By Whitney Clayton
The word community serves as an excellent example of confusion from overuse. It has become one of those Christian catch all words that you hear a lot and understand very little. Some churches call their regular attenders a community of believers. Some churches use the word community as a label for their small groups. In a lot of churches the community is where outreach and evangelism take place. None of those examples are incorrect uses of the term, but the variety of uses call for a definition of the term in the context of this post.
The call to embrace community in your second shift is the call to embrace what Missional Community proponent Mike Breen describes as an extended family. Now, in our culture, extended family is usually thought of as a nuisance, a source of holiday drama, and a group of strange people with whom we must associate in spite of being strangers. While that vision of the extended family fills holiday movies each year, the Bible paints a very different picture of what an extended family looks like. A friend in my community describes extended family through a story about Abram in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis,
10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. 11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way. . . 14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. . .16 Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people.
This exemplifies the type of extended family I want to have in my life. I want brothers and sisters who fight for one another in times of need. I want a community that hears of my need and responds in force. I need other believers who see the sins of my heart I am prone to ignore. I hope to have the support of people who truly care. I summarize the answer to those needs with the word community.
Therefore, when you hear the call to embrace community, do not wave off the call as if it details something irrelevant or unnecessary or a waste of time. True community is none of those things. True community is a group of Christians rallied around the person of Christ, loving one another through service, encouragement, and exhortation.
Working out that last definition, we see that Christ is the cornerstone. He is the foundation of all community, because he alone saves us from the primary threat to all community – sin-besotted self-allegiance. If the chains of sin have been broken from your soul, the Bible makes clear that love is the new bond marks your life. Jesus told us we would be known by our love for one another, and that love should lead to the biblically mandated actions of serving one another (1Peter 4:10, Galatians 5:13-14, John 13:12-13), encouraging one another (1Thessaloninas 5:11, Hebrews 10:24-25), and exhorting one another on to righteousness (Hebrews 3:12-15). Apart from Christ, there is no binding love that spills over to loving action.
There has been much time spent here on the nature of community, but, as a means of closing, let me give you four ways to help you embrace true community in whatever context you live.
Men, embrace a life of true community, loving and serving as Abram’s extended family did, and submit your second shift to as an offering to God.
BIO: Whitney is the executive pastor at The Bridge Community Church in Wilder, KY.
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