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(056) The Pillars of Community I: Building Community in 2009

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The Pillars of Community:

Building Community in 2009

December 28, 2008

Prep:

·         Sermons: Mission (9/28), Trinity (8/3), Reaching In

Opening

·         Thanks to everyone involved in the Candlelight service.

2008 was a great year – I am so excited about where we are and where we are going. I want to know take this Sunday to look forward at 2009 and where God is taking us.

·         This sermon also launches a new series, called “The Pillars of Community.” 

·         There will be time for Q & A.

Prayer

Mission Recap

Three months ago, we launched the church’s new mission statement. Now as we go into 2009, the Elders have agreed on our vision for 2009, i.e., which part of that mission statement we will focus on: building community.

·         First I want to recap our mission.

It is vital that “Community” be built in the context of our entire mission statement, because too much of a good thing is dangerous, because it happens at the expense of other things.

As a reminder: A mission statement is simply a tool that reminds us why we are here, what we are doing. It is a tool that we can use describe ourselves to others.

We are a Christian community striving to glorify God and engage our culture.

Christian: We are devoted to Christ and his Word.

Community: More on this in a moment.

Striving: We are works in progress – we need grace and we give grace. The church should be more known for grace and love then rules and judgment.

·         Grace is a vital to community – how can we open ourselves up to others if we live in fear of being judged for imperfection?

Glorify God: The bedrock motivation for all we do is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We are on a journey of discovering just how cool God is and reflecting that love to the world.

Engage our culture: We share the Gospel of God’s love not by shouting at the world, but by working to understand and participate in our culture in order to translate it.

·         Keeping an eye on reaching out is vital to prevent us from becoming self-focused and exclusive.

·         “Community” and “engage culture” will always be in tension.

Ä  In coming years, we will change our focus to other parts of the mission statement.

Vision for 2009: Building community

We believe that it is vital to focus on building community first for several reasons:

1. Community is one of the foundations of Christian living.

At Pentecost, thousands of people became Christians, and with that came the challenge of how to bring them into the church.

Acts 2:41-42 ESV So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

These four things describe the foundation: Biblical teaching, community, communion (in the form of a shared meal – more community!), and prayers (may be a reference to the larger worship service).

2. Community is one of our unique attractions. People come to this church, and stay here, because they want community.

·         This is especially important because I think that there is a significant backlash to our culture’s isolation.

·         I think that some form of community and connection will be the next major trend.

3. Accordingly, I believe that we need to build a solid foundation for healthy community and a solid structure to accommodate healthy growth.

·         This series is a work in progress, a mutual discovery.

Outline of series

This series is called “Pillars of Community” because it focuses on habits and virtues vital to healthy, God-honoring community.

1. This week (in addition to introducing the series) will look at the definition and basis for community.

2. Next week will talk about our deep need for community and the many spheres it can exist.

3. The next several sermons will look at the habits and virtues of community:  Humility, forgiveness, hospitality, et al.

4. We will close by looking at some practical plans to increase community.

The goal and the “not goal”

The goal of this series will be to increase health community within this church and among the congregation.

·         This is not a home group drive, the goal is not to start more home groups.

Community happens in multiple levels and in multiple ways. It is not a monolithic thing and attempts to force us into a single mold will leave us frustrated and still without community.

·         As we speak about community, we will look at the many different places and ways that it can happen.

This should be fun

I am of the opinion that community is one of God’s greatest gifts and we should enjoy it. If you cringe every time I say community, chances are pretty good that you are actually reacting to a specific type of community.

·         Similarly, I used to think that I hated evangelism, but it turns out it was just a specific type of evangelism.

Ä  This brings us to an important question: What is community?

Defining Community

Obviously there are many ways to define it, but speaking from a Christian perspective, it is far more than “getting together.”

·         When any of our Cougs go to a WSU game, they feel a certain community, but it is only a part of community.

As I define community, I pull from Biblical study (especially the cultural background), countless books and conferences, being a small group pastor, but also my personal experience.

·         My life has been changed because of community.

So here is my definition: Community is a place where you belong, grow, and give.

Each of those pieces is vital. Without any one, what you have will not be Biblical community. At best it will simply be hanging out, but at worse it can be very dysfunctional.

Belonging

We all have a deep need to belong, a place where we are accepted and loved as we are. We want to be a part, to be an insider, not on the outside.

Q   How many foolish things have you done to belong to a group?

All of us who are Christians and call Jesus Lord belong to the body of Christ, and we are connected one to another. The body of Christ should be our first level of belonging.

But even still, within the church, there are smaller communities that we may or may not belong to.

·         Jesus himself had 12 disciples out of 70, and 3 out of the 12.

·         This gives us some clues about next week’s “forums of community.”

This sense of belonging is what Brian, Brady, and Peter feel at the Cougars game, they are part of the bigger group. But this alone is not community. Such belonging does not by itself change you or make you any better.

Growing

The thing that separates community from a get-together is the desire to grow. I believe that in order for it to be community, there has to be an intentional focus on growing. You have to want for God to change you.

This growth happens in three directions: Upwards towards God, outwards to other, including family, friends, and even strangers, and inward, as a person.

It is not by chance sin is that which destroys our relationship with God, with others, and destroys us as people.

·         Community is God’s “plan A” for Christian living.

Giving

The final element of community is giving, to pour out of ourselves as well as receive.

Without giving, community becomes stagnant and polluted. A person who only receives without giving becomes a drain on community, and will eventually destroy it.

·         Ideally, in community giving and receiving is ever shifting.

·         Giving is what keeps a community healthy and prevents it from becoming dysfunctional.

This giving will take many forms, from helping each other out, to confronting someone’s sin. The cool part is that if we are giving from who God made us, it will usually be a joy.

·         Serving, within your gifting, is a key part of community.

Ä  Community is as a place where we belong, grow, and give.

The basis for community

Next week I will talk more about how badly we need community, how America’s isolation and individualistic lifestyle is very damaging to our wellbeing, but this week I want to talk about its basis and foundation.

·         This stuff is the foundation of community.

One book I read approached it from a very evolutionary viewpoint, trying to show why community was necessary for the “survival of the fittest.”

·         Our answer is much simpler: We are made in God’s image and God is community.

John 17:20-23 ESV I do not ask for [the disciples] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

The Trinitarian Community

The doctrine of the Trinity (God is one yet three) is the basis of community. Far from being a dusty and irrelevant doctrine, the nature of God as community is the basis for our entire life.

One of the most important statements about God is that he is love, and I believe that his existence in Trinity is a demonstration of love.

·         “God is trinity” means is to say “God is love” existing in relationship, before our existence.

·         What I loved about “The Shack” was the representation of the community within the Trinity.

Everything is from God and reflects him. Evil is a corrupting of that. Our relational nature is a reflection of the community of the Trinity.

·         The Trinity is the source of community and relationships.

The example of the Trinity

Within the Trinity, we don’t see three independent beings, rather an interdependence.

“I don’t need anybody” is a satanic lie. If God lives in interdependence, how much more must we be interdependent? That is why the body is such a frequent analogy for the church.

They unity within the Trinity is God’s ideal for us. Not millions of people looking and acting alike, but millions united in their diversity, together reflecting the Father.

Adam’s loneliness

The need for others has been hard-wired into us. We are told God said “Let us make man in our imagine,” spoken from his Trinitarian nature.

We are also told that before Eve was made, Adam was alone, and that it was not good.

Q   Was this before or after the Fall?

It was before. There are many pains and longings that come as a result of sin, but loneliness and the need for community was in us before the Fall.

·         Sin drives a wedge between people and destroys community.

It is only in Christ that full community can occur, for he breaks down the barriers of sin that separate us.

Q & A

 

 

 

Closing: Go Together

African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

·         This proverb describes the American ethic and its results.

·         Our goal in this series is to help us “go together.”

My challenge to you this week is to prayerfully consider how much you go it alone. Are you part of communities where you “belong, give, and grow”? Do you want to be?

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