How Wi Love Strong in Community – Part II
As we saw last week, God designed us to be a people with a common purpose, common values, and living in unity. In other words, God designed us for community, no matter how strange we might look.
In a scene out of the animated movie, Ice Age, Manfred, the mammoth, saved Diego the sabre-tooth tiger as Sid, the sloth, looked on. Diego asked, "Why did you do that? 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 had brought these three together, Sid, the sloth, muses aloud: "I don't know about you guys, but we are one strange herd."
'One strange herd' sometimes seems like a great description of the Church. It is a mix of people with different personalities, backgrounds and ideas who, under normal circumstances, might not be found together, except for the one thing that we have in common - we love Jesus! And when the Church is working right, we look after each other despite our differences, even if it looks a little strange at times.
The book of Acts gives us an example of how a community of Christians can move forward in any church. The stories of first-century followers of Christ, found in Acts, provide a few observations that we can emulate and import into our situation today.
THE CHURCH WAS DEVOTED TO SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42 NIV. This was not just another social gathering. These disciples dedicated themselves to growing in the knowledge of God and the practices that would grow their faith. So, for us to be devoted to spiritual fellowship in the Church community means:
1. We have to be committed to growing in faith.
A commitment to growth means investing our time in activities that make us grow, like regularly reading the Bible, praying, fasting and participating in communion or breaking of bread with our church. Being present in church and even doing church work is not enough. The scripture says, "Every day, they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes..." Acts 2:46 NIV. They received maximum benefit from the prayers and sermons because they also met in smaller groups. This is where we get deeper into our faith.
2. We have to commit ourselves to growing spiritually with other Christians.
As we go through this spiritual journey, we have to be dedicated to doing it personally and with others. When we start doing spiritual things together, God takes note of what we are doing. Malachi 3:6 MSG says, "Then those whose lives honoured God got together and talked it over. God saw what they were doing and listened in. A book was opened in God's presence and minutes were taken of the meeting, with the names of the God-fearers written down, all the names of those who honoured God's name."
3. We have to find a community with a leader that we can trust.
The scripture said, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching..." They had trust in the apostles to teach and lead them. Leadership is important to God. You have to find a leader that has a vision, guides you and teaches you in a manner that you can trust.
Today, God's plan hasn't changed. He still desires to use His Church to do some powerful things. As we dedicate ourselves to grow together spiritually, God will do things supernaturally in our midst. So in the first century church community, some characteristics started to form:
1. The barriers started to fall.
In that society, there were a lot of barriers - social, racial, economic and religious. But the community started to operate outside of the barriers that the society had set up. This is where God wants us to reach. Barriers between us must start to fall, than a community of love will start to emerge.
2. There was a spirit of transparency
Pride and the things that drive us apart started to be broken down. Persons felt comfortable sharing where they were in their lives and supporting each other. 'My struggles' must become 'our struggles' so that we can receive support.
3. There was a spirit of support.
That was why in Acts 2:44-45 NIV it said, "All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need." They shared their material goods to meet needs so that a focus could remain on spiritual growth for everyone. Throughout our lives and especially during tough times, God desires to strengthen and empower us through the community of believers. He expects us to support each other during the storms of life.
4. It became a community of transformation:
Acts informs us that the believers were "... praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:47 NIV.
The community of faith is crucial to our spiritual well-being because it is the place where we find special opportunities to share our lives with each other. We all have a God-given responsibility to reach out and minister to each other so that we can become 'one great herd' as the Church we are meant to be.