A New Community
I’ve had a song running through my little brain recently. I heard it being sung a couple of weeks ago by about 50,000 people and it was really quite moving and made me think again about what a real community looks like.
The song? “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. The occasion? The second leg of the European Champions League semi-final – which Liverpool won 4 – 0 against Barcelona, thus going through to final having won the tie 4 – 3 on aggregate.
As near to a miracle as you’re likely to see in sport, and I’m not even a Liverpool fan!
What really struck me though was the scene at the end. Tens of thousands of people singing their adopted song (originally written for the musical “Carousel”). Here was real community! People united in a common cause, singing their hearts out with passion, for their community! No doubt they had seen their ups and downs over the years, no doubt they had “skin in the game” – they’d invested time and money and tears into that community!
I think each of us has a deep need for connection and community and strangely we live in an ever more connected but ever more lonely society. People spend hours “connected” via online “communities” – especially young people. And yet research suggests that 11-18-year-olds are the most connected of all… and yet the most lonely!
Online connections and communities aren’t enough – if we think about feeding our soul, such online connections can be good and healthy supplements but we need a steady diet of real community.
Real communities have:
A common cause
Skin in the game
We can’t do life in isolation. It’s hard to survive, let alone thrive alone. Churches used to be at the heart of communities – but, with some exceptions, not so much now…
What’s to blame? The church!
Failure to connect with people where they are (but Jesus did)
Failure to show love and compassion for the poor (but Jesus did)
Failure to engage with people whose behaviours they can’t endorse (but Jesus did – engagement is not endorsement).
Failure to model both truth and grace (but Jesus was filled with both)
Failure to teach and preach the Gospel with conviction
Failure to pray
Failure to commit and declare commitment passionately!
So that “church” is to blame.
But that church isn’t the real church that Jesus created and envisioned! There was nothing boring, tame or isolated about the original church! No lack of care and compassion. Still less any half-hearted nonsense about who Jesus is!
We can read about the original church community in the New Testament part of the bible, in the book of Acts.
You can read the relevant part here, as the Apostle Peter preaches to crowds about Jesus, they accept that Jesus was indeed who Peter said he was and they respond by repenting and being baptised! Then a real and new community - the church – is truly formed!
The original “church” began with –
• Accepting the truth about Jesus
• Repentance & baptism
• Receiving the Holy Spirit
• Devotion to teaching and fellowship, communion and prayer
Notice the acceptance and repentance and baptism came first and then, empowered by the Spirit, came the devoted community. The church began with accepting the truth about Jesus, repenting and being baptised. Have you, might you, dare you take those steps? Oh, I’m not saying it’ll be easy!
It would have been easier for Peter’s audience to make up their own theory about Jesus. They could have refused to accept the truth – people still preach their own mythology and “whatever their itching ears want to hear” to those who just won’t submit to the truth. But the Apostles didn’t – they KNEW HIM! They accepted Jesus for who he was - as their Lord and their God – and by his Spirit God empowered them… and the world changed forever.
I want to invite you today into a devoted community. It’s not Liverpool F.C… No, no, this community has a much richer history, and is filled with heroes whose deeds echo not only from their time to ours but will echo in eternity.
I want to invite you into community with the Apostles like Peter, and Paul. Into community with God himself, who exists in community – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We’re made in his image – and He exists in community.
Let me invite you into the real church – where we have one community spanning the globe and spanning history, a community that is devoted, a community that has skin in the game because we have something in common: a life marked by acceptance of Jesus, a life submitted to the Sovereign will of His Father… and a life empowered to act accordingly by the Holy Spirit!
It’s a community that welcomes all comers but which truly exists, at its core and its heart exists, when people accept Jesus is who he said he is and so they repent, and are baptised.
Then, not in their own strength but by the Sovereign power of God, they are empowered to be all that God wants them to be!
How can we foster the kind of fellowship that so marked out the early church?
Firstly, we can pursue fellowship with Jesus – by following him in our reading, in our prayer and in our asking for the Holy Spirit to empower us to do as he did.
And what did Jesus do?
He connected with people where they were
He showed love and compassion for the poor and showed those when:
He engaged with people whose behaviours he didn’t endorse
He modelled both truth and grace
He spoke about God with honour and with utter conviction
He made time to pray and he accepted God the Father’s will was supreme (Father, if this cup may be taken…. But not my will….)
He gave his all, in faith!
He was empowered by the Holy SpiritWith that same Holy Spirit power – not in our own strength – we can put our passionate all into fellowship, prayer, breaking bread together and sacrificially caring for the people in need around us.
We can form little fellowships around a common interest (food, football, walking, singing… whatever!). We can invite Christians and non Christians to do stuff with us! Then, as friendships develop we can easily invite people into the church community.
We can foster a community between the “haves and the have nots” – we can decide to bring something worthwhile of ourselves to people and give each other what we need. Time, prayer, encouragement, a listening ear…
We can bring God in on it and trust him to shape it and use it!
We can pray with and for one another for all kinds of things. Prayer should be at the heart of all we do!
And we can decide not to give up meeting together but notice and thank God when he breaks in on it!God invites all of us into community, with him at the centre! It’s the biggest, greatest, most life-changing, world-transforming community in the history of the world.
If we want to be in his community, in his fellowship, in his church, it starts with accepting that Jesus is who he said he is!
Repent, and be baptised and by his Spirit do what he did and reach out to lonely and needy with love. Put your trembling hand into the loving hand of God as you step out for them and for the lost - and you’ll never walk alone.
What type of communities are you currently involved in?
What could you do to help those communities?
Is there a lonely person you can help? Who might that be and what will you do to help them?
Who in your community are you praying for?
Could you devote some of your online time into real-world community?
Are you devoting yourself to your church community, really?
Have you made a decision about who Jesus is?