@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I'm one of those guys who grew up in church my whole life. I've been a part of Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Lutheran, Nazarene, and Baptist churches. I have been in churches with beautiful stain glass and some that are torn down 30 minutes following the end of a service. No matter the denomination or setting, there seems to be one thing in common...COMMUNITY.
However, what I have also seen happen in these churches is that community loses its perspective. It becomes great at providing meals, help, and assistance to those on the inside. However, in so doing, it forgets about those on the outside.
When Jesus built the church, he prepared the community to be both inwardly and outwardly focused. So how do we get there?
go back to the basics.
The early church "ekklessia" (which means gathering) began with God sending himself to us as the Holy Spirit. Jesus had ascended into heaven but sent a helper. A helper who is still with us to this very day. From there the early followers met in homes, listened to teachings, went to the temple together, cared for one another, shared everything, and they "had favor with all the people." And then, the author Luke tells us, "And the Lord added to their number day by day." Acts 2:42-47
Wow how things have changed.
Today, the church as we have come to know it has not had favor with all the people. Some are struggling to see growth (especially in America). And while there are more followers of Jesus than ever before, there are still so many who do not know him or believe in him.
So what's the problem?
As Christians we can become so good at caring for one another that we forget about the world outside of our community.
If we want to be like the early church in Acts, then we have to go back to the basics.
#1 - start loving one another.
Why? I love this question. My toddler son asks it all the time. As we get older, we often forget to ask this key three letter word with a question mark at the end..."why?"
Why do we as followers of Jesus care for one another? After all, many of my neighbors who don't ever go to church will often drop whatever they are doing to help me before any of my Christian friends will. They want to help to do good. They want to be a "good neighbor" or a "good friend."
As followers of Jesus we know our calling is much bigger than that. Rather than doing something to be good or "do the right thing," we should do it out of love for one another. Our motivation isn't achieving likeability or favor, but rather it is based on a heart of love.
Jesus said to his followers (John 13:34),
"A new commandment I give to you, that you are to love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another."
Jesus very command is not to do good, or earn favor. It is to love. This command was not for the masses gathered either. It came during an intimate moment with his followers.
As followers of Jesus, we have to be rooted in love for God and each other. Sadly, we often miss the mark.
I recently had a lengthy conversation with a young man who felt complete shame. He has battled with addiction. While he has been in church and Christian school his whole life, the culture has left him full of shame. He is scared to be judged every time he walks through the doors. At his parents church they have wine with communion and a few things of grape juice. He worries what people will think when he grabs for the juice. Or worse yet, he worries if the juice runs out before he takes communion, then he will look like he isn't participating. A community that is suppose to be about love, instead has become about judment and shame.
If we want to get back to the roots, then we have to get back to loving those in our own community.
After all, if we can't show love to those within our churches, how are we to show love to those outside the church?
Why? Why did Jesus tell his disciples to love one another as he loved them? Because...
#2 - our love for one another has a greater purpose.
Jesus continues his statement from earlier,
"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35
How will people know who the disciples are? How will they know if they are followers of Jesus? By their love for one another. What is so interesting to me is that the witness of Jesus' own followers is conditional. They had walked with him. Witnessed miracles. Seen the very son of God. Yet, the message they would carry later on still came with a condition.
There is a key two letter word in the verse above. "if"
The verse could be read:
If you love one another, then people will know you are my disciples.
As communities, our witness to the non-Jesus follower, is shown by our love for one another.
So, why should we love one another? Why should we be in community with one another?
#3 - our communities are to be a witness.
As Jesus followers we are not called to huddle up or hunker down. We are called to GO. Our mission is not to serve the best pot lucks until Jesus returns. NO! Our mission and focus is this:
To share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone we possibly can.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." John 3:16-17
We are able to share this message with the outside world through offering a community that is not found anywhere else. A community truly based on love.
Imagine walking into a place, beaten down with your regretfilled past. Hurting. Broken. And then feeling loved.
Imagine seeing people of all stories and backgrounds gathering together, eating with one another, sharing with one another, and talking about all the amazing things Jesus has done for them. Imagine witnessing people so on fire for God that they can't help but want to be there for everyone in their neighborhood.
Imagine this with me. THIS IS WHAT JESUS CALLS HIS FOLLOWERS TO LIVE LIKE.
So let's live that way! Let our Christian communities show the world who Jesus is by our love for one another.
@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.