Words come easy, but don't mean much.
We spent some time recently in one of our leadership meetings prayerfully and honestly discussing whether our actions (and the fruit of our actions) line up with our words. One of the areas evaluated was if we’ve been successful in living out our Core Value of “Living together in Biblical Community.” Anyone can live in community and would find some value in doing so, but as the people of Jesus we know that the community we should strive for should be one that reflects the will and way of our eternal hope: Jesus.
We get the idea of living in community from 1 Thessalonians 2:8, where Paul says to the church in Thessalonica, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the Gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
One of the perspectives shared during our discussion was that we had room to grow in this area. They felt that the people that make up our community, while gathering together often, don’t necessarily share meaningful life with each other while gathered. When pressed for more insight, they said they don’t often hear people share what God is doing in their lives or how and what they are learning in their personal walk with Jesus. They don’t see us spending much time sharing “Kingdom burdens”, those things that are of eternal significance to all of creation, or even personal burdens. Their feedback came from a sincere (and right) desire to hear and see the Truth of God spoken to one another.
I totally understand this desire and have even felt the same need or tension in my own relationships. As a counterpoint for our group discussion, I mentioned that someone in our church body had recently remarked that, “they have never been a part of a church community where they found a people more ready and willing to talk about what God was doing in their lives.” Everyone in the room then responded, “Yeah, but ________ always brings those things up.”
[Pause for dramatic effect]
Now picture a light bulb above my head.
We all desire this type of community or at least I hope we all do. In fact, we all have ideas and pictures in our heads and hearts of what the church should look like and, more importantly, what the church should BE. My take-away from that moment is that we are each the ones who will expose and awaken in others the expressed identity of The Church. It takes individuals to represent the body of Christ, the priesthood of believers, the people of God, the adopted sons and daughters of God, the coheirs with Christ, the way in which God intends to reveal His image to the world.
Let’s put some flesh on this concept. If you say our church could be more hospitable, step in and show us how you are hospitable. If you say we are weak in serving and reaching our community, reach out to your neighbor or serve with that organization and invite us along with you to awaken that need in us. If you feel like we could share the Word of God amongst each other more, then grab someone for coffee or invite them over and talk about what you are presently studying in the Word.
As I have said before, I do not mean that the leaders of the church (pastoral, staff, or volunteer) don’t have a responsibility to lead out in this, teaching/equipping others, and modeling what this way of life is. What I am saying is that all those who are in Christ are called to participate in this. Church is not something that we do but rather it is something that we are. We are called to sharpen one another and compel each other to good works and to speak the oracles of God to one another and to love one another and to sacrifice for one another and to fight for one another and to step up for one another and to step in for one another and to celebrate with one another and to suffer with one another. We are all called to show each other a more excellent way every day (1 Corinthians 12:32).
You were created uniquely just as I was. There are things that you care about and things that you are good at. Not everyone has those same giftings or abilities. Our opportunity is to allow those areas to be cause for equipping someone else (1 Corinthians 12:12-30) instead of a foothold for resentment or judgment.
When this way of life is facilitated through a life surrendered to the will and way of God, modeled by Jesus, given in His Word (the Bible), and motivated for the glory of God, the beauty and effectiveness of our community will know no bounds (Ephesians 3:14-20).
I’m with you and I’m glad you are with me. To God be the glory!
Heath Haynes is the Pastor at The Bridge Montrose.