(These are the notes for the discussion in the Couples For Christ Sunday School Class tomorrow)
What does a healthy faith community look like?
What does our class do right in terms of helping to create community?
Where do we fall short?
In my opinion there are two different areas we need to examine with regards to the expectations of our Faith Community: Inward tending to one another’s needs, and Outward serving the needs of the community. What are the differences? How do these two functional areas work together?
(From Andy Stanley’s article “Divine Community” in the Catalyst Groupzine vol. 4.: Intentional About Community)
It is sometimes said that when someone faces death, one’s conversations reveal his or her deepest passions, hopes and dreams. That’s why we go out of our way to honor dying wishes. In His final hours, Jesus gives us clues to His chief concerns. What does John 17:20-22 reveal about Christ’s wishes/desires for us?
So that they may be one as we are one.
The significant of this statement cannot be overstated. Jesus is praying that His disciples – the men who for three years had disappointed Him and misunderstood Him and would ultimately abandon Him (in other words, human beings like you and me) – would experience something amazing. He prayed that they would experience the same quality of relationship with each other that Jesus experienced as part of the Trinity since before the beginning of time.
What does relationship amongst the Trinity look like?
Enjoying each other (Genesis 1:26)
Encouraging each other (Matthew 3:17)
Supporting each other (John 14:25)
Loving one another (Mark 9:7)
Deferring to one another (John 14:10)
Glorifying one another (John 17:1)
We all need community. We are a society living in isolation seldom enjoying the benefits of meaningful relationships. We live around a lot of people, but most of us have chosen to do life alone. This is certainly not what God has in mind. We were created by a relational God with relational needs for connection – significant connection.
(Summarized from Matt Chandler Podcast of The Village Church titled, “Village Core Values: What is Community?” 4/27/2008)
Nobody gets hit by the gospel and just stays where they are – It’s moving and creating, and It’s different for everyone. Once your heart is awaken to the reality of Jesus Christ, you begin Progressive Sanctification, which is growth into Him or spiritual growth in body, intellect, worship, and missions.
Progressive sanctification is a process that can only take place in the confines of deep relationship. There is nowhere in scripture when it comes to sanctification and growth into the fullness of Christ where words were spoken to individuals removed from the communal aspect of our faith. For example,
· Opening to all of the letters in the New Testament – To the Saints in Galatia, Saints in Ephasis, Philippi, etc.
· 2 Corinthians (1:3-4) – Why does God comfort us? So that we can comfort others. – Communal
· 1 Thessalonians (4:18) – Encourage each other… – Communal
· 1 Thessalonians (5:14) – Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. – Communal
· Galatians (6:2) – Carry each other’s burdens…. – Communal
Discuss what a tremendous asset it is to have people who know you well enough to engage you at that level.
· How well does it work to “warn those that are idle” if you don’t really know them?
· How well does it work to try to hold someone accountable if you don’t have a deep relationship with them?
· How well does it work to ask to carry someone’s burden’s when you don’t have a relationship of trust established?
· How well does it work to try to grow yourself spiritually when the entire gospel message is inescapably communal?
Just because you attend a small group like our class does not mean that you have real Christian community. Attending is really the easy part. The next steps – opening up and being honest, caring for others, contributing, … This is where it starts to take intentional action, which can be messy? Why?
We need to protect ourselves from being too shallow in our relationships. For example,
· When was the last time someone close to you invited you out for a drink to tell you that constantly jabbing and disrespecting your wife in public isn’t funny – and ask you what’s really going on.
· When we the last time someone close to you said that maybe your other affiliations in life (college football, political parties, social clubs, etc) are dominating your conversations and thought processes and borderline on becoming toxic – and then remind you that you are a Christian first before ANYTHING else.
· When was the last time someone close to you confronted you on devious behaviors that are taking you away from community, family, God? – We all have areas where darkness resides, but are all responsible to help each other grow in Him.
This is the sticky and uncomfortable part of our relationship with each other. We have to realize that this is not a game. Back to John 17:21 – “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus is saying that the credibility of His life and message in the eyes of unbelievers is dependent upon the way we as followers relate to one another. Somehow their belief and our behavior are connected. Do you feel the weight of this passage and our responsibilities as a Christian Community?
We have to realize that we are in a body. When you cut off a finger (illustration relevant for shop teachers) it doesn’t continue to grow. We have to be in community in order to grow in Him!
I like to think of Christian community as a large dinner party (something our class relates too very well). Each person has their own gift and talent that is given by the same Holy Spirit. Some like to cook, some like to clean up afterwards, some like to generate conversation, some like to open their houses to host, some like to pay for the drinks and meal, some like to bring the music, some like to take pictures of the event, some like to make sure everyone is having a good time, some like to move furniture in the hosts house (inside joke). When we combine our talents and live in community – really live in community and push each other toward progressive sanctification – you can feel the dynamo that is Christ. I hope we continue to encourage each other AND confront each other.
As Andy Stanley says at the end of his article, “I take comfort in the fact that community is God’s idea. That means He will assume the lion’s share of the responsibility for making His dream come true. We have to be willing to partner with Him to make His dream your reality and a reality for many others as well.”
Grace and Peace!