Community

At the end of the day, after all is said and done, what does God require of us, His people.

We read in Mark 12 v 30  Commandments: that we love God, that we love our neighbour; and in John 13 v 34 he details how that should be.

Interesting: New Testament under grace but not law, and yet there are clear commandments.  Difference with the New Covenant is that each time we choose to be obedient He grants us the supernatural power to enable us to actually live differently, i.e. supernaturally.

God has even designed how we could represent Him when He said “all men will know that you are My disciples when you love one another”.  So clearly the primary representation should be a group of people loving one another.  Today God looks for such people that make an accurate representation of what He is really like in this world.  Breaking out of the traditions and form of religion into the reality of real relationship.

How do you do that?  What would it look like?

Surely it is not a plan or a system.  It must be a real connection which requires elements of personal openness and vulnerability.  But then there’s a problem; because surely you never really open up and make yourself vulnerable to someone unless you know that they are essentially for you, on your side, looking after your interests.  So I guess this is where the faith factor comes in.  The willingness to risk all in favour of pleasing God, of stepping out, being open, real, honest, yes vulnerable, with the chance that you may be taken advantage of but nevertheless seeking to do what God requires.

I often see it as the difference between connections between pool balls and jigsaw puzzle.  The pool balls hard, smooth, bounce off one another; the jigsaw has indentations and protrusions which fit together to make up the whole.

community

So if we are to have this open hearted, genuine relationship where real thoughts and feelings are shared, it needs time; it needs a particular structure; it goes beyond meetings.

Here we are looking at something which is pleasing to God, so pseudo-community where little lies, compromise, competition, creeping in order to keep an outward view of unity would really not suffice.  Even more than words, actions would be required, more along the lines of what we read in Matthew 25  “if I was hungry and you gave me more meat”, which is further emphasised in the Book of James.

Galatians 5 v 13 speaks of true love serving each other.  This requires (a) we’re close enough to know (never just assume), (b) love enough to care, (c) willing to sacrifice to pay the price to take action.

Clearly meetings with which we are familiar serve a purpose, but not this purpose.

My questions:

  • Are you needing to break out of the limitations of the traditional and popular requirement often seen as church?
  • What would be different if you became more a doer than a hearer of the word?
  • What changes, both personal and church, would need to take place?
  • What price would need to be paid in order to achieve this?
  • What would God’s current commentary be regarding your position?

Let’s remember this is a command, not an option or a suggestion from God.  God is Himself essentially community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I don’t believe that we can express God without community, that we can’t show a genuine and accurate reflection of Him in this world without meaningful living relationship.  I am sure there are different forms of expression, but one thing I do know whatever it is if it is not from a heart of love there is frankly no point in it.  It can look good, but it is not God.

Final question:  What do you think – honestly?

19 comments for “Community

  1. Lawrence Muzunzandare
    September 28, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Thank you John for this post, and refreshing our minds on God’s ultimate priority in everything we do. I have decided to highlight two challenges, for now, I have personally experienced in building community. Actually, I am still experiencing them to some extent.

    These challenges I have noticed in loving one another as God wants to the point of accepting nothing but genuine relationship and oneness at the depths of our heart are:

    A TEMPORARY COMMITMENT AND EXCITEMENT BASED THE GOOD EXPERIENCES, RATHER THAN UNDERSTANDING AND AGREEING WITH VALUES.
    Sometimes people commit to our community because they are happy with the good things they would have experienced during their initial encounters with us. I learnt that principles need to be communicated until they are grasped, desired and committed to. Even within leadership circles there can be some who committed to us mainly because we treated them exceptionally well, not because they grasped the principles that should undergird their commitment. With time the feelings of gratitude from having had a pleasant encounter with us begin to fade as certain values are required of them and their disagreement with critical principles start to surface. Basically, some commit to us because treated them well, but they never gave enough consideration to what the community is really about. When they eventually manifest their position we feel betrayed, when the truth is we were celebrating enthusiasm that comes from appreciation only. Without exposing people enough to principles and bringing them to a position of responding to the critical values and principles there is not going to be proper commitment that builds community.

    MOVING FROM APPEARANCE OF RELATIONSHIP TO TRUE RELATIONSHIP BUILDING CAN BE ROUGH AND MISINTERPRETED DETERIORATION OF RELATIONSHIP.
    There is a challenge in embracing the realities of seeking to build real relationship and living openly with one another. Where culture is used to avoid uneasy areas in relationships, things are rather left unsaid. Because of this, relationships appear smooth and good at that level of understanding, where we don’t want to commit much. My experience with the community here is that once you start to pursue relationship deeply and in openness, things will sometimes get rough, uncomfortable messy and tense. At times responses can be withdrawal and other such undesirables. When someone asks, “How are your relationships?” some will say they used to be excellent, but not so much anymore. When John asked this question sometime back from our team, he got a different answer from me and the other team members. I told John there was progress because we could now be open with our feelings, reservations, questions and disagreement with each other. The uncomfortable realities of the nature of some of the prerequisites of building true relationship are easy to mistake for deterioration of relationship quality. What we fail to see in that maintaining peace and smoothness on the surface gives appearance of good relation when the opposite will be true – it is actually the absence of any meaningful relationship.

    • john singleton
      September 29, 2016 at 9:27 am

      I was once expressing concern to another ministry regarding the disagreements and bickering of the team of people I was working with at the time. He replied “that’s great” iot sounds like there is real family there!!

      The parable in Mark 4 reveals more about different levels of receptivity. The farmers responsibility was to sow the good seed.
      Many people love our message but do not want to become “doers” of the word when they realize the cost-which could be summed up as accepting Jesus rule in our lives in place of our rule.

      We do what we do for Jesus never for the response we get[however we prefer positive response]. Its our role to represent Him and therefore keep doing what he calls us to,trusting that some seed will indeed fall on good ground.

      We cannot build Kingdom relationship without personal vulnerability because we are required to open our hearts.Furthermore we are instructed to admonish as well as encourage each other so we have to be willing to deal with the things people might prefer us to avoid if we are to be faithful. I am glad though that we are not God’s policemen and that”love covers a multitude of sins”

      • September 29, 2016 at 10:03 am

        I wonder if it should read “love uncovers a multitude of sins and still loves. ” Avril recently put me straight about something and I was struck by a number of things. Firstly her tone…..she did not raise her voice or seek to intimidate me into obeying, Secondly her confidentiality ….. she did it in private and did not make it a joke in front of others, Thirdly her short memory…..she never mentioned that this is not the first time for this particular sin, Fourthly her suggestion….from a position of security she did not insist that I agree with her or leave……. It was more like “it is probably best not to intervene on this one” rather than “mind your own business” or “Hey everyone Nosey is at it again’ or ” you are always trying to control everyone”. or “This is the last time I am going to tell you this” . I believe this is a Godly flavour to cultivate in our Community relationship – “be assured of our love, our acceptance of you as a fallible person and our hope that you will come up higher, admit your mistakes and sins and leave them forgiven in the past. “

      • Keith
        September 30, 2016 at 8:36 am

        So how do you personally deal with those who don’t have good and honest hearts vis-a-vis the Parable of the Sower? I know personally that you don’t ignore us. Do you just continue to speak the truth in love, pray and demonstrate that love until the Spirit works in their lives a new opportunity for them to respond?

      • Lawrence
        October 14, 2016 at 8:29 am

        Thanks John, It is encouraging on its own to be reminded that our struggles are not unique to us but that those we emulate are familiar with the same and thrive in the midst of them.

        I must say though that we need God’s grace to sow only good seed, because in times of frustration, we might also contribute badly or also plant bad seed.

        That firm trust to keep hoping some of the seed we sow will fall on good ground is what I would really need and want to keep praying and watching out for as I serve God’s people.

  2. September 27, 2016 at 11:29 am

    I see community as a better place to function. In community you are more a door than a listener of the word. The church has moved futher from the traditional limitations to a transactional business function that is not worried about the Kingdom principles but congregation numbers.

    • john singleton
      September 29, 2016 at 10:03 am

      This worlds value system measures things in terms of numbers fame and popularity. The kingdom of God uses a different measuring system. Sadly so much of the church today uses this worlds valuation system.God is calling people who will accurately represent him in this world. That means a people who submit to his command to love him and to love one another
      Genuinely loving one another with the love of God cannot be achieved in the traditional church meeting format.
      New wine requiresNew wineskins
      In the new Testament, community that is of people loving one another and living so they did directly followed the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost .It is a great priveledge to have the opportunity to accurately represent God in this errant world

      • Keith
        September 30, 2016 at 8:39 am

        “Genuinely loving one another with the love of God cannot be achieved in the traditional church meeting format.
        New wine requiresNew wineskins”

        Can you elaborate on what changes you see we need to make or are going through?

  3. Keith
    September 26, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks John for posting and for posing these questions. I think your analogy of pool balls and jigsaw puzzle is significant. I hadn’t heard that before. Aren’t our Sunday, corporate meetings like the pool balls? Occasionally we might have a chance to really fellowship with someone from the heart but most times we are there to worship God, listen and receive from his word. We bounce off each other saying Hello, delivering messages, setting appointments and such. There is nothing wrong with that – these are like Paul’s training meetings at the School of Tyrannus.

    But it seems to me that there were other, more common meetings, where the church got together and where all of the “one anothers” were visible. 1 Cor 14:26 gives instructions for these kind of meetings – “Whenever you come together…each of you…all things…for edification.” Moreover, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were evident and encouraged. These were not the Bible Study where one or two people teach; or prayer meetings where one or two direct; or cell meetings reviewing the pastor’s talking points. These were meetings where everybody contributed, were invested, and sought God as “ministers of this New Covenant” under the watchful, caring eyes of their elders. These were times of eating together, sharing the Lord’s Supper, prayer, fellowship and the exercise of the Spirit’s precious gifts. Wasn’t into these meetings that unbelievers would come and have the secrets of their hearts revealed and say, “Surely the Lord is among you?” Am I wrong?.

    So, to answer you first question John – My observation is that in the West, our focus has been on the apostles’ meetings (if I can call them that) where one person shares with the whole, and we have seen that as the center focus for the Church Community. I believe we need to rethink this because I believe the Scriptures show that the 1 Cor 14 gatherings were the main focus for the early Church. When the apostles or other itinerant ministers came through, they listened intently to what the Spirit was saying to them. So much of our time, effort and treasure goes to having a great “Sunday Service”. Perhaps it could be better invested.

    But, then again, maybe we prefer the pool balls to the jigsaw puzzle? Community can be messy :>)!

    • john singleton
      September 29, 2016 at 10:23 am

      I agree but we have to think beyond any form of meeting context. Clearly the new Testament Church demonstrated a lifestyle which included meetings but could not simply be contained within them. Even if we look at the 19 occasions when the scripture encourages what we had to do for one another it seems very unlikely that that would happen in a group or meeting session The instructions seem to include feeding the hungry keeping people warm looking after refugees visiting those in prison caring for the sick and many practical things concerned with every day life rather than the format of different types of meetings It seems that in every facet of life God calls us to show what Jesus is like and especially in our ongoing relationship with one another where the primary requirement for fellowship is seen in 1 John 1v7 as walking in the light.

      • Keith
        September 30, 2016 at 8:40 am

        Great points! Thank you.

  4. Leroy
    September 26, 2016 at 8:28 am

    We just shared a loved to our Muslim community by giving
    Some small thing like rice can good ang others around more
    Than 50 youth leaders from our churches different churches
    Go out and share the love this past Saturday. For me
    It is a big effect to show the love of Christ with in us
    By action than of a preaching. I have no position to judge
    But I know how to love people in the community.

    My small idea to our community …continue to pray one
    With onother to our lifeline brethren that make us stronger
    In our every daily life.

    Leroy Philippines

    • john singleton
      September 29, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Jesus was a friend of sinners and showed love to all people. And I agree Leroy that it is part of showing gods love to serve and care for those God directs us to. In fact our primary responsibility is to show the love of God and that must include practical things So well done my brother, of course the best thing in demonstrating God’s love is to be able to introduce them to Jesus. God calls us to be light in the darkness and salt in the earths so it is important that we demonstrate practical examples of kindness as God leads us.
      We know that actions speak louder than words. The bible speaks of people seeing our good Works and glorifying our father who is in heaven

  5. September 26, 2016 at 8:00 am

    This is interesting ….. What is our part to play in building community under God, being committed yes, being willing to serve sure …….but being vulnerable? Saying what we really think? Asking for help? Admitting my failure? Some one might reject me? judge me ? talk about me…….

    I am reminded that Jesus was naked on the cross, not prettily covered or even modest. God accepts us as we are and when we make it safe for someone else to be real and risk being real ourselves we reach new levels of community.

    I also know that Jesus calls me higher, he doesn’t just leave me being honest about my brokeness but lifts my head and helps me stand. He mends me because I am his treasured possession.

    We are finding in our Project Group at New Day in Dominica new ways of talking about situations that is not gossip, that is not superficial, that recognises people’s weaknesses without disrespect or undermining, we found ourselves committing to journeying together to reach the destination. We don’t have to be perfect we just have to agree to go in the same direction.

    • Keith
      September 26, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      Tina, can you expand a little about the Project Group at New Day? I’m not sure what that is and how it functions. Thanks Sis!

      • September 26, 2016 at 3:14 pm

        The Project Group at New Day Fellowship has been a committee that wrote proposals and implemented various projects such as the Leadership Lifestyle Skills Training Course reaching people from the community who need training to be employment ready. The significant thing is that for the previous 7 years we have been task focused and concerned about budgets, bills and programmes with pass marks.

        Recently God spoke through a member of the church about introducing a vocational element to our course and in addition I was suddenly able to “see” how we could do our own Dominican version of Peaced Together and Mentoring combined!. The whole ethos has expanded overnight to be inclusive of many members of the church as tutors, trainers and mentors and the focus feels like it is on RELATIONSHIP rather than achievement. The Ministry now consists of 12 mentors, and 12 skills trainers in addition to the original 7 Tutors and the committee of 5.

        What struck me after our latest meeting was a real change in the way we discussed the failings of others and how one had a choice about taking offence or being hurt even if the other person was really trying to discipline you using the worlds methods of public shaming or embarrassment.

        The picture I have is of one of our buses breaking down and we all get out to push. You are wrongly blamed by the frustrated driver for the break down and you choose not to discuss it in the public domain and just keep pushing. It is likely that before you get to your destination it will become clear it was not your fault but even if you are never vindicated you still want to get to the destination and that is more important that the failings of the driver.

        • Keith
          September 26, 2016 at 3:24 pm

          So, if I’m getting this right, you are seeing the engagement of the Church helping to meet a need in the community bringing Kingdom values into your project which is AWESOME! And, I suspect, an enhanced sense of community within the Church through a shared mission. How does the rest of the Church view the Project – those not currently engaged?

          • September 26, 2016 at 3:32 pm

            I am seeing life flowing in the Body . It is like this particular arm is stretching and using all the muscles! bones and tendons.. Yes involving many more people makes it our adventure not just the activity of a few on behalf of the church.

    • john singleton
      September 29, 2016 at 10:47 am

      I agree that actions are good and necessary but only as a practical demonstration of a heart that is loving God and loving the people. Always we read about Jesus “first being moved with compassion”
      Without this we simply become a group of do-gooders not of people ministering the life and love of God. Therefore reality vulnerability honesty so that they can be genuine heart connection is vital if were going to minister whether it be in the church or in the community. I am excited about what is happening now in Dominica. I am sure that this will be a powerful influence not only in the community but on the church as well .Well done guys this is a good example

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