God’s Design for Community

By May 29, 2016Church

When we moved from California to Atlanta, GA, there were things I had to adjust to … southern accents, sweet tea, and banana pudding. I quickly discovered you could say the meanest thing about a person as long as you added “Bless their heart …” somewhere to the sentence.

“Billy is the dumbest kid I know, bless his heart.”

Aerial_Covington_GA copyOne of the things I had to adjust to was the lack of fences in the backyard. Here’s an aerial picture of our house in Covington, GA.

I could wave at neighbors two or three doors down either side. In California, you might not even know what your neighbors looked like. It was more like Tim Allen only seeing the hat and eyes of Mr. Wilson.

Our American culture emphasizes words like privacy, personal, and individual. Our technology, as much as it allows us to be “connected”, often ends us encouraging us to be isolated together. Just watch a group of people all using the their phones at the same time.

Ironically, we are surrounded by 1,000’s of people and yet still feel alone. This is one of the main reasons I believe the church is as relevant now as it has ever been.

In our current series at Mountainview, we’ve been looking at the characteristics of the first church. The first three weeks we saw how God intended the church to be Spirit-empowered, gospel-centered, and transformation-oriented.

As Acts 2 comes to a close, we see that God never intended the Christian life to be lived in isolation from others. He wants us to experience biblical community.

By the end of Acts 2, this new church has 3,000 new believers. In a short summary, Luke describes what life was like for them …

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. — Acts 2:42-47

Notice the language Luke uses to describe this new community: They devoted themselves, everyone was filled with awe, all the believers were together.

They weren’t 3,000 individual believers trying to figure this new Christian thing out by themselves. While they responded individually to the gospel, their response also put them into a relationship with other Christians.

What was at the heart of this new community called the church? What were they devoted to?

They were devoted to biblical teaching.

Today we have access to both the Old and New Testaments. We can turn to books in New Testament to find what it means to follow Jesus. We can read letters from Peter, James, and John.

They had Peter, James, and John in the flesh!

There was no book of Romans they could turn to – it hadn’t been written. As new believers, they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching.

They were devoted to relationships.

When you attend a Rockies game, have you ever noticed the instant camaraderie between fans of the opposing team? It’s like every other Dodger fan is a long-lost best friend.

Why is that? It’s simple: they share something in common and they are outnumbered by the opposition.

Imagine being one of the original 3,000 Christians. As incredible as that sounds, you’re still outnumbered. You are definitely in the minority. It was only a few months ago that your friends and neighbors had sentenced Jesus to death. You’ve changed but they haven’t.

Does any of this sound familiar? It’s why they spent time together in public and private. It’s why they took care of one another.

Christian fellowship is similar to a bicycle wheel. There is a rim on outside with spokes that run to the center of wheel and are joined together at the hub.

As the individual spokes become closer to the center, they begin to overlap with each other as they join in the center.

Each person who believes in Jesus is bonded to the center – to Jesus. The closer we are drawn to Jesus, the closer we are drawn to each other and the more we interact and support each other.

This passage challenges many of our contemporary approaches to discipleship because it is less about the individual and more about the community.

They were devoted to prayer and worship.

It’s not like these Jewish Christians had never prayed or worshiped before. But they had never prayed in the name of Jesus before. Because of Jesus, their worship had new dimension of praise. They were no longer looking to be saved; they had been saved. And it led them to worship.

A dependence on prayer and a desire to worship are not only indicators that God has done something within you … it’s also an indication that you want God to continue doing something within you – through you.

Many commentators say we’re living in a non-devoted age, that people are less committed than before. Is that true?

Ladies, if you find a guy who won’t commit – the problem isn’t that he has trouble with commitment; he just has trouble committing to you! He’s very committed to his own agenda and freedom.

The truth is, people are very devoted to … craft beer, specialty coffee, football, certain bands, working out.

With the possible exception of Justin Bieber, most of those aren’t bad things. In fact, many of our devotions may be good things.

Question is: are we also devoted to the right things?

Where do you start?

You cannot be a true disciple of Jesus and be disconnected from the church. God has made you a part of the body of Christ – the church. Let me offer two simple, practical ways to get started.

  1. Get into a group. Find a Bible study or small group that you can meet with on a consistent basis. These relationships will become an important network of encouragement, care, and friendship.
  2. Commit to regular participation in worship. Your presence is an encouragement to someone else – reminds us we’re not alone.

Finally, what does this mean for your church?

This new kind of community had a magnetic appeal. The last verse of chapter 2 says this: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

That kind of church community is still possible today and it starts with you and me.