Community

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.16.16

GOSPEL FELLOWSHIP

by Eric Huber

During World War II Americans were galvanized around the mission to defeat the evil of that time. Every citizen had a shared part in the common goal, that common goal united them together.

If that is true of what is called the greatest generation, how much more true should it be for those united to Christ? 

We have been united to Christ.  We are part of Him and so part of one another.  And we have a common purpose in Him.  Jesus told us in Matt 28 to “go and make disciples of all the nations.”  That Great Commission was not just for the original apostles.  If is for the local church.  It is to be our gospel partnership, a shared responsibility given to us by Jesus Himself.

In Philippians 4, Paul rejoices that the church at Philippi is willing to partner with him.  He is thankful, not so much for their gift, but their willingness to be part of what God.  From the beginning they have shared in Paul’s ministry. Paul says in Phil 1:3-5, I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

The word for partnership, Paul uses again in Phil 2:1 where he speaks about participation or fellowship in the Spirit.  And again in Phil 3:10, Paul says he wants to share in or have fellowship in Christ’s sufferings.  This seems to be something deeper than just a partnership. The fellowship the Philippians have with Paul is a fruit of their fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. 

As Christians, we have union with Christ.  And in Him we are brought into the fellowship that He has with the Father and the Spirit. We are one with Christ as Christ is one with the Father.  And so in Him, we are part of each other.  And when we live out that unity, we show the world that the Gospel is true (Jn 17:20-23).

So what are some ways that we can live out our gospel fellowship?  The most basic way is that we can be active members of a local church. Our fellowship with the Triune God is a corporate identity.  The NT assumes a life of committed interdependent relationships in some specific church. When we commit to a local church, we give tangible expression to our fellowship in the gospel. Membership says I am responsible to and for these specific people.

The local church is the place where we use our gifts to serve and edify one another. To each believer is given some spiritual gift for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). Paul writes this to the local church and says gifts are given for the collective benefit of members of the church. 

Now, we can use are gifts in other good ways, but they are given to us first and foremost to edify other believers in our local body.  We each have a part to play in our church, and so we should seek to play our part well.

We give expression to gospel fellowship as our church partners with those outside our local church for gospel mission. To make disciples is bigger than a single local church.  Churches partner with other churches who share their understanding of the gospel and the church for the purpose of gospel ministry – in order to see pastors developed and churches planted.  We all cannot go, but we can all give, pray and help in any way that we can.

We express fellowship in the Gospel as we go to proclaim the gospel in our part of the world. 

We live Christ-centered lives. 

We pray for our friends and neighbors, seeking opportunities to speak gospel truth. 

We show hospitality. 

We invite people to church or our small group so that they can experience the joy of biblical community and come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Finally, we give expression to gospel fellowship by being regularly discipled our self.  We seek to grow in our faith and lead by our example. 

We come to church as an enthusiastic worshiper who wants to hear and apply God’s word. 

We commit ourselves to our church’s process of discipleship. 

We give ourselves to God’s Word and prayer. 

As we do, our hearts grow to love God and neighbor more, and we grow in our understand of the fellowship we share in Christ.

 

HAVE YOU TRIED SHARED EVANGELISM?

I am reading through “Compelling Community” by Mark Dever for the third time (this time it’s with the pastors). Near the end of the book I was struck afresh by his reflections on the corporate witness of the local church.

Dever points out that fruitful evangelism should not be limited to church events or individual witnessing. He offers a third category of “community witness”. When a church practices vibrant biblical community, this is a very compelling witness of gospel truths.

Here are some of the ways Dever suggests we can put Community Witness into practice:

Talk about life at church

We easily talk about what is going on in our life during conversations with friends and acquaintances. Try salting those conversations with what is taking place in our church life. Let people hear about biblical community in action. It should be obvious that sharing complaints about church would be counter-productive to the gospel.

Mix our circles of hospitality

When you have neighborhood or family events, invite church friends. And when you have a gathering with church friends, invite unbelievers you know. When we are in a small group, we have a natural pool of people to include in these social events that are common to life. Over time they will build relationships with our family and friends.

Invite church friends to join you in evangelism

Include a church friend in a spiritual conversation you are having with someone at a coffee shop, or you can invite a believing friend, and an unbelieving friend to read the bible together with you once a week.

Connect church life to your neighborhood

Find ways to impact people in the neighborhood around your church or around your small group. Get together with fellow believers and discuss how you can share life within that community.

A MEAL WITH JESUS

Every once in a while I hear or read an observation I had never noticed in the Bible that is so obvious; I wonder “How did I miss that?”

“A Meal with Jesus” by Tim Chester did this to me.

According to Tim, “Food matters. Meals matter. Meals are full of significance”.

Well, that part I already knew and give it my hearty amen!

But what I had not noticed was his observation of how frequently the gospels portray Jesus in the midst of a meal. Immediately I realized, “Wow that’s right!”

Tim adds that even when the gospels don’t portray Jesus at a meal, he is speaking about food and meals. In fact the Bible actually describes Jesus by saying, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking” (Luke 7:24).

The book focuses on the gospel of Luke in which meals and Jesus are given a prominent role.

Since we all understand the dynamics of meals, Tim Chester’s book is approachable, interesting and beneficial to any reader who wants to apply biblical truth to their lives.

With meals being so prominent in the Bible and in our human experience, “A Meal with Jesus” is an intriguing read.

As Tim Chester points out, “We need a theology of leftovers”.

THE COMPELLING COMMUNITY

My book recommendation this month is a book I have been so excited about; I keep bugging the other pastors to read it.

A BIG priority at Greentree is biblical community. This is because it is one of the BIG priorities throughout the New Testament.

Even though I have spent a lot of time, reading, thinking and talking about biblical community, I found “The Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes a Church Attractive” by Mark Dever, to be quite helpful.

Mark Dever is Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He is also the founder of 9Marks, an organization that seeks to equip churches to be healthy. I have benefited by their resources (and we carry many of them in our bookstore).

The Compelling Community” is helpful because it reveals ways that we seek to build community that “center on something other than the gospel”.  The examples Mark gives are:

Similar life experience
Similar identity
Similar cause
Similar needs
Similar social position

Mark doesn’t deny the value of connection through these factors, but he does point out that true community in the church must be rooted primarily on the gospel.

This means community in our churches should be “characterized by relationships that are obviously supernatural”. They should be relations that go beyond what is natural in the world around us.

I hope you will thoughtfully read through “The Compelling Community” and be challenged in your understanding of what relationships and fellowship should look like in the Church.

 

DO WE KNOW WHAT THIS WORD MEANS?

Fellowship is a well worn Christian word.

We use it a lot

We name buildings and activities after it

We claim to give a significant amount of time doing it

BUT are we clear about how the Bible describes what it should look like?

Like most churches, Greentree talks about fellowship quite a bit, however we like to use the phrase Biblical Community.

Our reason for this is that the word fellowship is so well used; when people hear it, they think they know what it is and are doing it – yet they don’t give any thought to what it means.

Biblical community at least sets us down the path of what fellowship is meant to be. And more importantly, it declares that the answer can only be found within the practices described by the Bible.

True Biblical Fellowship Is Being Dismantled

Community itself is disappearing in many ways and for many reasons. This includes our neighborhoods and our families, as well as our churches. The reasons are many!

We move more often

Our houses are bigger, so everyone has their “own space”

Downtown’s no longer localize where we shop and socialize

We are barricaded in our backyards rather than being on our front porches

We sink into our personal gadgets

We have confused faith being personal with faith being private

We are learning to despise accountability

Biblical Health Cannot Exist Without Biblical Community

This is a drumbeat healthy churches must maintain and church members must learn to prize.

Mark Dever from 9Marks interviewed Pastor John MacArthur in order to discuss this issue of Fellowship (Biblical Community). I urge you to listen to their discussion, if only for the first 10 minutes. It is that important!