@robertkwendt || lead pastor
Community – n. A group of people living the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. (Oxford Dictionary)
We are all part of some type of community. From the baseball field to the PTA meeting, we surround ourselves with people who have similar characteristics in common with us. We may cheer for the same team or be in the same family. However it is that we're brought together, we gather as a community.
This community builds us up, encourages us, and unites us to something bigger than ourselves. In each and every gathering, there is a lot to be grateful for. There are positives.
However, not all community looks and lives the same.
In fact, I would go a step further to say that a community called together by Jesus is unlike any other community.
Here are 5 aspects of a Christ-centered community:
1. empowering unity.
Jesus picked twelve men of various backgrounds, called them together, empowered them, and sent them out to do amazing things in his name. While some were fishermen, one was a tax collector. They were from various places and had different previous careers; but they were all united together by Jesus and a common purpose.
As was with Jesus's disciples, we all come with our differences—but we're all gathered together.
After all, Jesus brought his disciples together then, and he brings his disciples together now.
I love how Paul writes about this unity that we have. He says in his first letter to the Corinthians:
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV)
2. eternal purpose.
When we get together in community, there is naturally a purpose to it. From simply getting kids to play together to playing cards, there is a purpose to our meeting. Think about holidays. Because of Christmas, New Years, or other various holidays, we get together with co-workers, neighbors, family, and friends. The purpose may simply be to celebrate a holiday, birthday, or special event. But no matter what it is, it gives us a reason to gather.
Every community has a purpose, but not every purpose is the same.
Luke records a moment where Jesus sends out the twelve disciples.
...and he [Jesus] sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal." (Luke 9:2 ESV)
Jesus gave his disciples two main purposes. He sent them out to heal physical needs and to heal spiritual needs.
Most communities can help provide for physical needs. Neighbors may cook a meal for one another. Others may lend a car or a helping hand when ability is limited. In this case, Jesus literally gave his disciples the power to heal diseases. That is some crazy provision. However, even meeting physical needs is still only temporary.
Jesus's disciples then—and his disciples now—have a unique ability to offer an even greater healing than what is physical. Jesus is the only answer to our spiritual needs. As followers of him, we are called to share this great news with others.
Christian community doesn't simply gather to socialize. We gather to show off who God is and what God can do.
3. extraordinary power.
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal." (Luke 9:1-2 ESV)
Not only did Jesus bring the disciples together, but he gave them the power of his Spirit. The very same Spirit dwells in those who follow Jesus and it is God's desire to reveal himself to those his people encounter. He wants the world to know of His power and goodness.
A Christ-centered community is the only one that can claim the power of God. Unity and purpose are not enough. We need to do something with it. Christian community can.
In fact, as Jesus gave his disciples everything they needed then, he provides everything his people need now.
4. entire surrender.
In Luke 9:3-6, Jesus tells his followers to take nothing on their journey.
When is the last time you intentionally left for a journey without anything? That seems like a horrible idea, but that is a beautiful picture of entire surrender. To truly follow after Jesus, it means to give up everything.
I love this formula.
Surrender --> Reliance --> Provision.
We often desire the provisions of God, but we're not completely reliant on him. We aren't completely reliant because we are not entirely surrendered.
When we truly hand over everything over to God, it makes us rely completely on him. This allows for us to completely embrace his provision.
When we live surrendered to Christ and one another, we watch God provide in ways that only God can.
This surrender leads to encouraging stories.
5. encouraging stories.
As human beings, we love stories. We watch movies, read novels, and listen to stories being told. Stories have a way of encouraging our hearts and motivating us.
On their return, the apostles told him all that they had done." (Luke 9:10)
They left with nothing—but came back with stories to tell. This is the picture of close community with Jesus. We may not know where the journey will lead us. However, we can know that we will come back with stories. These stories become an amazing way to encourage one another, to build one another up, and to focus on how great Jesus is to us.
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
America is a nation full of options. I recently walked the aisles of a local grocery store to simply be struck by the pure mass of options that are available—for everything. Even dish soap has seemingly endless options.
Even as I drive down the road, I see countless types of cars with people listening to an endless selection of music.
Options are a great blessing; they allow us to enjoy our own preferences. However, like with everything, what is considered a blessing in one regard can be a hindrance in another.
Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede and his team have done extensive research in regards to how different countries operate and how those cultures can be interacted with. One of the categories he measures is individualism compared to collectivism. He describes it this way:
"In Individualist societies, people are only supposed to look after themselves and their direct family. In Collectivist societies, people belong to 'in groups' that take care of them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty."
When compared to other nations around the world, America is by far the highest scoring nation in regards to being individualist. Just look at this comparison of the US (orange) compared to China (blue), Germany (purple), and India (green).
America (orange), China (blue), Germany (purple), India (Green).
Info found here: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/china,germany,india,the-usa
Here's the point. We are a country made up of people who care about ourselves and those in our immediate family/core friend group. But just because it's an American thing doesn't mean it's a God thing. God designed us for community.
community is not an option.
In the very beginning, God created everything. A part of his creation was man. However, he knew it was not good for man to be alone. In fact, he even made of point of stating it.
“Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'”
What is so interesting about this passage is that God did not give Adam (the first man) an option. Instead, he just created a helper suitable for him. If it were up to many of us, we would have fought God over all the options. However, in this case, God simply provided as he saw fit.
Community for Adam was not an option. Community for us is not an option.
jesus came to reclaim community.
The less distance that there is between two people, the more intimately the individuals know one another. Jesus came to earth to close the gap between us and him. He came to restore a relationship.
It was not us as man going to God, but rather God coming to us as a man. This is absolutely revolutionary, life altering, humbling, and miraculous.
An early follower of Jesus named John describes it this way:
And the word became flesh and dwelt among us." John 1:14 ESV
What is even more intriguing and mind blowing is that Jesus did not come as a political figure, famous athlete, or anyone of major status. Instead, he came humbly. He didn't go and show off all his abilities as a one-man wrecking ball. He didn't go it alone. No. When Jesus began his ministry, he simply started by putting together a group of ordinary men from various backgrounds. H.A. Snyder describes it this way:
Jesus Christ actually gave more time to preparing a community of disciples than to proclaiming the good news."
jesus chose community.
Being God himself, Jesus could have done things however he would have wanted. Yet he chose community as his approach.
This was not a community of just immediate family. It was not a wife and two kids (he never married or had children). It was genuine community—spending every day and night with people. He taught them, moved them, empowered them, and prepared them. A look at his call of some of the first followers can be found in John 1:35-50.
From fishermen to religious Jews to tax collectors, Jesus brought together a unique mix and lived with them in community.
They had meals together. They fished together. And they performed miracles together.
Now over 2000 years later, the community of Jesus only continues to grow more and more rapidly.
The problem is that far too often we separate ourselves. We close ourselves off. We try to journey through life alone.
If Jesus didn't journey through life alone, neither should we.
That's why we should choose community!
Jesus did not select the Twelve as founders of future churches. Jesus established the Twelve as community.
join a community today.
At Fellowship Chapel, we are passionate about people living and spending time as community. We also realize that this may look a little different for some people compared to others.
That's why we've even begun to offer ONLINE community. Learn more here.
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
Have you ever done something that caused you to apologize?
I have done a lot of unwise things in my life, but there is a moment growing up that really stands out. I was in high school and had just recently gotten my driver's license. Like many teenage boys, I was always up for something fun, but not necessarily brilliant. This time it involved my mom's new car and a lot of food off of McDonald's value menu.
My friends and I had this brilliant idea. We went to the grocery store to buy eggs and other cheap food items. We then went to McDonald's and ordered a bunch of items off of the value menu. Cheeseburgers, fries, drinks, you name it. From there we got into three separate cars and began what we thought at the time was the most epic food fight ever. Driving up and down the road, we tossed items at one another. Some went out of the sunroof, while other items came right inside.
Then it hit me. We were out of food. The "fun" was over. Somehow I had to return my mom's car back to her. I won't even begin to explain my parents reaction when they saw their beautiful car (this was after a car wash). It was trashed. Ketchup stains were on the seats and the car was an utter mess.
What seemed like fun at the time quickly spiraled into a headache for the weeks ahead.
This teenage illustration is an image of many of our lives. We grab onto a moment. We chase after a certain high until we come crashing back to reality. Our lives have become an utter mess. We've hurt someone. We've ruined something. We've broken trust.
While I definitely had my consequences, my parents would forgive me for my actions that evening. They showed me love in a time when they could have very easily wanted to disown me.
We have a God who has done the very same thing for us. A God who has sought to forgive us, despite the fact that we have run from him. Here is the thing: FORGIVENESS IS UNDERSTOOD WHEN WE'VE BEEN FORGIVEN.
the prodigal son. chasing.
Luke, an early follower of Jesus, recorded down for us a story that Jesus himself told. It was the story of a father and two sons. We refer to it as "The Prodigal Son." (READ HERE: Luke 15:11-32)
In this story the younger son asks the dad for his inheritance early. This simple request is insane, as it was basically as if the son was saying to his father, "hey dad can you just die right now, so I can have your money." I've had the blessing of meeting with people from all over the world and can attest that from India to Central America, this request in and of itself is as bad of an insult as they come. However, the father, doesn't shun the son, but rather he gives both of the brothers their equal portions. The one brother stays home while the younger one goes as far away from home as he could.
He then went on to squander all his money on meaningless thrills, only to find himself broke, hungry, and alone.
At first we may not see ourselves in this story, but in some shape or form we have all gotten to this place.
We've chased after a career, dream, popularity, or high to the point of finding ourselves empty and alone.
Maybe we have cut other people down in order to build ourselves up. This has left us without friends.
Maybe we have dreamed of reaching the top of the corporate ladder only to realize that the higher we climbed, the lonelier we felt.
Maybe we have chased after a certain lifestyle or image only to discover ourselves wrapped up in loans and credit card debt.
Maybe we have experienced a high that we couldn't resist, and in the end we lost everything we had because of it.
To many of us these are really real examples. To others, they are a little extreme. Maybe you have seemed to have done everything right. You've been in church every week of your life. You've watched your mouth, stayed pure until marriage, and even done you're very best to honor your father and mother. You've always been known as a "good person." While we definitely strive to live more and more like Jesus, the reality is we have all lied, cheated, or slandered in some capacity. We have all looked for value and esteem in someone or something other than God.
I would argue that you've lived as the young brother (or prodigal son) anytime you have searched for unconditional love where it cannot be found.
What we see happen with the younger brother is what can happen to us. When you live for you, you're left with just you.
the prodigal son. lost.
Lost people don't want to stay lost. I have not seen a movie, read a story, or seen a news article where someone who was lost did not desire to be found. After a certain period of time, we all recognize that we have become lost. We've lost perspective and don't know where to turn next.
The younger son comes to the point where he says, "But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! (verse 17)"
When we have wondered or strayed we eventually come to the place where we realize how much we have lost. Whatever we chased down did not fulfill our desires and we reflect back on all that we gave up to get to where we are.
Maybe that relationship didn't work out. Our career left us married to it. We haven't picked up the phone in so long that we've forgotten we even have siblings or parents. We've run, but we are lost and exhausted.
Here is the good news, we don't have to stay lost.
The son decides he will head back home. He will ask for his dad's forgiveness.
the prodigal son. found.
This is the most amazing part of the story to me.
Before the son even arrives home, or utters a word, his father finds him, has compassion for him, embraces him, and even kisses him.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." Luke 15:20 ESV
This is the picture of God the Heavenly Father, and us the running, rebellious son. God has chased us down. He has sought us out. He has compassion on us even when we don't seem to deserve it.
I love how Paul explains God's love for us in writing to the Jesus followers in Rome. He writes, "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)"
On December 25 we will celebrate Christmas. This is a time to reflect on the birth of Jesus, his coming into the world. It is a moment to reflect on the fact that God came to us to seek us out. He came to forgive. The birth of Jesus points to the cross which leads us to the hope of the resurrection. All of this is because of the love of God. His desire to forgive us, even when we don't deserve his forgiveness.
the prodigal son. valuable.
The son said to his father, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. (Luke 15:21 ESV)"
The father could have responded, "Yeah you are pretty worthless. You defamed our family name and squandered my money. You hurt me, betrayed me, and even greatly offended me. Good to see you, but you got what you deserved."
I have worked closely with a lot of people battling drug addiction and can say that sadly I've found the world's response to their struggle very similar to the statement above. It was their choice, so they must suffer the consequence. My heart breaks when I realize that's how people think. Often these thoughts are misinformed by the fact that they have never once talked with an addict.
No addict wants to be an addict.
At the end of a battle is a feeling of worthlessness. A sense of disappointment and shame. No one seeks to feel that way, but they end up there. So what is the response?
How do we respond to the people around us who have hurt us, stolen from us, or even disappointed us?
The same way that the father responded to the son.
Not with condemnation, but with celebration! The father gives his son his very best. He has a giant feast. He celebrates that his son is now back home.
God gives us worth when we have deemed ourselves worthless.
the prodigal son. forgiven.
Jesus shares this story so we may understand God's love for us. He wants us to know that he lived, died, and rose from the dead so we may be forgiven. He wants us to be at home with him forever. So, he did what he had to in order to make that possible.
He came to us.
He sacrificed for us.
He forgives us.
The best part...he wants us to be with him forever!
We do not deserve the actions of Jesus at all.
Paul writes it this way in a letter to the church in Ephesus: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)"
As the father unconditionally forgave and showed love to his runaway son, our Heavenly Father has done the same for us. Now it is our time to share that love with others. Because after all, we don't understand the unconditional love of the father until we have lived as the son.
Once such love is experienced, it has to be shared.
So here's our challenge.
Forgive even when it isn't deserved. After all, that's what God did for you.