Biblical Community was God’s idea. How do we know that? Because God lives in community. Let me give you a one-minute theology of community. In the beginning…God. While I would never change a word of scripture. I think we could easily understand that In the beginning…there was community. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit-That was the first community. The biblical word to express that is Elohim which mean God that is both one and plural. In the Genesis account, the Spirit of God was hovering above the face of the deep. In John’s account in chapter one of his gospel, he describes the Word that was with God. So community was God’s idea, modeled after the oneness of the Trinity itself.
Jesus also formed a community. He gathered together 12 disciples. And for three years they did life together. They walked down the road together, ate together, discussed theology and the kingdom together. The disciples not only knew Jesus well, but each other well after three years.
And the church that Jesus founded also had the aspect of community. Churches must be a community of people who love God and love each other. In the early church Paul spoke of community and that they experienced more than just public meetings. Acts 20:20 NKJV “…and taught you publicly and from house to house,” Sometimes the early church met together in more of a public format and at other times from house to house in smaller groups.
It is one thing to commit yourself to Jesus. It is another thing to fully commit yourself to a group of people. The biblical ideal of community challenges us to commit ourselves to life together as the people of God.
There is an animated movie Ice Age. In the movie, Saber-tooth tigers attack a tribe of nomads, and the result is a little boy is lost and alone. The little boy is discovered by a Wooly mammoth named Manfred, a sloth name Sid, and a saber-tooth tiger named Diego. These three unlikely companions unite on a common mission to return the baby to his father.
As the trio treks through a mountainous terrain of ice and snow carrying the baby, at one point the mammoth, sloth, and tiger realize they’re on an erupting volcano. The heat of the lava melts the glacier bridges atop the ice fields, separating Diego from the others. Isolated on a quickly melting island of ice, Diego jumps to reach the others, but falls short. Dangling from the edge of the ice field, his grip falters, and he falls. Manfred, unwilling to let Diego perish, leaps into a chasm after him and tosses the tiger upwards to safety.
Diego, realizing the danger involved in the rescue, is moved by Manfred’s compassion, courage, and sacrifice. “Why did you do that?” he asks. “You could have died trying to save me.” Humbly, the mammoth responds, “That’s what you do when you’re part of a herd. You look after each other.”
Amazed at the convergence of circumstances that has brought these three together, Sid muses aloud. “I don’t know about you guys, but we are one strange herd.” Now the bible doesn’t call us a herd, but it does call us a flock.
Don’t you feel like that’s a great description of the church sometimes? A mix of people with different personalities, different backgrounds, different ideas sometimes, different experiences, who might never hang out together— except for the one thing that we have in common: we love Jesus. And of course we must look out for each other. Perhaps one of the most insightful passages that we can and should follow that teaches this idea is found in Acts 2:42-47 NLT
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”
I have two questions for us today that we need answered.
- WHAT DOES BIBLICAL COMMUNITY LOOK LIKE?
Community is about two or more people who make a deliberate choice not only to “accept Christ” but also to accept one another. We accept each other with our flaws, our weaknesses, our strange tendencies. It is that commitment to each other that brings community! It is where we look out for one another. It is where we pray for each other. If you have never experienced real loving biblical community, I feel so sorry for you. It’s wonderful. It is awesome to have people in your life who know everything about you, and love you completely. It is wonderful to be “accepted in the beloved” and be able to be celebrated and celebrate others.
Luke gives us an accurate picture of what biblical community is and how it functions.
Biblical Community is see in…
- Hearing God’s Word.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (v. 42)
The word doctrine just means teaching. Steadfastly tells me that it was regular, continual, constant. The early Christians came together and heard the Word preached and taught. But this was not the sum total of what the church experienced. Many believe that is all church is. Being part of a community of faith is so much more than that!
It’s important that the Word of God be central to our gathering together. It’s important we come together on a regular basis and let someone gifted in preaching and teaching do that so we can be instructed in the Word of God. The Word of God is transforming. It is living! It is alive! As we are being taught, the Spirit of God uses that, applies it to your life, and your life is enriched because of it.
Biblical Community is seen as well in…
- Eating Together.
Somebody praise the Lord for tacos! Don’t misunderstand me, I know this refers to the Lords supper as well, but eating together is wonderful fellowship!
“. . . in the breaking of bread” (v. 42) “. . . and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (v. 46)
They ate together. This is extremely important. The Holy Spirit mentions this specifically. I think that the reason is that something relaxing happens when you eat with others. You stop being strangers and start becoming friends. There is something about eating together that brings people’s lives together. It just does. It relaxes people and opens people to respond and receive, to give and take.
- Praying Together.
“. . .and in prayers.” (v. 42) They didn’t just pray for each other in their individual homes, they came together and prayed and laid hands on one another. They prayed and wept and claimed God’s promises together. I remember as a youth pastor so many years ago leaving Bonnie and Daryl’s house and as we were getting ready to leave and Daryl said “I remember when every time we would say goodbye to each other we would pray. Why did we stop doing that? That meant so much.” And so those of us who were there that night began to pray for each other before we left each other and in no time, we felt so close.
Something supernatural links you together, and binds you together when you pray together!
- Sharing Material Goods.
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” (vs. 44-45)
They shared life’s resources. Sometimes young parents need a baby-sitter so they can have a date night. Sometimes people need to borrow a car when theirs is broken. Sometimes they just need a lift to the airport. Sometimes they need a help up, or help with expenses. That is what families do. How do you do that if you’re not interacting with each other, knowing what the other needs?
Maybe you have something someone needs and maybe you’re willing to sacrifice because that’s what a community of believers does. They do not live their lives for themselves but for the encouragement of one another. Their attention is not on their needs but on the needs of others.
Don’t misunderstand me. The church is not responsible for meeting every need. If a person won’t work, they are going to get hungry. We can only do what the Spirit tells us to do. We have to have wisdom in what we do. But when people commit to each other there will be a flow of need meeting as we do life together.
- “Hanging Out.”
They hung out together. It is as simple as that. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.” (v. 42) So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house.” (v. 46)
When you hang out you become friends. And when you have friends you care about them.
I have a friend named Bill Olson who used to say, “It is just enough that we are together!” Believers need each other. We should do things together, go places, and enjoy life together.
- WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO LIVING IN COMMUNITY WITH OTHER BELIEVERS
- You Won’t Be Alone Anymore
Have you ever heard someone say, “Alone in a crowd”? Feeling isolated and alone is one of the biggest problems for humanity. Even before the fall God said way back in the book of Genesis 2:18 “And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone…” Didn’t God give Adam a wife? Yes, he did. But the loneliness issue isn’t solved by marriage alone. It is solved by community. And community is found in the church.
I recently shared a friend of mines blog on Facebook. You can read her blog by clicking this l ink. www.autocorrectmylife.wordpress.com Her name is M. R. Cavanaugh. I don’t know her well, but I do know the story of her life. I knew her mother very well as she was a school mate of mine. Sadly, she passed away, and her daughter, the author I am speaking about was left without a mother. In a beautiful way this talented author honors those in her hometown church who stepped up to fill that void. The ladies of the church kind of adopted her. What a beautiful testimony to community.
Sometimes you don’t have to do a big thing to make a difference. All you have to do is love someone. Did she miss her mom? Sure. But those ladies helped her get through it! That is called community.
2. You Get To Show The World What Love Is
God has designed the body of Christ so that we can interact so that the world can see what love looks like. “This is what the community of faith is like, this is what fellowship with Jesus is like.” The best way we can really show the world love is through loving fellow believers! John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
When the church loves each other…it is a powerful testimony that God is among us. Especially when we are able to show love to those who view life differently than we do. There always will be someone who needs extra “grace” or concern or love. Their will always be those who are a little different. But that is just an opportunity for us to display love.
I have heard of churches out there that want to “brand” themselves in a worldly type of way. They only allow beautiful people to be displayed on the platform, or in their promotional material. All your leaders, your worship team, your greeters, everybody must be an externally beautiful person. I wonder what Jesus thinks of that? The real church in community loves people regardless of how they look on the outside. Community says, If you belong to Jesus…you are my brother or sister!
I believe one of the reasons the church in America is not seeing many people converted is because we are not demonstrating this kind of love they can see. I’m convinced that if the world saw the love of Christ that we have for one another they would be saved. Many have no idea of what the community of faith is really like, but if they could see it some would want it, they would even die for it. They’re starving for it they just don’t believe it exists.