For the last few weeks, we’ve been in a series entitled “We Are The Church”, and we’ve been focusing on who we are as the Church, and what we are called to do and be.
We talked about spiritual gifts the first week, then, last week, about using those spiritual gifts through service.
This week, we are discussing our call to community. John Stott said “The Christian community is a community of the cross, for it has been brought into being by the cross, and the focus of its worship is the Lamb once slain, now glorified.”
Our main passage this week is Acts 2:42-47 (NLT). In it, Luke tells us what happens as those who heard the apostles’ message on the day of Pentecost began forming their community. This was the beginning of the Christian church, and the scripture says that they worshipped together, had all things in common, broke bread together, and even sold all they had to give to those in need. Today, we will be looking at three truths we can take away to help us be more effective as a community of believers.
1. We Are Called To Community For Growth
Acts 2:42 (NLT) says “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” I heard an interview several years ago given by a drag racer who had become teammates with the winningest driver on the circuit at the time. In the interview, he quoted his dad as saying “If you want to be the best, hang out with the best.” In his book, Chase The Lion, Mark Batterson talks about the best way to discover your own dream being help someone else to achieve their dream. Both of these are examples of growing by being around other people. If you’re an athlete, you more than likely know that you experience the most amount of growth during competition. A basketball player practicing his 3-point shot or a baseball player in the cages taking batting practice is helpful, but you’re not really challenging yourself until there is someone contesting your 3, or hurling a 95 mph fastball in your direction for you to try to hit. I can personally attest to this. As a kid, I spent a lot of my time in the summers hitting baseballs in my yard. I lived in the country, and there weren’t a lot of people around, so the only way for me to play was to throw the ball up and hit it. I was good, but it wasn’t until I started to face live pitching that I truly began to grow as a hitter. I accepted Christ when I was 8 years old, and despite being fairly active at church most of my life, I didn’t really understand what it meant to be a follower of Jesus until a friend gave me a book by Kyle Idleman called Not A Fan. Kyle is the teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church, and the author of several books. The book, as good as it was, left me with a lot of questions. Thankfully, I was surrounded by a group of men who either answered questions for me, or helped me to find the answers. If you’re in a community group, or life group, chances are that not everyone in your group is in the same place in their relationship with Christ. Despite the fact that I had considered myself a Christian for most of my life, I had never really grown in my faith until I got around other people who both guided and challenged me. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship.” What he is essentially saying is that every member of a community is crucial, not only to the growth of that community, but to it’s very existence. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) says “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up on meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The Hebrew writer is encouraging us to meet together to help strengthen each other. There is a quote that says “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Part of the reason that community is so important to our growth is because it strengthens our bonds of friendship and of love, and a house where there is love is destined to succeed, which brings me to my next point.
2. We Are Called To Community To Give
Acts 2:44-45 (NLT) says “And all the believers met in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.” Have you ever been in a place where you needed help financially? Maybe you had a bill due that you didn’t know how you would pay, or maybe you ran out of gas while trying to survive until your next paycheck. About 2 years ago, I was in a place where I needed some help. I had been in a wreck, lost a job, and was needing some help. Thankfully, my life group stepped up in a big way. They came to my rescue, and I am eternally grateful. I have seen mighty things done by groups of people willing to help come to the aid of a friend in need, whether it be financial, physical, or emotional. The great thing about being a part of a community is there are always people who will help share your burden. Whether it is a breakup, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, sickness, or even just a hard day, we are called to share each other’s burdens. Remember Samwise in Lord of the Rings (can you tell I’m a nerd)? He wouldn’t let Frodo go to Mordor alone, because he knew that he would need a helper. Had it not been for Sam, Frodo would have lost the ring along the way, and all of Middle Earth would have been doomed. Now, I understand most of us are not in situations where the whole world would be in jeopardy if we don’t have help, but we still face situations that are difficult, and we need others advise or expertise to help us face them. Galations 6:2 (ESV) says “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (NLT), Paul talks about the body of Christ as having many parts, and each part being critical to the body as a whole. Have you ever seen someone who has a huge upper body, and tiny legs? I had a friend once who spent the majority of his time at the gym working on his upper body, but focused very little on working out his legs. As a result, his arms, chest, and shoulders were massive, but his legs were tiny. If we don’t share each other’s burdens, we are neglecting a major part of the body. A few weeks ago, we were discussing our spiritual gifts in my life group. One of my friends made the comment “What are we here for if not to help each other”, and he went on to talk about the fact that he was good at fixing cars. Some of us are good at fixing cars, some at electronics (if this is you, let me know!!!!!), and others are lawyers, doctors, or teachers. Whatever your specific part of the body, it is crucial for doing the work of Christ in the community of believers. My last point is this.
3. We Are Called To Community For Worship
Acts 2:46-47 (NLT) says “They worshipped together in the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” The Greek word for community is ekklesia, meaning the collective body of Christian believers regarded as constituting a universal church. While we are encouraged to and capable of worshiping God privately, it is still very important that we come together as believers to worship corporately. Matthew 18:20 (NIV) says “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This does not just include Sunday mornings, but also in smaller groups. I can recall quite a few examples of powerful corporate worship that I’ve been a part of, but maybe one of the most powerful examples happened sporadically. I was a part of a retreat to a camp in Tyler, Texas. At the camp, there was an old church building on one end of the camp, and the first night we were there, a group of us walked around the lake to it. We were kind of all goofing off when we found hymnals in the pews, and began a Church of Christ worship session singing old hymns out of a Baptist hymnal. It was completely random, and our group was not a large one, but it was one of the most powerful moments of worship I can remember, and God was definitely present. We are most definitely capable of worshiping on our own, and are encouraged throughout scripture to do so, but there is a great presence in corporate worship that often cannot be experienced by ourselves.
We come to you today thankful that You have called us to community. We thank You for the day of Pentecost that began Your church, and for the example set by the apostles. We pray that You help us to grow closer to You, and that You help us to be an example to others of what it means to be followers of Your Son, Jesus Christ. It’s in His name we pray. Amen
Next week, we will begin a two week series called At The Cross, where we will take a look at the death and resurrection of Jesus. The first week, we will discuss the events leading up to His crucifixion and death, and the following week, His resurrection. As always, if you have comments or questions, or would like to know more about putting your faith in Jesus, and becoming part of a community, feel free to message us. Have a blessed week!!!