(watch this teaching by scrolling to the bottom of this article)
Some things are better to let go of, and then there are things worth fighting for. Community is one of those things worth fighting for. Your church community is worth your time, effort, sweat, and pain.
The greater the struggle, the greater the reward.
Before you continue reading this teaching, please pray with me: Dear Father, I ask that you deepen our awareness of your love for us and how we need to deepen our love for one another. In Christ’s name, Amen.
My topic today is Building Our Community.
The church is a family that loves to see each other and spend time together. The only way to have a healthy family and church community is to build healthy relationships. The Bible has a lot to say about what it means to connect with one another and for us to be a community.
I want to spend some time in the Book of Acts, specifically chapter 2. To give you some background, it was the day of Pentecost. People were baptized in the Holy Spirit, and Peter got up and preached his very first sermon. After speaking, 3,000 people gave their lives to Christ, the Early Church’s birth.
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and they ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:41-47 (NIV)
The Bible uses a term to describe an experience that we all should have. The word is saved. This means to be set free, healed and made whole. When Jesus Christ enters someone’s life then they are saved. Why? Their sins have been forgiven, and they’ve paid their debt before God by accepting the gift of Jesus as their Savior. When this happens, you need to be a part of a community. You need to be in a place you belong and have a sense of connection. The Early Church was a community.
Why Do I Need Community?
When the people got saved, they were added to their number (them being the apostles). This means they were added to the group. This was a Church in Jerusalem, the first Church in the Bible. This idea of community was not a thought that came from the apostles. The Church didn’t have the original idea for a community. It was God’s desire. God put it in each person’s heart to have a sense of wanting and connection. On that single day of Pentecost, 3,000 people gave their lives to Christ. What a harvest. The interesting thing is that they were no longer just Jews and no longer just Gentiles. These were individuals who had found their Messiah. They were no longer what they used to be, and now they were searching for a community and place of belonging. When you join a community, it takes a lot of risks. You must be vulnerable and open to connecting with people you may not have known.
“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.”
— M. Scott Peck (Author)
We need each other, and we need a community. The thought of living for Christ without support is disastrous. It’s a place of belonging and connects with the deepest thing in me.
“Individualism is the preoccupation with the freedom of individuals to make their decisions, live the way they want to live, and to believe that anything that violates this view of life ‘is sacrilegious.’ ”
— Samovar, L. & Porter, R. (Author)
I am not suggesting that you should not be an individual where you have your growth plans or goals. You should do that. You need to grow spiritually, but remember that when you become a follower of Jesus Christ, you are considered part of the “called out ones.” The word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which means “called out ones.” God calls you out of individualism and into the community. The Christian faith is communal. You can’t be all God has called you to be if you simply live an individualized life. If you do that, I question your salvation. Jesus said that people would know you are my disciples by your love for one another. Who can you show love to if you’re not living communally?
The Bible calls us to live in a community and not practice individualism. When you deal with communal living, it increases growth, whereby individualism decreases growth. You may be asking yourself, how so? It takes a lot of growth to know how to interact with someone different than you. If you were to just live in an individual mindset, you wouldn’t care about anyone else, so you wouldn’t be able to grow in those areas. When I contrast the two, community living models faith, and individualism models fear. How does one model faith? You can trust the Scripture that says you are your brother’s keeper, and you connect with people. But when you live in an individualistic mindset, it says that you are afraid of people and don’t want to be bothered by them. You are guarding yourself, and that is very different than faith. Living in a community promotes obedience, and individualism promotes disobedience.
From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament… Ephesians 4:16 (NIV)
The Bible always gives the metaphor that the local Church is like a body. Your toes don’t live independently from your foot, and your foot doesn’t live apart from your leg. Living in a community strengthens the Church, while living in individualism weakens it. When you live in a community, you get to share your gifts, and the community benefits from them. When you live in individualism, you don’t get a chance to exercise your gifts and nobody benefits from them.
Do I Fit This Community?
To fit in is a very good thing. When you fit in, you feel like you belong. Acts 2 points out that they spent time learning together and were like a family to each other. Here the Scripture points out that these individuals started living together and had a sense of belonging. It means to be connected, feel a sense of inclusion and feel accepted.
“Home is not where you live but where they understand you.”
— Christian Morgan Stern (German Author)
People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. Acts 2:47 (MSG)
The community is a place of belonging. The Early Church did four things regularly together. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings, they devoted themselves to fellowship, they devoted themselves to breaking bread and they devoted themselves to prayer.
How Can I Build This Community?
There is a word that better describes the kind of community a church is, and the Latin word is communitas. This means working together collaboratively so that you can come through difficulties and obstacles in your path. We are all trying to do life, and together we are trying to promote Jesus and live for Him. In today’s society, where it is so difficult to fit in, we need community. We need to strengthen and encourage each other.
You build a community by discovering your gifts and developing them. When you are in a community, they can help you realize your gifts and how to use them. Building a community is just like a healthy family. Every healthy family has a set of chores to do, and everyone pitches in for the greater good.
All the believers continued to meet together often. They shared all their things with each other. They sold some of their own things. Then they gave that money to any believers who needed it. The whole group of believers met together every day in the yard of the temple. They shared their food and they ate meals together in each other’s homes. They were very happy and they were honest with each other. Acts 2:44-46 (NIV)
When you deal with building a community, it means that you use your gifts and share the real you. It is about realism and authenticity. We build a community because we want to do life together.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
What is Paul saying? He is telling us that we’re building a community through self-discovery and development and building up each other even though we are flawed. Sometimes we will make mistakes and get on each other’s nerves. This is what it means to be a part of a community. If you’re looking for a perfect church, it is not out there. There is no perfect place and no perfect person. We are all flawed and complicated people, but we are all going in the direction of wanting to serve Christ and do our best for God. You have to learn to work through conflicts. Don’t practice the tenants of cancel culture and cut everyone off. Cancel culture breeds immature people. It breeds people that don’t understand how to rationalize or work through conflicts. Building a healthy community gives people space and time to grow in Christ and maturity.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”
— George Bernard Shaw (Author & Playwright)
I encourage you to be a part of a community where you feel connected. I pray that God helps you find a Christ-centered community that loves people and brings others closer to Christ.
Let’s end our time in prayer: Dear Jesus, help me find a community where I feel accepted, included and wanted. Help me find my gift in this community and use my gift for others. In Christ’s name, Amen.