Chuck Foreman – Teaching Pastor
We’re hearing people talk a lot about community in church circles these days. I’m hoping it’s not just another contemporary religious fad because I think we’re onto something significant. Plus, it sounds better than the churchy word fellowship, which is what I hope people actually mean when they talk about community. The Greek word used in the New Testament which we have always translated, fellowship, (koinonia) describes a kind of participatory togetherness shared and enjoyed by people who have found each other because of some common bond. In the New Testament this common bond was always faith in God, and specifically for Jews, faith in Jesus the Messiah who fulfilled and competed their faith. Luke gives us a glimpse of what true community looks like in Acts 2: 42-47. These new Jewish believers in Jesus as their crucified, now resurrected Messiah, seemed to instinctively devote themselves to The Koinonia (fellowship/community). And Luke tells what that meant for them…
They spent time together, lots of time. They shared their possessions with each other and even sold what they didn’t need so they could take care of the poor among them financially. They met in large groups at the temple to hear the Apostle’s teaching and continue worshipping God as they always had (minus animal sacrifice), and they met in their homes—small groups—to eat together and sincerely enjoy each other’s company and praise God together. This new kind of life they were doing together was looked upon with favor by people on the outside. Even outsiders new this kind of life was what they too longed for. It was attractive. And this type of community these Followers of Jesus were enjoying drew in new people every single day.
So you get the clear idea that this fellowship or community was more than just a weekly Bible Study. It was more than a potluck dinner, although we’re getting warmer now. It was a kind of shared life where needs are met and where people act out of their relationship with God in good will toward each other. That’s community.
I’ve noticed over the years that people who make it, who have a continued and deepening walk with God and aren’t derailed by the lust of their flesh or the lure of materialism or pressures from the world around them, are people who recognize their need for community. They don’t stiff arm their brothers or sisters, they pursue them and stay committed to them. They know that they need a place to belong along with others who are pursuing God. That place is the Church, the Family of God. But it’s not just going to church; it’s being in community.
I’ve also noticed that there are Christians who recognize the sacredness of community and how it must be nurtured and protected and there are those who don’t. Instead, they nourish and protect their own interests rather than those of The Community, The Body of Christ, and in so doing, cause division. You always know when they are present in the Body because they stick out like a cancerous growth. They diminish the health and vibrant, joyful life of the Body. They don’t belong. Sadly, they must be confronted and given a chance to change or be surgically removed so that they no longer negatively affect the health of the Body. This was the theme of Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth. He was adamant that there be no divisions among them, in the Body (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:25). Paul undoubtedly remembered that he had been commissioned by Jesus himself to open the eyes of these people and turn them from the darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they could all find their place together along with others who shared the common bond of faith in him (Acts 26:18).
A couple of questions for all of us: (1) Are you in community, both enjoying and contributing to a vibrant life together with others who are pursuing God? (2) Are you functioning as a life giving member of your community, a healthy body part, or are you a cancerous growth, sucking life and unity from the body? Just had to ask. We all need to come out of the darkness and into real community.