Community


Could it be that one of God’s purposes in this recession is to reveal whether we are living in true community with one another as Christians?

In Acts 4:32-33, the early church is described as having “one heart and one soul” and God’s “grace was upon them all.”  They were truly a gospel-centered community.  But the evidence of their community is shown in the next verse.  Verse 34 says,

There was not a needy person among them …

Wow.  According to this verse, one way to guage whether we’re living in true community is if anyone is needy in our body.  Jesus said that all people will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.  Loving one another includes sharing our money with those who are needy, perhaps those who have just lost their job.  Contrary to Cain’s response in Gen. 4, we are our brother’s keeper.  We all are connected to one another.  So, we of all people ought to hold onto our money and resources with an open hand and give to those who need it more than we do.

John Piper sums up the challenge of this recession with a word to the church:

[In these days ahead] God will test to see if we are a church or a club. 

  • Read Piper’s sermon, “What is the Recession for?”

From creation to revelation we see that God is on mission.  His mission is to restore a broken humanity into a new community–a community that ultimately reflects the relationship he has with himself in the Trinity.   Tim Chester says,

In the church we are striving with the Spirit’s help to express the plurality and unity of God; to be the one and the many without comprimising either.

We are called as a community on earth to reflect the relationship God has with himself eternally.  We are a preview of heaven; and yet our community is not yet completed.  We are on a mission to bring others into this community, and the way we do that is through our common relationship and partnership in the gospel.

Relationship

When we gave our lives to Jesus we were immediately brought into the family of God.  We have one Father who unites us together as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Within the framework of this family we are called to do life together.  We are called to live out the many “one anothers” of Scripture because of our common relationship in Christ.  This relationship is a picture of the relationship God has within the Trinity.

Partnership

When we gave our lives to Jesus, we were immediately joined to Jesus and to each other.  Just like a body we are connected to each other.  Romans 12::5 says, “In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  The purpose of this partnership is to first build up the body in love (Eph. 4:16) and then promote the gospel to the world (Mt. 5:16).  In so doing, we will reflect the beauty, the unity and diversity of the Trinity.

What does this look like practically?

It means that we stop thinking of our community as merely a horizantal, social activity.  Rather we should start thinking of our community as a vertical, reflection of the Trinity.  We are a living drama of the divine community!  That means that when we’re worshiping together, serving together, or even hanging out together, we are imaging forth the relational nature of God’s being.   We are giving the world a snapshot of heaven–indeed, a snapshot of our heavenly King.  What a joy it should be for us to live under the good rule and reign of King Jesus.  And this joy and love should be seen in our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.  We must make the invisible Trinity visible through our community!

A Daunting Task?

Becoming a community who reflects the love of the Trinity seems like a daunting task for the church today.  It’s very similar to a husband and wife being told that their marriage is a living picture of Christ’s relationship with the church.  Daunting, indeed!  It should bring me to my knees in prayer … all the while remembering Jesus’ prayer for the church in John 17:21.

that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  

  • Read Tim Chester’s great article, “The Trinity and Humanity”
  • Read Total Church, by Chester and Timmis

Jonathan Dodson:

Many people in America approach “church” as a community of convenience, as a product that exists to service their spiritual needs, on their terms, in their time. The Bible, however, holds out a very different concept of church, a community of grace, an imperfect people who forbear, forgive, and love one another. The community of convenience stands in the way of a community of grace. 

Because of the recent ice storm that hit Kentucky this past week, 93 of its 120 counties and 71 cities have been declared states of emergencies.  Many are still without power.  And while the first few days may seem fun for the kids, a week or longer is costly and terribly challenging for everyone.

Yet in all this God is teaching us.  He’s teaching us that we need each other.  David Whitlock, pastor of Lebanon Baptist Church, writes:

Isn’t it strange that we long for what we seem to dread: time alone with ourselves, our families and friends?

It may take hours for enough ice to accumulate on power lines before they are paralyzed. One may not notice the weight of ice on trees before they suddenly snap, and, as if in unison, ricochet like thunder rolling through the forest.

And so it is with one another. Over time we inadvertently create devices that distance ourselves from those we love the most. We don’t realize what is happening. At some point, we feel as disconnected. The power lines uniting us with others have been broken.

The power doesn’t have to go out for us to return to these things that make life with others meaningful and purposeful. We only have to take the time for the little things that bring us together and better ourselves. Corralling a family and friends from the tyranny of modern technology may not be easy, but it is possible. It can be done with forethought and deliberation. It might take planning and agreement with one another, but time together is possible.

One member of our church came up to me on Sunday and told me how the message I preached last week on doing life together could not have come at a better time.  Although her family was without power, she had witnessed the love of her church family in the way they opened up their homes and provided meals.

None of us would ever ask for an ice storm, but in his wisdom God gave us one.  So let us remember one another and remember these words from God’s Word:

By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast.  He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning.  They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.  Whether for correction or for his land or for his love, he causes it to happen.  Hear this O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.  ~ Job 37:10-14

  • Read David Whitlock’s entire article: Lessons from the Ice Storm

Great teams always have great leaders.  It’s clear that both the Steelers and the Cardinals possessed great leadership this season.  We all know about their quarterbacks and their coaches, but I never knew about their owners–specifically Dan Rooney of the Steelers.

While most owners are somewhat stand-offish, Rooney is hands-on.  According to this article, he flies on the team charter, eats lunch with his players, and knows them each by name.  He was recently quoted saying:

We don’t care who gets the credit, and all we want to do is win. It’s very important that a team come together, that they develop respect for each other — you can call it love.”

Wow.  We can learn a lot about leadership from this man.  It made me think of a book I just finished called, Tribes, by Seth Godin.  Though it’s a secular book, there are many golden nuggets for those seeking to lead their communities to “win” and succeed as a team.  Godin says,

The first thing a leader can focus on is the act of tightening a tribe.

Great leaders connect people together to form a close community.  Indeed, when a leader cares about it’s community and the community cares for one another, great things can happen.  I think the Pittsburgh Steelers would agree.

Last week I preached on Our LIFE Together at LBC.  It was Part 3 of a series on the mission of our church.  My particular message was aimed at how we can grow in our relationships with believers.  I spent a little time in John 13:34-35 to show how this passage is the foundation for all the other “one another” passages in the Bible.  From there I challenged our people to be involved in a LIFE class to practically do life together so others may live.

(LISTEN or WATCH here)

My friend, Jonathan, writes a helpful article on the church as a gospel community.

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