What would it look like if the Church today adopted the values and priorities of the early Church? Is this kind of community even possible today? I firmly believe that it is! In my last post, I took some time to look at the reality that the early Church lived as they did as a response to the fact that the actually believed in the power and purpose of the gospel (check it out here)…Today I want to look at the foundation of a community that lives like this. Before I take some time to look at that, though, I’ve attached a sermon that I preached a few weeks ago at my church that covers a lot of what I am going to be talking about in this blog. When you have some time, check it out!
What I want to look at today is what often unites people. Think about a time that you have really felt like you were a part of something. Maybe it was a club, a sports team, a membership somewhere or with some sort of team. I’m sure in that time you really felt connected to other people. These people may not have had much in common with you but you all shared something in common: a mission. Whether that mission was to win a championship or whether that mission was to ‘move’ somewhere as a group. The reality is that your group was united with a mission.
That being said, when I was in high school I had the amazing opportunity to play rugby. These were some of the funnest moments of my life to date! The camaraderie and friendships that I had at that time with that team were something that I will never forget, but the reality is that, today, I am not very close with any of the guys who were on my team because the mission that we had before no longer binds us together. In the same vein, when I go to an Oilers game and they win, I feel quite connected to the people around me. One day, when the Oilers win a Stanley Cup, many Edmontonians will be quite elated and feel quite united because of the joy of our cities team accomplishing this vision. But after the celebration, after the parade, the next morning… it won’t matter anymore because, in the moment, the foundation of winning feels strong, but it is really not a strong enough foundation to sustain the community long term.
I shared this quote in my last post but I want to hash it out a bit more:
“Community is only as strong as what it’s built upon, and nothing is as strong as the gospel”
–Matt Chandler: Creature of the Word
When a community is united by the gospel, when it is really built on the truth, foundation, purpose, and mission of the gospel, that community should really reflect the vision that I believe Jesus has for His bride, the Church! But How many of us who are a part of a church can say that we are on a common mission with other believers? I don’t know about you, but it can often feel awkward to initiate serious conversation or a prayer time with fellow believers, but why is this? I believe that foundational to a gospel centered community is gospel centered people (or at least people moving towards being gospel centered, which is where I believe we all are)! As believers we need to be seeking to live lives with gospel at the center, informing every area of our lives. If this is our aim, I believe that gospel centered community is a lot more natural.
Even so, you can have a whole crew of Gospel-Centered believers that still get together frequently and don’t live any differently from groups of friends who are not following Jesus. Why is this? I believe it is because those groups are not on mission together. They are not allowing the great commission and the mandates of the early church to form their communities. They are not asking questions about how to order their communities, their times together. Jesus said that the world will know that we are His followers because of our love for one another. This quote from Everyday Church really speaks into this:
“It is easy for the world to ignore a solitary Christian living consistently as a believer…But when a diverse group of Christians lives lives for Christ as a community of love and demonstrable, mutual affection, then society will find it harder to dismiss us.” –Tim Chester & Steve Timmis
I hope that this post is helping you catch a vision for Christian community and that it’s not just discouraging you. That is not my intent at all. What I want to do with these blogs is help get conversations going in communities. I’m humbled to be a part of a community currently that is having these conversations and we are already seeing some incredible fruit! College students are seeking to fundraise for other students who are going through some financial difficulties other students have asked me to commission them as missionaries to their work, students are asking how they should schedule their time because they don’t want to miss out on what may be happening in our community. It’s an exciting time for us, and it’s only the beginning. This kind of stuff is happening because we are asking these questions and having these conversations… and talking can only last so long!
If this is really stirring in you I would encourage you to take some time to talk through these questions with some close Christian friends:
- In what ways can we help each other become gospel-centered people?
- What is uniting us as a group? Are we united by common mission or common interests?
- Is there a common dream that God has given many in our group we can help each other achieve?
- Are we living as consumers at our church or as disciple-makers & missionaries?