powerful examples is that of Barnabas, who took Saul by the hand and brought him into the presence of the disciples, so that eventually Saul had the freedom to come and go from the midst of the community. They even saw him as their own, empowering him to go and find others to draw into the blossoming community called the church. You can read about this in Acts 9:26-28, 11:23-25, & 13:1-3. Such was the wonder of moving from being an outsider to being an insider, and the church received a fuller teaching of the gospel of grace from Paul’s pen. This would have been missed if the church had failed, humanly speaking, to incorporate Saul into its body.
What steps can we, as individuals in the church, take to increase our ability to incorporate others? First, get contact information from visitors and then give them a call and extend an invitation to join you on a church event or recreational event. Second, respond to any invitations that might be extended to you. Third, keep your eyes open to those people who have come a few times but who don’t have connection outside of Sunday morning, and go out of your way to meet and greet them, and to practice some of that hospitality which has been discussed in prior newsletters. Extend the bounds of your normal Sunday morning social circle by inviting others to come with you as you meet those newer people in our midst.