I love the church of Jesus Christ and desire that we would walk in the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ. There are many weaknesses and much immaturity in the church today, however, as there was 2,000 years ago (Revelation 2-3). We as the church, are constantly in a battle to overcome these weaknesses and immaturities as we listen and obey with gladness the voice of Jesus. As the days come closer to the return of Christ there is an acceleration of maturity and strength that the church is experiencing. The church is made up of people and these people are the ones that are growing in maturity and strength. The church is much more than an organization or a building or even a gathering of people once or twice a week. It is the living body of Jesus Christ.
So what does authentic community look like? If there is the authentic, then there is also the counterfeit. A counterfeit has many of the same features as the real thing, and at first glance it may appear as the real thing. But the counterfeit lacks certain criteria that robs it of its authenticity. It’s not hard to spot a counterfeit if you know what the real thing is. So the question remains, what does authentic community look like? Since the definition of authentic is “undisputed original,” let’s look at the undisputed original church community.
Act 2:42-47 “And they were continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and in fellowship and in the breaking of the loaves, and in prayers. And fear came on every soul. And many wonders and miracles took place through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things common. And they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need. And continuing with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they shared food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
Let’s examine some of the features describing the original church. They continued steadfastly in fellowship, eating together, and praying together. They had all things in common. Whenever anyone had a physical need they would meet the need, even if it meant selling a possession or two. They met corporately in the temple and in smaller gatherings house to house with gladness and simplicity of heart. And the results were people got saved!
Powerful stuff! We see a community of believers who enjoyed being around one another and who cared deeply for each other. Their actions speak loudly of the presence of God being manifest through them in holy fear and love.
Now imagine with me if a description of today’s western church community was given. I imagine it would read something like the following:
And they were continuing once or twice a week in many different doctrines, and in casual fellowship, saying that they would pray for one another but rarely doing it. And fear came on most souls because the economy was weak and they filled themselves with worldly news and violent entertainment. And all who believed said hello to one another and smiled and had very little in common. And they gathered their possessions and goods and some gave 10% of their income in the offering. And meeting once or twice a week in a church building and rarely going to each other’s houses, they shared food with only one or two of their friends, worrying about the future and having favor only within themselves. And no one was added to the church except on Christmas and Easter.
Authentic community starts with us looking at the original and than steadfastly pursuing that reality. Now you might imagine that the way back to the original is to stop doing Sunday church services and live in communal life, growing your own food and being isolated from the rest of the world. But that isn’t likely to happen and I don’t think that is the answer. You see, authentic community is not simply what we do on Sundays, it’s how we edify and build one another up on a continual basis. It looks like the whole church community working together to give to one another. To serve and not to primarily be served. Authentic community is not the responsibility of the leadership team at your church to produce. It’s all of our responsibility. Each of us has a vital part in creating authentic community. One simple way for you to do your part in creating authentic community in your church is to spend time with the Lord in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to use you to build others up before you gather together. Then go and do the work of the ministry of encouraging, edifying, and comforting others in Christ with gladness and simplicity of heart.
Ephesians 4:11-13 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”