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Community Ingredients: Follow Jesus

Posted by on Mar 31, 2011 in community | 9 comments

Community Ingredients: Follow Jesus

In the introductory post of this series, I explained that I was going to examine necessary ingredients for a group of people to become a church community as described by the authors of Scriptures. In the second post, I said that the first necessary ingredient is Jesus, not facts about Jesus, but the real, living, empowering person Jesus. In the third post, I said that Jesus must be the only basis for community, if the church desires to live as described in Scripture.

When I first began thinking about community, I did not think about it in this fashion. Instead, I started with things like “love one another”, “forgive one another”, “care for one another”, “serve one another”, “build up one another”, etc. etc. etc. These responses are very important, but I’ve since learned that they responses must follow in the correct order.

If we begin with the response (love, forgive, care, serve, etc), then we become responsible for the community, both building it and holding it together. The success or failure (or depth or superficiality) of the community depends upon our ability to properly respond to one another.

However, I’ve since understood that our community depends primarily on our response to Jesus Christ. The way that we respond to him (both individually and corporately) will shape the community (or lack of community) among the people that we know. In fact, that way that we respond to Jesus Christ directly impacts the way that we respond to one another.

Please understand this, because it is very important. If we do not respond to one another in love, forgiveness, care, service, or edification, it is because we are not responding to Jesus Christ in a manner that is worthy of him and the gospel. Thus, if we are not living in community with one another, it is a reflection of our fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Now, the responses are extremely important, but they are secondary to the primary source and foundation of community, which as I’ve said before is Jesus Christ. If we understand that the responses are secondary, then it helps us keep Jesus Christ as our focus. “Successes” will cause use to praise Jesus, and “failures” will cause us to turn back to him and cling to him even more.

So, where do the responses come from? They come from following Jesus. As we live in him (abide/dwell in him, walk in him) and he lives in and through us, then our responses become the responses of Jesus. Scripture certainly helps us to understand Jesus and how the early church responded to him. The Spirit also guides us into a way of life that honors God through Jesus Christ, and he empowers us to respond in a manner worthy of him.

With any group of people, there will be problems. There will be relational friction. There will be pain and hurts and a lack of trust. We will not be able to rely on our own ability to love, care, serve, forgive, or edify others. Instead, we must humble ourselves (die to ourselves) and continually turn back to Jesus Christ so that he can respond through us.


9 Comments

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  1. 3-31-2011

    Alan,

    this is one of my favorite posts of yours so far. Abiding in Christ is the entry, means, and goal of this life. Jesus lived by doing not his own will but by joining the Father in His work.

    Frank Viola published an excerpt from his new book today that speaks of this very thing. The question is not what would Jesus do so I can imitate Him but what is Jesus doing through me and us.

  2. 3-31-2011

    Bobby – I agree, great post.

  3. 3-31-2011

    Bobby and Swanny,

    Thanks. I know it’s not the standard series about “do this and you will have community.” I was hoping people would understand.

    -Alan

  4. 3-31-2011

    I give a hearty amen to this preaching! Christ forms community not men. “Do this and you will have community” always puts the focus on man and always involves manipulation by others to get the group to meet an ideal formed in someones mind of what community is.

    Paul really believed in a living Christ-that’s why he could free people and not control them. He trusted Christ to internally guide each individual which led to harmony. He knew he only needed to preach Christ and Christ crucified and the church would naturally form.

  5. 3-31-2011

    Rod,

    You said, “Paul really believed in a living Christ-that’s why he could free people and not control them. He trusted Christ to internally guide each individual which led to harmony.”

    Yes! I think this is where we (generally) often fall short. We don’t trust God to work in and through his people, so we feel like we have to do it for him.

    -Alan

  6. 4-1-2011

    “we have to do it”

    I was fifty when I suddenly and significantly understood I was not God. For a variety of reasons we can carry burdens that are not ours. If “leaders” (better, we) grasp the perspective you are sharing in this series (and on the church in general), it could transform their (our) life (and those around us). But, we must be experiencing Him ourselves, if we are to infect others with His embrace.

    Rod pointed out, and Alan, you underscored it with, “We don’t trust God to work in and through his people, so we feel like we have to do it for him.” Because we are not first experiencing Him ourselves. So, we aren’t steadfastly pointing people to Him. We push ourselves, and we push others, with a master’s whip. We are immersed in an achievement-oriented culture.

    I wonder sometimes if it wasn’t a big plus in the NT era, not having copious amounts of scripture to dive into first thing, and that stripped of the messenger. I wonder, due to our inadequate capacity, if we aren’t richer with less scripture more profoundly plowed, than with our libraries of versions, commentaries, and study tools? Imagine those early saints rehearsing and ruminating on a single letter for five years. Remembering what they had heard and the manner of the folk who first brought them those words. Enfleshed examples underscoring and promising something more than book-smarts. Finding depth and root, rather than skimming along the surface, only making intellectual progress without transformational effect. Having no goal beyond knowledge.

    Along with a dearth of living examples, I certainly have, and I think most Christians have, a kind of spiritual alzheimers. Maybe it is from too much information. From too quickly moving on to new areas of truth(words). It is often the things we have forgotten that we most need to hear. And, God is patient enough to remind us again and again through others, through reading and contemplation, through struggles we create in forgetting.

    As our eyes open, it is always Him we see. He holds onto us, not we onto Him. He initiates; He secures; He accomplishes. We only respond. Response flows from knowing Him and finding rest in His love for us. These things were meant to be demonstrated in the lives of others, giving us an aspiration for our own transformation.

    I am glad for Alan and you all in this (may I call it?) community. I am glad for the return to foundations, principles. To remembering first things.

    1 Timothy 4:6
    If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

  7. 4-1-2011

    Good post Art- It’s easier to have a relationship with a book than a God you can’t see. But if you can’t read or don’t have access to scripture in the way we do now, maybe it forced them to be more dependent on the internal guidance in there spirit rather than the external guidance of a book.

    You said, “As our eyes open, it is always Him we see. He holds onto us, not we onto Him. He initiates; He secures; He accomplishes. We only respond. Response flows from knowing Him and finding rest in His love for us. These things were meant to be demonstrated in the lives of others, giving us an aspiration for our own transformation.”

    It’s our attitude of humility towards God that keeps us from error not our ability to interpret scripture. My faith is in Him to hold me. I’m more concerned about my pride and selfishness stealing my ability to discern truth than whether I have access to volumes of scripture and commentaries.

  8. 4-2-2011

    Art,

    “Too much information” and “a dearth of living examples”… yes, I think that’s a big problem among many churches.

    Rod,

    You said, “It’s our attitude of humility towards God that keeps us from error not our ability to interpret scripture.” That is so true, and so difficult to live by.

    -Alan

  9. 4-3-2011

    amen!