Building Community

Building Community

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How does a church become a community? How does a community become a family? These questions have challenged many pastors and church leaders. I don’t pretend to know a better or more all encompassing answer than any others. (This should decrease your confidence in me as a leader!) However, I do know that God’s Word is very clear that Christians are expected to live in community together, to function as a spiritual family. God chose this purpose for his people intentionally. I also know that God is a gracious Father, a generous King always willing to provide what his people need. Based on God’s vision for the church and his gracious character, I do have confidence that we will be given all that we need to build our church into a community, a spiritual family, envisioned by his Word and sustained by his power. Here are a few thoughts we should have in mind as we begin this journey:

1. Biblical Community is a gift and need, not a demand. Salvation would be endlessly glorious without a company of fellow believers. The gift of a spiritual family should produce gratefulness. Seeing the New Testament picture of community should make us grateful, hopeful, humble, and eager, not demanding, reproachful, and resentful, whatever our current experience of community is. We don’t want to be like the little child who complains that his Christmas gift isn’t big enough.

2. Biblical community should be….Biblical. Our relationships together should reflect the specific calls to community that we see in God’s Word. Like all Biblical commands, the community commands and patters of the Scriptures will never be fulfilled perfectly, but this does not allow us to start with a different paradigm.

3. Community should embrace all of life. Our community should not spurn practical care or denigrate a normal meal together, nor should we resist theological discussions or accountability. Our goal is not to isolate a certain portion of our life and call it “Biblical Community”. Rather we are asking how we can eat and drink and do whatever we do for the glory of God….together.

This worth expanding upon.

A life should include a healthy diet, rest, and exercise. We don’t feast on medicine, and we don’t stay in bed 24/7. Steak isn’t usually good for an afternoon snack, and an apple alone isn’t a balanced diet. Our spiritual life together should be the same. Biblical community should include growing in theology, simple encouragements, practical care for each other, the warnings of accountability, serving together, praying and worshiping together, joyful enjoyment of God’s blessings in all of life, and earnest exhortations to believe the good news. All of these together constitute healthy spiritual life and we should not assume that some are unnecessary.

4. Community, like family, should include infants and grandparents. A biblical community should find a way for the spiritually mature and the spiritual newborns to enjoy each others’ company. The mature should not feel that they have to hide their experience in the faith or their theological depth, the infants should not feel that they are disqualified from genuine spiritual fellowship.

5. Community requires hard work. We must not assume that we drift toward Biblical community, since we don’t drift toward anything good in this fallen world. The New Testament describes normal Christian growth as a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. The desire to be selfish must be overcome by the desire to serve. The desire to be stingy must be overcome by the desire to be generous. Bitterness must be overcome by forgiveness, conflict by peace, deceit by honesty, self-righteousness by humility. The point is, honoring God in his call to community requires sowing to the Spirit.

6. Community is. Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes this point brilliantly in his little book “Life Together.” Without neglecting the command to “build” community–we have to start by recognizing that through our union with Jesus Christ we have already been decisively built together as a community in Him. Our job is to function in that union, not create something out of nothing. This should build our faith for the future of our experience of community and our love for those Christians that are around us, since we share the same Savior and derive our spiritual life from the same Spirit.

That’s all for now. Our church will be announcing our first two small groups on November 3rd. Our first small group meetings will be the evening of November 17th. That night the gathering will be a whole family get together, complete with dinner and fun. Can’t wait to continue the journey of building community together at Redemption Hill Church.