Community is only as strong as what it’s built upon, and nothing is as strong as the gospel –Matt Chandler, “The Explicit Gospel”
This truth is a brief overview of a truth that has been moving my heart for the last few months. As a young adults pastor, I have the privilege to work with many young people who are passionate about their relationship with God. One thing that I have seen to be true for many of these young people is a desire to be a part of real community. Many of them, myself included, have had some experience with living in community at some point in their lives (at camp, Bible College, YWAM, Capernwray etc.) and something about those times that we’ve had has made us wonder: is that type of community possible in everyday life? I want to venture that this type of community is not only possible, it’s what God intends.
Over the next few weeks, I am going to be taking a look at some of the characteristics of the early Church from Acts 2:42-47:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This passage has always moved me in a significant way. For a long time, I believed that this type of community was something that was meant just for these early believers and to start a worldwide movement. Believing this has allowed myself (and others) to settle into the North American view of community (highly steeped in individualism and focussed on community for what ‘I’ can gain from it). Words like ‘intentional’ and ‘authentic’ have become buzzwords because, in our quest to apply them, we haven’t really seen any lasting change… Where have we gone wrong?
I don’t want to spend a lot of time focussing on the negatives, I also don’t want to just propose a new model for the Church and community based on the early Church. I am also not a deconstructionist in the least… I love local Churches and believe that this expression of Christianity is essential to seeing God’s Kingdom come in cities as well as rural areas in North America. What I do believe is this: our Churches need to be built on the foundation of Gospel-centered community. It’s so easy for church leaders to bang their heads against the wall trying to ‘build community,’ but these type of efforts are often rooted in the lie that events and programs will form community rather than a community expressing it’s pursuit of Jesus, love for neighbour and longing for ‘togetherness’ by hosting events.
As believers, I believe we need to shift our focus by asking, what is at the center of our focus and drive? What unites us as believers and as a community? If we want to create a community that reflects the early Church, the gospel needs to be at the core of who we are as believers. I am going to simplify the idea of ‘gospel’ today and define simply as this:
The gospel is the story of a loving, missionary God who wants to restore all of creation to His original intent through the the incarnation, ministry, death, and ascension of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit through the Church.
(For a longer look at “What is The gospel?” click here for an excellent resource). This truth needs to be central to who we are as believers individually and who we are as believers corporately. This truth is what led the early Church to live as they did. As I was preparing for a sermon I preached on this, I was struck by the fact that the early Church did not have a manual on how to ‘do church’ or ‘be church…’ What they had is people who were completely obsessed with the man, Jesus Christ and who would go to any length to see His mission (restoring humanity to God through His death and resurrection and making disciples) continue to the ends of the Earth. In fact, Paul believed this so strongly that He wrote these words to the Corinthian Church:
17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 1 Corinthians 15:17
The gospel was central to the early believers and this is what caused the kind of community that they had. It was not because they were following a Church model or a discipleship model. It’s because they were led by people who had spent time with Jesus, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and encouraged the gospel to impact every area of their lives. I think we forget that the Early Church was full of broken people who had normal lives, normal jobs, normal families… the way that we can start to see community like the early Church had is not to try to create an ‘early church’ model, but to commit ourselves to being gospel centered people, disciples of Jesus willing to give anything to see His mission continue on the Earth. Acts 2:42-47 (posted above) was the natural response of the first believers to the reality of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
I am going to be taking a bit of time to look at Acts 2:42 and see how the early Church responded with a series of blog posts, hopefully causing each of us reading to look at how we are responding (and if we really are responding) to the reality of the gospel in our lives. Please follow and interact with me as I go!