And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
The local church is called by Christ and His Word to be a community. A community of believers is where people are known, needs are shared, prayers are offered, victories are celebrated and losses are comforted. This takes time, trust, humility, and commitment, to develop. Many experts, such as Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock, are deeply concerned that the community within local churches has disintegrated so low that it is now in jeopardy! Their new book, The Way Back, makes a strong case that churches have lost their sense of community which has led to a loss of attraction to those in the world looking for soul healing. They state that when the average American church goer now only attends their local church less than 3 Sundays in every 8, the church’s ability to foster its community is rendered near impossible – and worse still, its collective witness is undermined. Rod Dreher makes a similar point in his book, The Benedict Option. But it’s not too late for us here to maintain and build our church’s sense of community. Here’s why.
A PLACE OF LOVE
¶ Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.
None of us go to church on Sunday because we are the church. The former is a consumer mentality, the latter is a Biblical mentality. Each Sunday our church comes together. To maintain and build our sense of community as a church requires work, sacrifice, and commitment. This is why parents have a duty to model to their children what being a member of a church community is all about. Children should see the times when their parents are sacrificing in order to come together as the church with their church community. We live in such an individualistic culture that is built around ‘my’ happiness and what ‘I’ want. But God’s design for people is for them to become a part of a church which is an ‘us’ culture where our focus is beyond ourselves rather than on ourselves.
In the world love is thought of as what brings me pleasure, but in the Kingdom of God love is what brings others their highest good. The kind of community we are called by God to be and become is a community where we learn to love each other.
SUNDAY IS FAMILY DAY!
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Your church community is your family. Parents bring their children to church each Sunday to demonstrate to their children that their family is much bigger than just their nuclear family. Thus, when their children one day move out of home and possibly even relocate to another city, they will have a Biblical truth planted deep in their soul: that the local church is also my family wherever I am!
Because Sunday is family day as a church, we intentionally do those things which strengthen our community bonds. We worship together. We pray together. We give our attention to God’s Word together. We share conversation together. We share our burdens together. We listen to one another. We confess to one another.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
NOT JUST A SUNDAY COMMUNITY
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
A church community is just maintained and built on our Sunday gatherings. We are an Acts 2 church. This doesn’t mean that we are trying to be either nostalgic (dwelling on the past) or romantic (idealising the past), rather, we observe that from the outset of the Church’s establishment by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost that there were principles upon which the Church was founded and then built upon. These are most obvious in Acts 2. It is here that we see the Church met in the Temple precinct and in homes. The larger attractional gathering plus the more intimate home meetings were the key environments for fostering the church’s community. This is why our small group meetings held in homes around our Valley are so pivotal to us developing our bonds of community. This too requires work, sacrifice, and commitment. The Home Group that I lead is comprised of busy (and often tired) people. We share together, occasionally cry together, laugh together, eat and drink together, pray together, confess to each other, and ponder God’s Word together.
I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
We are being very intentional about developing our church community. This is why each of our Home Groups have been undertaking a study of Romans 12:9-21. It’s why each of the Home Group leaders meet together every month for breakfast. It’s why we roster each of our Home Groups on a particular Sunday to work together to show hospitality to the broader church family. It’s why we need everyone on board with this mission to be a covenant community of believers.