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Devoted to … ?

Recently I came across a powerful story that speaks into our cultural moment. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian during War World II, formed an intentional community called, Finkenwalde. Bonhoeffer wanted to form future pastors who didn’t compromise to the surrounding culture. This community of believers practiced Jesus’ way of life together and devoted themselves to one another. Here’s a story Charles Marsh wrote on why Bonhoeffer was inspired to start Finkenwalde…

When the two rowers reached the far shore shore, Bonhoeffer led Niesel up a small hill to a clearing from which they cold see in the distance a vast field and the ‘runaways of a nearby squadron’. German fighter planes were taking off and landing, and soldiers moved hurriedly in purposeful patterns, like so many ants. Bonhoeffer spoke of a new generation of Germans in training, whose disciplines were formed ‘for a kingdom… of hardness and cruelty.’ It would be necessary, he explained, to propose a superior discipline if the Nazis were to be defeated. “You have to be stronger than these tormentors that you find everywhere today.” — Charles Marsh, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (146)

Have you ever found yourself thinking, “There’s got to be more?” There’s got to be more to this thing called “church” than I’m experiencing. Or surely there’s more to following Jesus than a checklist of things I must do? Why can’t I find freedom from anxiety, depression, or loneliness? Why do I need to be constantly “fed” entertainment? Why does it seem as if God is absent in my life? There’s got to be more…

We live in a culture that desperately wants to have the last word in our lives. The question, though, is how desperately do you want Jesus? Jesus asks his disciples to “take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) But this doesn’t mean you must do this alone! Just look how the early church pursued Jesus…

They 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. (Acts 2:42-47)

It says “they devoted themselves” to one another. They were even selling off property and giving away personal possessions! It was in their devotion to one another that they witnessed the miraculous, found joy in fellowship, and even found favor among their community. This is what led to growth of the church.

Could it be that that we don’t experience more of God because we let culture disciple us more than we’re willing to submit ourselves to one another in fellowship?

Bonhoeffer believed that in order for disciples of Jesus to remain faithful, in a time of immense difficulty and compromise, then the church must be stronger than the many prevalent cultural forces. The church must form disciples that are resilient to the allures of this world.

This is the beauty of Fellowship Band. A close group of friends, devoting themselves to one another by helping the other pursue Jesus’ way of life. Fellowship Band trains us in a time of compromise and helps cultivate a deeper expectancy to meet with the risen Jesus (Matthew 18:20).

Is there more to following Jesus? Yes! But it is only as we submit to one another that we will see and hear Jesus more clearly. Our formation to Jesus must be stronger than cultural formation.

If you’re interested in growing as a disciple and being formed by Jesus, growing in both intimacy and imitation, please consider joining one of our Inspire online courses this coming year. We would love to help you start an Inspire Fellowship Band, or help to transform your existing small groups into more devoted followers of Jesus.

Anthony is an Inspire Missioner using the Inspire ecology of fellowships to start a new church plant in St Louis, Missouri, USA. 

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