“Just as Christians should not be constantly feeling the pulse of their spiritual life, so too the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be continually taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more assuredly and consistently will community increase and grow from day to day as God pleases” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible
There are significant similarities as well as significant differences between the church and a community of believers. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin. Let me explain. If you asked random people what pops in their mind when they hear the word “church,” the answers would probably be things like Sundays, or sermon, or music, or offerings. You might also hear things like rituals and rules and maybe things like rigid, stale, and out-of-date. What you probably would not hear are comments such as deep and meaningful connections with people, sharing burdens, helping those who need help, love, etc.
The healthy church is a community of believers where hearts are knitted together, people share a common purpose, they have passion, all the while finding ways to love Jesus and others while serving God and others. Real community is not about making people happy. It is about inspiring and energizing people. It is a place to share our faith and life journey. It is place of generosity. It is place of faith in action. Their goal is to glorify God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” To glorify God means to magnify, elevate, and draw attention to Him. We do this by inviting Him into every segment of our lives, by telling others of His greatness rather than grabbing His glory for ourselves, and by nurturing our relationships with Him. We meet with Him often, admitting to others our struggles with pride, and continually asking ourselves, “will this bring glory to God or to me?” This is the primary purpose of the church and the community of believers who make up the church.
The church is seen as a haven or a firewall for Christ followers to hide behind. But a church that is a real community works to make our world a better place by living out our faith in our homes, neighborhoods, communities, workplaces, and schools. The Church does not exist to ride out the storm until Christ returns. Rather we exist to join Christ as He brings those far from the heart of God to Him.
The church is seen as out-of-touch. But the church that is a authentic community of believers understand that we live in a constantly changing environment. The Gospel never changes but the methods of delivering the Gospel is most effective when we talk to people where they are in life. The community must remain flexible, agile, and ready to change to more effectively minister to this community.
The first step in finding true community is look to Jesus. Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) Jesus is saying that the way we find life in anything, especially community, is to give of themselves. What we are looking for from community or relationships is life, because we were created to experience life through community. Many people know there is life in community and relationships; they are just going about finding this life in the wrong way.
- What does church mean to you? Community?
- In what situations do you find yourself moving toward community or towards isolation from community?
- What is needed to cultivate an authentic community where relationships are sustainable?
- Do you view serving as a necessary component in community? Northstar Group participation? What about Growth Track classes?
- Pray and ask God to help us build a community that glorifies Him and helps the whole world find and follow Jesus.