Community Begins with Us
by Adrian Williams
A new year is a unique time to stop and assess our community, our church, our small group, and our circle of friends. This past year our ideas of connection and community have been put to the test. As physical contact has been limited, our understanding of community has dramatically evolved. Whether that be our professional, personal, or spiritual community, its boundaries have stretched far beyond our workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, and brick and mortar churches.
The meaning of the word community has expanded. Our idea of what our community consists of has grown to include not just our immediate vicinity, but also a more global perspective.
My vision of what community looks like has been heavily shaped by Acts 2:42-47, which our lead pastor at Christ’s Church is currently preaching through every weekend this month. These verses paint a vivid picture of what traits marked the very first church, what held those believers together after Jesus left them here on earth, what inspired them to leave everything behind for his sake, and what sustained them in the face of horrible opposition and persecution.
Persistent Devotion, Not Casual Impassiveness
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42, ESV).
The early church studied the Word together, shared meals together, and they talked to the Lord together. They were committed to living their lives together. They were not just committed to Christ; they were committed to one another. They were not just committed to a personal relationship with Christ; they were committed to spiritual fellowship with each other. They didn’t just casually come together when they had time. They devoted themselves to fellowship. These Christians could not even conceive of not living life in community. To try and live the Christian life alone would never even enter their minds.
We all need this type of fellowship, the kind that cannot take place in an auditorium or sanctuary. In a small group, you get to dig deeper into God’s Word. You get to talk about life and things that are important. In my experience with groups such as Rooted, we were able to share hurts and heartaches. We were able to give and receive genuine Christian love. Community is built around Jesus, the Bible, and growing together in our faith.
Is our community today as devoted as the early church was?
Genuine Affection, Not Bored Formality
“And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43, ESV).
What happened when the early church devoted themselves to the Bible and to one another? The Gospel writer Luke tells us that they were in awe—the kind of awe that overwhelms the mind and then it gets to the heart. No feeling or emotion leads to real life or joy if it is not based on the truth about you and about God. Too often in many of our churches we settle for rehearsing the same truths over and over again, in singing and preaching without expecting to be moved by God again. But awe should not only be in regards to the experience of conversion, but of day-in, day-out faith in community. As we watch God move over and over again, for one another and in one another, our hearts awaken in wonder again.
Is our community today still moved by God?
Selfless Generosity, Not Selfish Ambition
“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44, 45, ESV).
It is hard to imagine a community in which all believers are together, sharing everything in common. Our entire society is built on a giant rulebook of separation. We live in separate homes (or apartments) and drive separate cars to separate buildings. We work in walled-off offices or cubicles. Our homes are grouped compartments that we call “rooms.” Our clothes are separated by closets and drawers.
Contrary to what we’re used to, the life of the early church took place in one-room homes, with families all together. Those who came to Jesus in those first days after the resurrection were kicked out of the Jewish order. They had to band together. Many lost their families, and their livelihoods. In order to survive they had to come together. But it was more than that. It was an understanding that if Jesus is who he says he is, then these possessions we have in life really don’t matter very much. The only thing that really does matter are the relationships we build and those we lead toward Christ who will join him and us in Heaven one day.
Christianity did not isolate believers to focus exclusively on their own relationship with Jesus, but made each believer another vital vein in the body of Christ. Every believer was called to be part of the process of carrying to others whatever they needed from God. The first Christians felt so secure in God’s promises that they let go of all they owned in order to help one another. To the watching world, it was both unexplainably selfless and foolishly generous.
Is our community today radically selfless and generous toward one another?
Contagious Joy, Not Secluded Cliques
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46, 47, ESV).
God didn’t intend for some of us to make disciples and for others to do different kinds of ministry. Every Christian and every Christian community is called to win the lost and build into Christian maturity. God desires to make every genuine expression of true love, joy, and worship contagious.
When I think about our church and our small groups, the sentence that inspires me most is the last one in this paragraph: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47, ESV).
Is our community today consistently making disciples?
As we begin a new year, let’s look for questions to uncover weaknesses or blind spots in our spiritual community. I would challenge you to sit down and develop a vision for how you will live and serve with others over the next twelve months. Then open the Bible and anchor every dream and plan in God’s hands.
Adrian Williams has been a member of Christ’s Church for three years. As a founding member of the John Maxwell Leadership Team, certified executive coach, facilitator, and speaker, discipleship is his passion.