Community (A Way of Life)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I have mentioned our church community in a number of my posts. Some of you have asked questions as to what I mean by "community" or what our church is like. Hopefully, this post will answer some of those questions.

First and foremost, we believe that the first commandment needs to take first place in the heart of every believer. Jesus said that we should love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul and with all of our mind. We must have a "single eye" for the Lord. We want to gaze into his eyes and be completely consumed by His love. We cannot let other loves take the place of our first love.

Jesus also said that the second command is like unto the first. We should love our neighbor as ourselves. John also said that the one who does not love his brother (whom he can see) does not love God (whom He does not see).

I think that every believer would agree that these two commands truly are foremost on the heart of the Lord. The problem (especially in the U.S.) is that the culture so strongly goes against this sort of teaching, that even if someone truly desires to follow God in this way, they will end up fighting an uphill battle.

This is where the church is supposed to come in. We are called to live out a unique way of that is completely different from the that keeps the first two commandments in first (and second) place. But are we doing it? Does the life of the church truly reflect the commands that Jesus placed in such high importance?

It may be happening in pockets, but, in general it seems that the U.S. has completely lost the concept of what it means to be church, what it means to live in covenant love and what it means to have a way of life that is different from that of the culture. And although we fail and make mistakes at many levels, the brethren at the church that we are a part of, truly long to see the restoration of the church and truly long to see these commands of Jesus take priority in the life of every believer.

How does this happen? Well, first off, as I mentioned earlier, Jesus must be our first love. Our unity must reside in the fact that we want to see the Lord glorified and we love HIS ways. If we simply have unity around a cause it will die out, if we have unity because of common interest it will fade. Only true unity in the Lord will stand the test of time.

Secondly, we must recognize that the culture is opposed to the ways of the Lord. We must form a new culture in the Lord. This must be a culture of honor, respect and love for the brethren. It involves commitment, speaking the truth in love, calling one another on to love the Lord and others, and never slandering or speaking ill of the brethren (among many other things).

Now, this could become very self-focused, but then the whole point would be defeated. We seek to lead a different way of life because we want to be a light to those who sit in darkness, who have no hope and who do not know the love of God. If we look just like the rest of the world (with a few Christian songs and phrases thrown in), how can we truly be that light?

Practically, some of what this means for us (although it may look different for different people in different places), is:
  1. An emphasis on prayer. We know that we are completely dependant on the Father for all things. This is not just a part of our doctrine, we want to truly live this out. We are encouraged to make a priority for daily prayer, 24/7 prayer within our church body one week per month and at least one (6+ hour) prayer day every other week for those who are at a place where they can reasonably do this in their lives.
  2. Simplicity of life. We realize that the call to build the Church is the responsiblity of all the brethren (not just the pastor or others in leadership). Because of this, we need to all have time to give to the building up of the brethren in love. Many of the brothers work reduced hours so that they can give themselves to the necessary things of the church. This, of course, necessitates giving up some of the things which our culture values in terms of expensive houses, cars, posessions, etc.
  3. An emphasis on praise and thanksgiving. The Lord has given us everything. We want to honor Him with apporpriate gratitude in our private prayer and when we come together as a body.
  4. Submitting to one another in love. This one goes totally against our individualistic culture. It has been a very difficult one for me, personally. But I am learning to truly value the input and wisdom that we can gain from the brethren, when we are seeking to make some decision. We want to know the mind of Christ and we need the brethren to be able to flesh out what that is.
  5. A commitment to one another in covenant love. This may not be a familiar concept to some. I'll try to explain it by giving some examples. First of all, we place a very high value on being present when the brethren are gathered. Of course, people get sick or have emergency situations, but in general we try to all be together when we gather. Every member of the body is important and we all have something to contribute. And although God could call us away from this body (this is an example of something that we would want to discern through input of the brethren), we wouldn't move simply for a little better job, more money, etc. We are commited to this particular group of people to work out our salvation in love among the brethren. Our relationships are real and familial in nature. There is genuine affection and love among the brethren. But there is also conflict and misunderstanding. Without a commitment to one another, it would be easy to leave or become frustrated in the midst of conflict.
  6. Loving speech. This includes never slandering a brother or sister (or anyone else) and speaking the truth in love. We always want to speak with kindness and love. We also want to speak the truth. If someone is in sin, we do not do them any favors by ignoring the sin. We want them to be restored in right relationship with the Lover of our Souls! We also want to offer whole-hearted forgiveness and the opportunity for repentance amongst one another.
  7. Living these truths out among our families and with one another. This may mean living closer to one another so that we can more easily call one another on to love and good deeds. It definitely means teaching these things to our children within the church (we have no children's church, our children are usually a part of our gatherings) and within our homes (we have spent quite a bit of time exploring biblical models for parenting and for marriage).
  8. A love for the Holy Spirit and the gifts that He offers to the Church. God has given gifts to the Church. We are to give these gifts in love, for the building up of the whole body.

I hope that this helps explain a little more of what I mean when I mention the Church (capital "C"), our local expression of the church (small "c") or community. Please know that I do not feel that we have in any way "arrived" at a complete understanding of what it means to love God and love His Church. We are blessed, however, to have found a church body that is commited to live these things out, seek the Lord where we fail and continue to press in to loving God and His people more and more.

1 comment:

Naomi said...

Thank you Sarah... it sounds like such a sweet and precious community. I cannot imagine you would ever want to go anywhere else!!

It would be lovely to see it in person!


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