the weblog of Alan Knox

Community based on the gospel and our shared identity in Christ

Posted by on Jul 18, 2013 in blog links, community | 8 comments

Community based on the gospel and our shared identity in Christ

A couple of weeks ago, I read a great post by Fred at “On the Journey” called “Community: Sunday at 10:30.” If you’ve read this blog for very long (probably even for a short time), then you know that community in Christ is very important to me.

I believe that when God saves us, he immediately includes us in his family and we are immediately connected to and responsible for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are part of our lives. This “community” is not one of our own making; it is built by God through his Spirit. We do not get to pick and choose who are part of that community. As I wrote once, when we accept Jesus, we automatically get everyone else at his table.

However, it takes work – yes, real work – to live in community with one another. Now, we say that work consists of yielding to or submitting to the Holy Spirit in our lives, and that would be correct. It is still work, though.

Of course, we can also try to build community that is not based on our shared identity in Jesus Christ. There are many kinds of communities like this. In his post, Fred wrote about several of those communities. Then he wrote this:

I believe the church is different. Community is something that is not based on personal preferences, on a charismatic individual, on shared experiences. In the church, the only kind of community that matters must be based on the Gospel and our shared identity in Christ. The community that God wants is a community that lives life together, learning together to follow Jesus and love our brothers and sisters. In order to do this we must be together more than one day a week. Community needs time and contact to develop. The disciples were with Jesus 24/7 for three years. The first Christians met daily, going from house to house. I know things are different in the 21st century, but we still need time with each other often. We can not do this without learning from each other on a consistent basis.

There is much to encourage us and challenge us in that short paragraph. Yes, it takes time, patience, grace, forgiveness, etc. to see community – even community in Christ – grow and flourish. And, it does take the humility necessary to “learn from each other on a consistent basis.”

But, when you read that, you may be disheartened because you are part of a group who only meets once a week in a pre-planned, scheduled gathering (often called a “worship service”). Does this mean that community in Christ is impossible for you? Not at all.

This is how Fred ends his post:

If you are part of a church body that meets in a building at a particular time on a particular day and gathers as friends and family at various times throughout the week, good for you. If not, why not begin?

Good question, Fred. Why not?


8 Comments

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  1. 7-18-2013

    We Christians must be careful and intentional that we do not follow the world and end up “bowling alone” like so many others do. (See http://bowlingalone.com/.)

  2. 7-18-2013

    Amazingly, at least half of our group that meets is family, some blood, some by marriage, adoptees etc. This allows for us to have minimal “formal” meetings and still be very intimately involved in each others lives throughout the week and since our family is basically a nurturing and supportive intact family, we tend to attract folks that like to join in our family life. It helps a lot that my younger sister had 9 kids (5 bios and 4 special needs adoptees). Only a few of our combined kids live far away from the nucleus. That includes 3 generations…so we have greats, grands and on down to infants. A nice well-balanced group with lots of different perspectives, opinions and a good smattering of real characters. Others wander in and out from time to time, stay for awhile and move on and a few have stayed! Anyway, this is nearly ideal for us and I realize not too many folks have the advantages we do…but that is one of the blessings of congenial family life passed down from one generation to another by God-fearing folks (not to be interpreted as saints all). The world today is filled with folks from broken homes and worse and I’m sure God is wanting to meet the needs of those who are hurt and missing out on the blessings of a “normal” family life. All of us come in contact with them throughout our weeks and months and years and do what we can to share the strength of the family we have. I do believe all the information that is coming forth, regarding the organic church concept, is freeing and inclusive and flexible enough to offer many the opportunity to join the family of God. So needed. So many feel lonely and without real support. But a strong core group can provide much emotional support to others, while offering the real answer to their needs, which is of course, a vital relationship with Jesus.

  3. 7-18-2013

    Here’s what the apostle John says, in 1 John, about fellowship, or communion (common union):

    That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;(for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us) that which we have seen and heard we declare unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

    Fellowship… communion… is a very deep and rich dynamic.

  4. 7-18-2013

    Fred seems to calling people who meet in a building every week to take their relationships further and start gathering regularly with friends and family during the week.

    I’m all for that!

    But what would he say to people who do not meet regularly in a building, but do gather regularly with friends and family during the week…. not at set times or on certain schedules, but whenever possible, just as life happens?

    I often hear that Christians cannot “go it alone” but some of the most lonely Christians I have met sit in pews every Sunday.

  5. 7-19-2013

    Right on, Jeremy!

    You ask a very astute question. The assumption seems to be that at least if we gather ‘in church’ on Sunday morning, we’re doing some sort of community. Well. It is ‘some’ sort but it isn’t very real for most folks nor is it very fulfilling. (yes, it can contribute but it is woefully short of what is generally sought after when seeking community). To few church bodys actually are willing to examine their practices and the message they’re sending by their practices. They give lip service to it but absolutely will not change their allocation of time, rescources and efforts toward things that truly enhance and enable community–at least not at the expense of their precious standing stone of The Sunday Morning Worship Service.

    There needs to be more affirmation of, and strengthening of, the community that is already happening around folks everyday. Equipping the saints to make the most of their time and influence within the people groups and communities in which they already find themselves should be the primary task, not pointing to the Emperor’s new clothes and saying how wonderful they are and that everybody should get some.

  6. 7-21-2013

    Jeremy and Heartspeak, to people who don’t meet in a building on a regular basis but DO meet informally at different times and different places, I would say keep on doing what you’re doing! I believe wherever and whenever followers of Jesus gather together to share life and build each other up, that is church. I definitely do not make the assumption that some make that being in “church” one hour a week or so is being in community. It can be part of community, but needs to be a small part. The fellowship we meet with meets Sunday morning, and then again in the evening. Our evening fellowship begins with a meal. We meet at regular times in small groups, and those groups also meet with other groups. We meet in groups of two or three at regular times, and at various times through the week, folks will have dinner together, go thrift shop shopping, throw parties, or just hang out. This past Friday we went to a gathering at a house, Saturday we went out to dinner at a restaurant with some friends and then to a wedding of one of our number. This afternoon, we had folks going to a movie together, others had folks over for lunch, and three of us helped some of our single women replace a washing machine. I’ve never been part of church that spends this much time together, and I love it!

  7. 7-22-2013

    Fred,

    Thank you for the great post, and thank you for replying here. I thought you would respond like that.

    -Alan

  8. 7-25-2013

    Alan, thank you for the mention and the link.