@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.