Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

A Critical Decision Wanting and needing others in our life remains an ongoing choice we make daily..

Asking this question and answering it make sense if you are part of some kind of performance being presented to an audience. However, in thinking about sharing life and church it is not only irrelevant but dangerous to think of sharing life as part of church. Sharing life together is how church is to be defined and is the most relevant way those outside of the church will detect any truth to what Jesus is about.

Acts 2 and 4 are still in the Bible and we must find ways to do this in the midst of whatever culture we live in. Think of the freedom and refreshment of people who are trying to make life work without Jesus, when they step into lives meshed together in authentic community, serving one another, caring for one another and always available for each other. When we tell them this is “church” they have a bizarre look on their face and we know they have never seen it like this. This group of people go the pub together, play games, laugh frequently, listen to one another, help people rake their leaves, help raise each others kids, and are seriously working at following Jesus. They talk about the stuff at work but offer advice as to how to bring Jesus into the workplace in a way that makes sense.

The meaning of John 13:34 and 35 are more clearly seen in the living rooms, kitchens, garages and yards and people are attracted to Jesus. You don’t have to throw out the Sunday meeting but think about what an outsider sees with regard to the John verses in the Sunday context. Most of what they conclude is that we show up at a meeting on Sunday but there is no way to really observe how this works in real life.

Sharing life with one another is a better context to understanding church than any meetings we might attend.

310/365 Sharing

310/365 Sharing (Photo credit: cheesy42)

An In-N-Out Double-Double cheeseburger in narr...

An In-N-Out Double-Double cheeseburger in narrow depth-of-field focus with a second burger and fries blurred in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know, what you and I might be prone to say is that we want both the fries and the cheeseburger. But the cheeseburger is the main part of the meal and the fries are on the side. That is always true except at a restaurant  in Boise, Idaho. At Boise Fry the burger is on the side and the fries are the big deal.

We easily live life in ways that show what we believe is mandatory and what is optional. One thing Jesus was consistent with was to regularly turn our thinking upside down. Just when we thought we knew what was right, Jesus would redefine it. “One thing you lack…” he told a wealthy man who thought he was tracking with Jesus. Or how many times did you read about him saying “you have heard it said, but I say…”?

Churches have many names for small groups of people who gather to talk, eat and study together. But it soon becomes clear that these are optional, maybe like the fries on the burger menu. The early Jesus followers knew nothing of this. Acts 2:43-47 opens a world to us that most of us have never experienced. Can you really live like this and have relationships that don’t just consist of a 2 hour meeting? It can be experienced but the group must be treated as the main course. To share life with others means getting dirty together, laughing and crying together, being available 24/7. A knock on the door at 12:30 AM is never seen as an intrusion to your privacy but rather is an opportunity to be Jesus to your friend. There is great cost but the freedom that comes from not being in control is of immeasurable value. God gives us the opportunity to enter these most meaningful relationships. and the world is starving to see it too.

Who do you think would love to make a group like this the main course with you? Ask them!

A small group of people in a Bible discussion group are looking at some stuff Jesus said or what the practice of the early church was. They knew that to take Jesus at his word or believe the church was totally on target was going to alter their lifestyle both individually and as a church. So what did they do? Each one began to make suggestions about what Jesus probably meant. It became clear that no one was ready to take Jesus at his word or believe the early church could be a

Rationalizing...

Rationalizing… (Photo credit: gregoryperez)

model for how to do church today.

Slowly over the years we have deliberately minimized or explained away those aspects of following Jesus that disrupt the way we want to live or practice doing church with others. In so doing, we have depreciated what Jesus was all about. In our bent to be comfortable, we do not tolerate anything that is difficult or makes us think. Besides, we don’t know any of our friends who live like this. I mean, it is one thing to be a Christian but this is the 21st century and we have to make Jesus’ hard words fit into this culture. Really?

Does culture explain the gospel or does the gospel interpret what is right or wrong about cultureIn John 6 Jesus is intent on people knowing what he is after. He is coloring outside of their box and he doesn’t care if some are going to bail. He makes no compromises as to what a disciple (follower) is to be, what they are to do and how they are to live. Almost everyone leaves and Jesus watches them walk away. Some probably ran.

And the early church…check out Acts 4:32-35. How do we change this mark of the church to fit our lifestyle? When was the last time you saw this consistently happening?

Whatever else this all means, one thing is certain-Jesus underscores the simplicity of following him while reminding us of the cost.

It seems to happen with increasing regularity-a sports figure is accused of or admits to taking some kind of steroid which gives them an advantage in their sport. It takes a while to detect but the results are the same. Not only is the person’s selfishness exposed but the entire team is damaged and the sport is tarnished.

If our focus is that we would be recognized or that we would be the one who contributes most to the win, we have missed the point. In order for a community of believers to go deeper into each other’s lives, the focus must be on helping each other succeed. We can learn to do this by exposing our needs and our weaknesses as well as how we are winning the battle. We can learn to ask questions of each other that expresses genuine interest in the other person and is motivated by their succeeding in the daily war we have with life and the enemy.

Philippians 2:3 and 4 captures the thought. “…don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (The Message) Building community is hard enough in the fast paced culture we live in, but let’s not cripple it by drawing attention to ourselves rather than the rest of the team. Everyone has the opportunity to win the battles life serves up to us each day when we are committed to each other in this way.

community

community (Photo credit: planeta)

“I have the right t to do what I want to do, be who I want to be and have what I want to have.”  (1 John 2:15 & 16) Almost every American would agree with this because of our culture’s focus on individualism. Jesus hits hard at this prevalent attitude among people regardless of their religious or political persuasion. He constantly defines commitment in terms that offend our pursuit of what we want or think we need or deserve. His focus on people in need or who are marginalized is so constant it is scary.

The early church knew what Jesus was after, especially when it came to caring for one another. Community was more than a contemporary word thrown around in our innovative new church plants. It meant more than doing a Bible study with a few people once a week. There was real life stuff happening every day or throughout the week that was shared with one another. Needs presented by someone were met without hesitation by others.

Was that really like it was? If so, can we recapture it in our drive by mentality where we drop into one another’s life like picking up an order of fries at McDonalds drive through? Something is truth when it is not defined by culture but by God. It defies the busyness, self-centeredness or anything else that seeks to justify a lifestyle contrary to what the Bible defines as church.

Acts 4:32-35 introduces us to a deeper meaning of ownership and meaningful commitment to one another. There is no place for superficiality here. These people recognized that we are at war with an enemy who seeks to not only create disunity but also to cause us to think and live apart from one another. He doesn’t mind our occasional bumping into one another but he knows the power of people on mission together. There is unleashed power in our life being connected to the Holy Spirit but it is multiplied as we live in community.

real people

real people (Photo credit: the|G|™)

Haven’t you ever asked someone

a question about something and realized somewhere during their response you just wanted to get in a fast car and leave as quickly as you could? You just wanted to know about their weekend but instead you got the history of how their parents neglected them and the 15 things that were wrong with their kids.

And what if you asked someone in your community group what they really thought about how you handled an embarrassing question someone asked you during the group? And if they said that you were way too defensive and didn’t seem to want to let them into your life, what would you think about that?

If we are teachable and want to make a difference in someone’s life, we will not set boundaries on what questions are legal and others that are way across the line. We will also give honest input to others about our life or theirs. But who makes these kinds of commitments? Anyone determined to follow Jesus without reservation enters into meaningful accountable relationships with others. Of course some issues need to be discussed in private, but if we are serious about discipleship we put it all on the table.

Jesus did not hesitate to explain the hypocrisy of some religious guys in Matthew 23:27; and there’s Paul’s explanation of a confrontation with Peter in Galatians 2:11. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8 Paul also explained how he loved these people so much that he not only had a Bible study with them about the gospel, but he shared his life with them.

I remember a very painful time in my life in which I shared with several people what was going on and because of that, one person got with me the next week and told me that because I was honest with the group, he now felt he could tell me something about himself he had not told anyone else. What if I had a boundary that only allowed people so far into my life?

Do you have any boundaries that need to be erased?

Obstacles

Obstacles (Photo credit: drp)

A door can be used to either keep people out or allow them in. Have you ever thought about leaving your apartment door open when you meet with your “community” group? Or, what about meeting in the coffee shop or bar with the group? Wouldn’t it be noisy and wouldn’t you get distracted when that dude walks in wearing that? Well, you say “this group is for Jesus people only and we don’t need it interrupted with all kinds of questions and comments. And besides, the language they use might not be appropriate.” Maybe “community” should be removed from the title of the group.

Can you imagine a pagan checking out a Christian group on their own that meets in a building with a cross on it? It’s possible but unlikely. But if an invitation is made by leaving a door open in an apartment or everyone on the block has been invited to a bbq and discussion about life issues, an outsider might show up. Don’t isolate a group from genuine contact with people in the world.   

Listen to Luke 19:9 & 10 in the “Word on the Street” version. “Jesus, in his excitement says, Liberation makes house calls…I’m here to track down the missing persons and reintroduce them to life.” Or, John 17:15 “I’m not asking you to lift them out of the System. But surround them with forces that’ll keep the evil one off their case.” And then there is the party at Matthew’s house and I just bet Jesus did not just talk about how many fish were caught that day.

Jesus’ allowing everyone into his life and c ommunity Bible studies should help us to not construct any structure (obstacle) that makes it difficult for outsiders to figure out life and faith with us.

"Look. I'm not going to discuss my privat...

“Look. I’m not going to discuss my private life with total strangers” (Photo credit: [Filhi][bahthi] photography ( with great hopes ))

You wake up during the night and wonder what that noise is you hear near the kitchen. You stumble down the stairs to find the entire floor covered in water that seems to be dripping from upstairs. You quickly realize there is a problem under the floor upstairs and water is leaking from somewhere. As soon as the sun is up, you call your physician and ask them to come take a look. Your spouse and kids look at you like-what the spank are you doing? “We’re floating in water, get the plumber out here” they say.

Sounds lame, but the way we carry out Jesus’ commands to make disciples and his vision, reveals we are using the wrong tools. We’re using the stethoscope rather than the wrench. How should we make disciples who make disciples in our generation?

A few thoughts-Mark 3:13, 14  We need to help people understand what it means to be with Jesus. He is not really interested in all the religious stuff we do , but is dying for us to just hang out with him. When was the last time you just spent time with Jesus without wanting him to do something for you? You just wanted to be with him.  We must help people develop a meaningful relationship with Jesus rather than getting them on the finance committee.

Acts 2:42-47  Our 2 hour event on Sunday morning and even the small group on Tuesday night are not coming close to what characterized the early church. They don’t demand anything, and certainly don’t reveal what we thought about last Friday night when we were alone. We must help people develop meaningful relationships with each other.

2 Timothy 3:10, 11  The only way Timothy could know these things about Paul was because he shared life with him. We must model what it means to share life together not just show up for events.

What does this have to say about how we do church?

Why would you be on either of these roads? Well you say “it depends on where you want to go.” There are many differences in these two highways but one of the obvious is that one is about 6 lanes going to San Francisco and 6 lanes going to San Jose; the other, well let’s just say you will have to wait for other cars to go through some of the narrow parts before you can. One is filled with cars and trucks almost all of the time and the other, you do now want to meet even one truck on this road.

Matthew 7:13 and 14 describe a couple of differences between narrow and broad that not only apply to roads but also our lives as Christians. To be clear, there are times you need the interstate but that narrow road has beauty not found with multiple lanes or many cars. We need to be careful we don’t substitute the size and speed of travel on the interstate with the reward of the narrow road.

Not many in the Western world have either time or courage to travel the narrow road as it relates to the Christian life. Churches are groups of Christians who are basically on one or the other of these ways of living the Christian life. For example, one road results in superficial change while the other is so real it is scary; one builds shallow community while the other is a tight knit family; one allows only those who are “like us” in while the other is often characterized as “messy”(you”re not sure what someone might say or wear or have pierced).

Let’s not present a revised or watered down version of church or how to live the Christian life.

Which road do you prefer? What would happen if you chose the other one?  It does really depend on where you want to go.

San Jose, CA freeway interchange 280 and 87

San Jose, CA freeway interchange 280 and 87 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)