God works through us his people to create community. The priorities of God’s kingdom, and our responsibilities as citizens of his kingdom, are anchored in the relationships we share in the church community. A church community provides the best environment for spiritual growth and care for the soul. At its best, and by the grace of God, it is within community that we are nurtured in the faith. God has provided Christian Community, for our spiritual wellbeing and so we must give it priority.
We reassess our church community life, not by starting with a blank page but by identifying the big themes of spiritual life in the bible. These tend to fall under five headings found in Acts 2.42, Worship, Service, Evangelism, Discipleship and Fellowship. Similarly, you find these in the great commandment and great commission: Love God –worship; Love our Neighbour – service; the command to Go, which is evangelism; Teach, which is discipleship; and Baptism, which is joining the fellowship of believers. We have been considering the values and nature of community we would like to have at Greyfriars.
A Beloved Community: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love;” (Jeremiah 31:3)
A Caring Community: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
A Worshipping Community: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)
A Hopeful Community: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts …” (Romans 5:5)
A United Community: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6)
A Welcoming Community: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’” (Revelation 22:17)
A Gospel Community: the gospel is … “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)
Imagine a church that values each of these facets of community life, the rich relationships between people; ministries they would be empowered to achieve; the mutual encouragement offered; and the sense of belonging and spiritual fulfilment in such a church. But let us be real, such a community is an ideal. It is hard to hold community together because our human failings hinder us. I appreciate the wisdom of Dr Henry Cloud, a Christian psychologist who describes Christians as … lumpy, bumpy people. We are imperfect. We try our best to be part of this ideal community, but then we mess up. We offend or are offended. We misunderstand or are misunderstood. It takes effort, love, and perseverance to hold a community together. This tension is seen even in the early church; in Corinth they divided over leaders, and in Galatia they were abandoning the gospel. Perhaps the most difficult element of church life today, is fellowship. Now we are back onsite following covid lockdowns, how do we create community? It is not business as usual. We are finding our way through unfamiliar territory. Nevertheless, in equally difficult circumstances, churches in other generations have done this and we can do it now as we put our hand into God’s hand.
- Does being a citizen of God’s kingdom change your perspective on life?
- While each of the key ideas from Acts 2.42 are important, how do you see them ranked in priority at Greyfriars Church at present? Are we neglecting any of these and if so, what could we do to reprioritise this aspect of church life?
- In this series we have highlighted community that is Beloved, Caring, Worshipping … is there anything we have missed out that we might need to give attention to; A ………….. Community?
- If we think of pre-covid as the old wineskins, what is the new wineskin God is preparing to receive the new wine today. (Matt 9.17)
- How might the recent disruptions to our lives move us to new ways of expressing God’s loving kindness to each other and to the wider community?
- I invite you (or your growth group) to prayerfully consider your part in creating our church community.
Rev John Malcolm