As we continue to discuss the three aspects of Church life, worship, community, and mission, one of the things that I hope becomes clear is that we can’t really talk about one apart from the others, because the Church is a three-dimensional reality. We can look at that one reality from different perspectives, but worship, community, and mission are inextricably tied together. So here are four foundational ideas for us to consider concerning the life of the Church from the perspective of Christian community.
1) What is Christian community?
- Christian community describes the relationship of fellow believers to one another. At its most basic, Christian community is about life together. But of course, all communities share their lives. The difference is that Christians don’t simply share our lives with each other; we share the life of God in Christ with each other, because our fellowship is with Father & Son. Christian community is patterned after the Trinitarian community of self-giving, self-sharing love. What distinguishes Christian fellowship from all other types of social groups is that Christians join together to imitate God by giving their lives to and for one another. Many communities say “My life with yours.” Christian community says “My life for yours”.
2) How is Christian community related to worship?
- Christian community is centered around and constituted by worship. One of the first things that people should notice about our community is that everything we do revolves around the Word of God, preached, read, studied, sung, and prayed. Worship shapes and directs, guides and governs our life together. Entrance to our community happens in baptism, and the boundaries of our community are expressed at the Table, our deepest expression of community life. All of our life together is ordered around our worship together, and everything else that we do together flows out of worship.
3) How is Christian community related to mission?
- Christian community is both evangelism and evangelistic. That is, both who we are and what we say proclaim the gospel. We want the world to know the message that we have seen and heard, and so we both tell it to them, and show them what it looks like. Worship and mission are the primary avenues the Church uses to tell, but Christian community is designed to show people the gospel as we live out the life of Christ right in front of them. Love in community shows Jesus to the world.
4) What does Christian community look like?
- Christian community looks like people who love each other sharing their lives together. We spend time with each other – watching Ravens games, chopping firewood, grocery shopping, whatever. We care for one another – when a military husband deploys, it means that the Church makes sure that his family is taken care of – meals are taken over, grass is mown, broken dishwashers get fixed, etc. We correct one another – when one of us is being a knuckleheaded husband or father, we pull him aside, and rebuke him. We encourage and exhort one another – when we are struggling to fight against sin, we come alongside each other with the warnings and promises of God. We welcome one another, especially the lowly and the lonely – these people know that they belong with us, and that we love them. We study the Bible together, we sing Psalms together, we pray for and with one another, we share meals with one another, we hold each other when we are crying, and we laugh with each other when we are filled with joy.
This is Christian community. This is what will cause people on the outside look at us and say: “You guys are so different – old and young, married and single, rich and poor; but you really love each other! What’s that all about?” And we tell them that we love, because He first loved us, and we welcome them into the fellowship that we have with one another; the fellowship that we share with our Triune God.