Part 19 – How Can We Live In Christian Community?
God designed it so that learning to live by the highest life (God’s Life), was to be a community experience, a “together” experience. So this new species learned how to live by an indwelling Lord, in community.
They all joined together constantly in prayer … (Acts 1:14, NIV)
All the believers were together and had everything in common. (Acts 2:44, NIV).
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. (Acts 2:46, NIV).
It should be noted that they only met together in the temple courts for about a year, because in 31 AD a great persecution broke out, and Jews who had become Christians were barred from the temple. From that point on, for the next 300 years, they only met in homes (Acts 8:1), thus “pressuring” Christians to learn the communal nature of the church.
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. (Acts 5:12, NIV).
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. …. (Acts 20:7, NIV).
“… so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” (Romans 15:32, NIV).
Experiencing joy, and being encouraged and refreshed was a communal experience!
In the first place, I hear that when you came together as a church, … (1 Corinthians 11:18, NIV).
The implication of this verse is that just because Christians gather together, it doesn’t mean that we are coming together as a church. However, there is a way to purposefully meet together to express ourselves as a church, an ecclesia, a new habitat, a community.
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (1 Corinthians 14:26, NIV).
Notice that in our new habitat, everyone is encouraged, and expected, to contribute, not just the professional clergy. In a community, everyone has something to share, no matter how old or mature they are.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:21-22, NIV).
To express the communal nature of the church, we shouldn’t just gather, we should purposely gather for the express purpose of being built together to become a dwelling place for God (which includes dealing with any cracks in our spiritual building!).
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:6, NIV).
The communal nature of the church requires that we all learn how to live as one body, no matter what the earthly culture of the members, because we now have a new culture … a communal culture … a Kingdom culture!
“.. may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18, NIV).
Could it be that we can only grasp the fullness of the love of Christ, when we learn how to live in communion “together with all the saints”?
Ephesians 4:16, NIV – From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
If we want to grow and mature, the best place for that to happen is in our new habitat, where we do our part, join and support each other, and grow and build ourselves up together in love.
He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:10, NIV ).
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25, NIV).
Why do we meet together? For personal benefit? Or to encourage each other? Community teaches us how to live for each other, and not just for ourselves.
God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:40, NIV).
“Only together with us would they be made perfect!” Either this is pure arrogance, or the early Christians understood something about community that has escaped most of us.
Today, most Christians have no idea what seeking to know the Lord together means. In fact, most Christians are completely without a habitat. They gather together in a building for an hour or two on Sunday morning, and maybe an hour or two on Wednesday night. They say hello to others of their species, they sit in chairs in rows, looking at the back of other people’s heads, and after an hour or so, they say goodbye, and go home, without ever experiencing the joy of true community, the habitat of the Kingdom of God.
The average Christian today is like a sheep without a flock. And the sad reality is, that besides animals kept on display in a zoo, there is no other species on earth that is trying to survive without its natural habitat, except Christians!
(Note: I am indebted to Gene Edwards for many of the concepts in this series.)
… Next time …. Part 20 – The Bible Was Written To Communities