From the Pastor's Desk
Doing Life Together
was a little boy out playing in his yard one day. A man came down the street looking rather
frustrated. He said to the little boy,
"Son, I'm lost. Can you tell me how
to get to the post office?" The boy
said, "Sure, just go to the stop sign and turn left. It's right around the corner."
man thanked the little boy and then said, "By the way, I'm the new pastor
in town. If you'll come to my church on
Sunday, I'll tell you how you can get to heaven." The little boy thought about that for a
moment and then said, "No thanks.
You don't even know how to get to the post office."
not the new pastor in town and I do know how to get to the post office. You just go two blocks west from here and
then turn south and it's just one block from there right on the corner, you can't
miss it. I also do know how to get to
heaven. That involves a sovereign work
of God in our lives as He forgives us and saves us. We then trust in Him and Him alone for
salvation and repent of our sins.
where we're going is very important. We
need to know where we're going spiritually as individuals. We also know where we're going as a church
body. That's the whole purpose of this 30-day church challenge that we're
engaging in this month. We're going to
try to make sure that we all know the direction we need to be going, how we
need to get there and what steps we need to take to ensure that happens.
Sunday during this series, we are going to issue a new challenge related to one
of the purposes of the church that we'll be studying. If you're at all familiar with the Mission
Impossible TV show and movies, you'll recognize this next line. Your
mission, should you choose to accept it, is to step up to the challenge.
of this involves the devotional book that we provided for everyone who wanted
to use it. You don't have to be using
that book; but if you are, there are six readings each week that relate to the
material we're covering. If you've
already started the book, that's fine just keep on going. If you haven't now would be a good time to do
by this time next month, we will all have discovered what it really means to be
a church based on what God expects of us as a congregation. Our studies will also help us strengthen our
own relationship with God. In addition,
this challenge will help us understand how we can become a church that
transforms our community and our world.
Our objective is that by the end of these 30 days, we won't just come to
church, we will become the church. A
true, godly church is a community of faith, powerful, inspirational and
transformational, touching our community and the world with the power of the
1930, a Scotsman named Kurt Hahn
invented a wilderness learning experience that he called Outward Bound. Has anyone
here ever heard of it? It is
backpacking, white-water rafting, dog sledding, rock climbing sort of
believed that character development is as important as academic
achievement. He found that when people
were put in challenging, adventurous situations, they gained confidence,
redefined their perceptions of their personal capabilities, demonstrated
compassion for others and developed a spirit of camaraderie with their
his leadership of Outward Bound, Hahn discovered that personal growth
accelerates in challenging situations.
His wilderness challenges have been so effective that people have given
up weeks of their lives and paid significant amounts of money to climb
mountains, hike challenging trails, canoe down river rapids and rappel off
wicked cliffs. Today, Outward Bound
sponsors wilderness adventures in more than thirty countries, helping people
grow in character through the power of a challenge that stretches them in ways
they wouldn't normally stretch themselves.
Bound and similar experiences also teach us that people grow better when they
do it together. Put a single guy out
into the wilderness, and unless he's Bear Grylis, he's probably going to
flounder and die. But put a group of people
out there and the power of community bonds them together and enables them to do
things they would never have attempted on their own. By our very nature, we grow better when we
tackle challenges together.
is the very essence of what we're trying to accomplish with our 30-day church
challenge. We need to work together as a
church in unity, to grow more like Christ and become more effective followers
of the Lord. The work we do for the Lord
is a challenge. As we live for Him, we
should be gaining confidence, demonstrating compassion for others and
developing a spirit of camaraderie with our peers. If we're trying to live the Christian life
all on our own, we will fail, flounder and die spiritually. But as we live and work in community, we'll
be able to do things we could never accomplish on our own.
righty then, let's get going with the 30 day church challenge. Take your Bible and open up to Acts chapter 2. We're going to read the same passage of
Scripture that we looked at last week in our introductory message. Let's now read verses 42-47.
one of the challenges we'll be looking at is related to one of the five
purposes of the church. According to
what we just read in Acts 2, the five purposes of the church are to
cultivate authentic community; to experience worship as a part of
our daily lifestyle; to take successive steps of spiritual growth; to
practice personal stewardship; and to reach out to the world around us. Those are the challenges that we'll be
mastering over the next five weeks. The
first one we're going to look at today is cultivating
Acts 2 church excelled at devoting themselves to the church and to each
other. One of the things that made the
first church so special was the people in that church made time for
relationships. Just look at a number of
the verses from what we just read. Verse 42 says, "They
devoted themselves to the fellowship."
Verse 44: "They held everything in common." Verse
46 adds, "They broke bread together in their homes and ate
together with glad and sincere hearts." In other words, they did all that they could
to cultivate authentic community.
of the things that you experience when you get involved in a really good church
is that the people there recognize and realize that the church isn't a building
that you go to; it is a family that you belong to. For every person, the center of family life
is usually a small group that meets together regularly so that people can study
spiritual truth together. Through that,
they are able to come to a place where they can know and be known, love and be
loved, serve and be served, celebrate and be celebrated.
begs the question: how do we experience
that? One way that we experience
authentic community is that we make time
for it. If you want to know and be
known; love and be loved; serve and be served; celebrate and be celebrated, it
will be helpful to commit to an intentional group of people on a weekly
basis. That could include a Sunday
School class or even a home Bible study.
Make it a priority in your life to show up every week and be actively
are worth the time and the trouble. But
they don't just happen. We need to
deliberately make time for them. We
can't have deep relationships with everyone, but we can cultivate some authentic
relationships with a few people.
good Biblical example for us is found in the friendship of Jonathan and David. Jonathan
was the heir apparent to the throne of Israel; David was the commanding general
of Israel's armies. That means that
these two men were both very, very busy and had a lot of things to do all of
they also knew how important friendships were.
They knew the power of relationship.
So even though they were very busy, they made the time that they needed
to make in order to have a friendship.
They made time for each other.
Both of them were better men because of it.
you've made that commitment, the second step to authentic community is to contribute to it. It's one thing to show up for a small group,
anyone can do that and it is a good thing to do and a good place to start. But it needs to go farther than that and it
needs to be deeper than that. A good
group bonds and gels when the members of the group make a conscious effort to
be contributors to the group.
does that look like? Well it might mean
that one person makes dessert for the group.
Somebody else might be responsible for calling those who are absent or
late. Everyone in the group contributes
by paying attention and adding to a good discussion. The bottom line is that you learn to do life
together, speak the truth in love to one another, and make each other's lives
better as a result of it.
third step in building great community is that you take a genuine interest in the lives of others. This is where selflessness comes into
play. If we're going to genuinely take
an interest in the lives of others, we're going to need to think of them first. We're going to need to put aside our own
agendas and our own needs and seek to make a difference in the agendas and
needs of the other people in our group.
means maybe not talking so much and letting others have a say. It means paying attention to what is going on
in the lives of other people. It means
praying for people; spending time with them; Listening to their hurts and
struggles of life. In many ways, it's
not all that difficult to take a genuine interest in others. For much of humanity, it's just a simple
matter of getting ourselves out of the way so that we can let others in.
what does authentic community feel like? What is its effect? Let's all turn now to Psalm 133. This Psalm
is almost exactly in the middle of the Bible.
It's also one of the shortest chapters in the Bible. It was written by King David, who experienced
the power of authentic community in the company of close friends who were
called, "David's mighty men."
uses two illustrations in this psalm to try to explain authentic
community. First he says, "It is
like fine oil on the head, running down on the beard, running down Aaron's
beard onto his robes." What's
that all about and what does it have to do with authentic community?
David's day there were two great offices in the nation of Israel. One was the office of the king.
David held that office. The other
was the office of the high priest of
the nation. That position was
hereditary. It was passed down from
father to son in the lineage of the first high priest, Aaron, the brother of
office of high priest was for life, so most people only got to see the
anointing of one high priest in their entire lifetime. When a high priest was to be anointed, the
whole nation would gather in Jerusalem.
After some prayers, a special mixture of oil and spices, a mixture only
used for the anointing of the high priest and nothing and no one else in all
Israel, was poured lavishly over the head of the new high priest. So much oil was poured that it dripped down
both sides of his head, ran down his beard and splashed onto the collar of his
David, who had experienced the power of authentic community in the company of
close friends, searched for a way to describe how good and pleasant it is, he
pictured a once in a lifetime nation-wide event and said, "It's like
that. Authentic community with a few
close friends gives off the same level of joy as the celebration of the
anointing of the high priest." In
other words, authentic community is a joyous celebration.
he goes on to give a second analogy. In verse 3 he says, "It is
like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion." Israel has a very dry climate with only one
short rainy season. After that, all
plants and animals have to survive on the moisture that comes from one natural
Hermon sits at the northern end of Israel and is the highest mountain in the
country. Its summit reaches high enough
that when the wind blows eastward off the Mediterranean, it catches the
moisture of the sea. This moisture then
flows down Mt. Hermon and waters all the surrounding area, even as far as
Jerusalem, which sits on Mt. Zion.
Without the dew of Hermon, most plant life would die in Israel.
is saying, "You know the effect Mt. Hermon has on everything around
it? That's the effect that authentic
community has, not only on those experiencing it, but even on those within
relational distance of the community."
In other words, authentic community rubs off on other people.
you've ever been around someone who is truly happy, or truly content, his or
her disposition tends to rub off on you.
People in great communal relationships tend to be happier and more
contented, so there is this contagious and cascading effect to the community. Community is like an anointing event for a
nation and an environmental lifeboat for an eco system.
real community is so important and so precious, why aren't we all experiencing
it? It's mainly because so many people
are too busy looking for the good life elsewhere. We're involved in our kids little league
games, which is a good thing. We're
involved in our careers, which is also a good thing. There are family chores, exercise, paying
bills, watching TV, taking vacations, and so many other things that are at our
fingertips that it's easy to miss one of the most important things.
yourself this: Do you want the joy and
unity that community brings? Do you want
the spirit of celebration that doing life together with others brings? Do you want to bring life and refreshment to
your family, your friends and your acquaintances? Are you willing to invest some time in order
to do that?
is your first challenge: Commit to joining a small group, class or
ministry if you're not already involved in one. Commit to making time for a small group,
contributing to it and taking a genuine interest in the lives of others. If you're already doing that, we then
challenge you to go deeper. Maybe
prepare to lead a group yourself; or get more involved; invite others to come
with you. There is something that all of
us can do to be better connected and involved with authentic community.
do you need to do? Is there some public
profession or decision that you need to share with us this morning? As our singers and musicians come now, we
invite you to do so as we stand and sing.
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