Recently I’ve been in some really cool discussions, a great many of which have dealt with the idea and nature of community. Other conversations have revolved around a lot of other things from what my thoughts on “KONY 2012” are and why I enjoy wearing minimalist running shoes… but that’s beside the point. The conversations surrounding community and specifically Christian community have really, really been good. Good for my heart, and from what I have gathered, good for the hearts of others involved.
Basically it revolves around the term “organic”.
This term has become a familiar one to me and to my family this year as we’ve pursued a better eating lifestyle and it’s a term that our culture has become more aware of in the past decade when it comes to that particular arena. However, organic is not a term or description that is limited to the vegetable aisle at the grocery store or that weird little natural food store down the street. Organic is basically something that is produced naturally, in the grocery universe that means without insecticides, hormones, or other chemicals. It’s also something that can be applied to other areas, areas that are important in our development as followers of Christ.
In the book of Acts, which my wife and I have the humble blessing of leading a group of friends through right now, we get a picture painted for us of the development of the first Christian church and Christian community. This is found in the very familiar text of Acts 2:42-47. This being said, I want to point out that this isn’t some new thought or revelation, in fact I am well aware that I’m not the first guy to point this out… it just seems a worthwhile point to chime in on.
The image of this early church community can sometimes be over-idealized, as though it was somehow without flaw or fault. To be certain, since we realize that people were involved it in no way could be perfect. However, in light of that, we cannot just go and write it off, because the reality of this fledgling community of Christ followers is that they had a significant impact while keeping it really simple. They pursued four distinct things: Gospel, Prayer, Fellowship, Breaking Bread (Acts 2:42).
THE RESULT of this kind of intentional community is really what I want to talk about, and although it would be a worthwhile discussion to have surrounding the in’s and out’s of the things they were devoted to… we can leave that for the comments section if necessary. But for the sake of understanding simply put – Apostles teaching = Gospel. This would be the main thrust of their teaching, Jesus being the Messiah in accordance with and fulfillment of the OT scriptures, and His death, resurrection, and ascension. Prayer = self explanatory. Fellowship = intentional gathering of believers for encouragement, glorification of God, and proclamation of the Gospel etc. Breaking of Bread = meals together (that may include observance of communion) Alright… now on to the actual results.
Community impact came as a direct result of the changed lives of these believers and this new “way”. What I love is that they displayed a balanced approach to clinging to meeting corporately for worship in the temple, then continued on in worship in their homes and smaller gatherings as well. They determined to be with one another and in each others lives, to bear the burdens of those around them (even those they didn’t know extremely well) tangibly. This is a powerful display of the heart of Christian community… but there is something noticeably missing.
WHERE’S THE PROGRAM?
There is no mention of devotion to making sure the apostles were setting up feeding programs, or efforts to go out into the community and find and meet needs, or to take care of the poor. So does this mean it wasn’t happening? I would offer that it was indeed happening, but that it was such an organic, natural outcome to what Christians do together, and how the Gospel plays out in our own hearts, that Luke felt no need to mention those particulars. People outside of the Christian “fold” were certainly being blessed by this new group, and people were being impacted and coming to faith but the outworking of God through this community of believers, but not because their local church had established such great programs. It was happening because the Gospel was alive and working in the midst of people and it was driving them to be servants, love those around them, sacrifice for others, declare Jesus, and praise God through all of it.
This in my mind is what happens when believers get together and devote themselves to simply pursuing the Gospel in our own lives, having a full prayer life, connecting intentionally and deeply with other believers outside of the weekly corporate gathering, and sharing our homes and lives over meals with one another. We become active participants in the Gospel… organically. And I would challenge each of us to examine those things…
Are we devoting ourselves to Gospel preaching, sound biblical teaching of the scriptures (not morality or philosophy), and our own study of God’s word?
Are we connected in prayer, taking time to talk with, and listen to, God?
Are we in deep connected community with other believers? The kind where people are speaking the hard truths into our lives and we are encouraged to further understand the Gospel in our lives. It’s gritty and uncomfortable at times, but is so necessary. Is it consistent?
Are we exposing our homes to other people, are we sharing our dinner tables and meals with people around us? Get your small groups into each others homes! Discipleship is a matter of life on life exposure, not just instruction.
It is my belief that if we are encouraged to grow in these areas in our lives that we become the community of believers that moves to feed the poor, that visits the home bound and ill, ministers to our neighbors, sacrifices for others, and ultimately proclaims the Gospel to the world around us… all because it has taken root in us and grown out of us organically.
think about it.