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Posts tagged ‘Christian Community’

Church: It’s Not About Me – The Body of Christ

The Body of ChristHow does God grow believers toward maturity in Christ?

The answer, Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, is that he forms us into a body—a group of individuals united in their purpose and love for each other and for the Lord.

If one person stumbles, the rest of the group is there to pick him up and help him walk with God again.  And as we mature together as the loving body of Christ, we, in turn, demonstrate to the world that God’s love is the real deal.

 

Interact with God’s Word:

Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

1.      According to verses 4-6, what unites all believers in spite of their many differences? (See also 1 Cor. 8:6.)

 

2.      What is the responsibility of those who have the gifts listed in verse 11? (See v. 12.)

 

3.      According to verse 14, what are the signs that a believer’s faith has not matured?  (See also Gal. 1:6-7; Col. 2:8.)

 

4.      Why are both truth and love (v. 15) important qualities for a healthy church?

 

5.      According to verse 16, how does a community of believers become “healthy and growing and full of love”?

 

Spend Time in Prayer:

Ask God to reveal to you what your own “special work” (v. 16) should be; ask him to enable you to perform it in a way that will contribute to the health and growth of your Christian community.

 

Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.

 

 

Church: It’s Not About Me – The Ultimate Witness

Love One AnotherKey Bible Verse:  “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  John 13:35

Bonus Reading:  John 17:20-24

An unsettling revelation to most Christ-followers, in light of our fierce individualism, is how many of the marks or proofs of a Christian involve other people.  You can’t truly follow Christ apart from community, for so much of what is involved in following him is tied to the “one anothers” of Scripture.

Originally sent as apostolic admonishments to Christians gathered in local churches, they include such directives as “serve one another” (Gal. 5:13), “encourage each other” (1 Thess. 5:11), “accept each other” (Rom. 15:7), and “make allowance for each other’s faults” (Col. 3:13).  These are clear in their command, decisive in spiritual formation, and impossible to fulfill apart from a local community of faith.

Jesus maintained in today’s Bonus Reading that the practice of such community, brought to life in and through the church, would offer the ultimate witness to the world about his own life and ministry. He was convinced that the church, functioning as a community of love and witness, would arrest the attention of the world and give ultimate affirmation to his message of salvation.

If we fail to participate in this community, we undermine how Christ envisioned his message being affirmed in the eyes of the world.

—James Emery White in Serious Times

 

My Response: If involvement in Christian community offers solid proof of my commitment to Christ, how committed am I?

 

Thought to Apply: Church-goers are like coals in a fire.  When they cling together, they keep the flame aglow; when they separate, they die out.—Billy Graham (evangelist)

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.

 

 

Church: It’s Not About Me – Why Not Leave?

ReconciliationKey Bible Verse:  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another. – Hebrews 10:25

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2: 5-11

The pastor preaches about generosity in giving, and you’re battling selfishness.  A small group studies moral purity, and you’re crossing biblical boundaries.  A Sunday school leader teaches on integrity in the workplace, and you’re taking shortcuts.  Your discomfort is no reason to leave; it’s a good reason to stay.

Don’t go looking for a church that lowers biblical standards just to make people feel comfortable.

You’ve been caught in a sin.  You’ll be tempted to run away and start fresh in a church where no one knows about it.  Yet God often wants a person in this situation to stay right where he is and let his church family love him and help him through this difficult time.  The community of faith can keep you accountable, ask tough questions, and pray for you.

You’ve had a conflict with someone.  When tensions have flared, hard words exchanged, and feelings hurt, you might think about leaving to avoid the difficult process of reconciliation.  Usually the wisest choice is to stay and work through a process of relational healing.  Otherwise you might find you have to leave a whole series of churches.

—Kevin and Sherry Harney in Finding a Church You Can Love

 

My Response: When I’ve sinned, am I committed to coming clean and trusting the body of Christ to restore me?

 

Thought to Apply:  The house of God is not a safe place.  It is where we are challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.—Madeleine L’Engle (writer)

Adapted from Finding a Church You Can Love (Zondervan, 2003)

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.

 

 

Church: It’s Not About Me – The Right Question

Spiritual Maturity 3Key Bible Verse:  I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are.  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.  Romans 12:3

Bonus Reading:  Romans 12:3-7; Ephesians 4:4-6.

When I attended Michigan State during the ’70s, the basketball team wasn’t very good even though there were good players on the team.

Norte Dame was in town and we were the underdogs.  It was a close game all the way. You could sense that it was going to come down to the last shot.  And there was a senior guard who was a great shot.  If the game was on the line, you wanted the ball in his hands.

There was another player on the team who was a young, cocky freshman and, although he had a lot of promise, he still had a long way to go.  You guessed it.  As the clock ticked down to the final seconds, the ball was in the hands of this freshman.

Instead of passing the ball to the senior guard, the freshman took the shot and missed.  His desire to be the hero lost the game.  Team unity is based on asking the right question: “What is best for the team?”  The freshman didn’t ask the right question.

Church unity is also based on asking the right question: “What is best for the church?”  You may not agree with the pastor.  You may not agree with the Sunday school superintendent.  But you must ask yourself the question: “What is best for the church?”

—Joe Williams

 

My Response: What is one decision being made in my church that may not be best for me but is still best for the church?

 

Thought to Apply: When Christians meet … their purpose is not—or should not be—to ascertain what is the mind of the majority, but what is the mind of the Holy Spirit.—Margaret Thatcher (British prime minister)

 

Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.

 

 

Church: It’s Not About Me – Having It God’s Way

Spiritual Maturity 2Key Bible Verse:  I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Romans 12:1, NIV

Bonus Reading:  Philippians 2:1-5

“Please turn in your hymnals to page 158,” says the pastor, “and bring your sheep to the front to be slaughtered.”

That’s not exactly what we hear in church every weekend.  In the Old Testament, worship and sacrifice went hand-in-hand, but today these two are not as easily connected.  Maybe they should be.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve grumbled to my wife about a worship song that was “so 1990s.”  I’ve complained that my favorite pastor wasn’t teaching.  Not my finer moments.

Now, it’s normal and okay to have preferences.  But I’m concerned with how we respond when things are done according to another’s preferences.

Complaining and grumbling reveal a heart of selfishness and entitlement.  On the other hand, I can choose to sacrifice having it “my way.”  I can peacefully and joyfully sit through a song I don’t like, realizing that the church is not there to serve me.

I am there to worship God—the God who unselfishly sacrificed his Son for me.

Thankfully we don’t offer animals to God anymore (too messy on the new carpet), but we are still called to sacrifice in our worship gatherings.  Let’s put our preferences aside and turn the focus back on God.  This is our worship.

—Jason Kliewer

 

My response:  How do I respond to worship preferences that aren’t my preferences?

 

Thought to Apply:  The church exists to train its member through the practice of the presence of God to be servants of others, to the end that Christlikeness may become common property.—William Adams Brown (clergyman and theologian)

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.

 

 

Church: It’s Not About Me – Serving Customers?

Spiritual MaturityKey Bible Verse:  You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others.  Hebrews 5:12

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 5:11 – 6:3

He walked confidently up to me one Sunday morning, introduced himself, and said he’d been attending for over a month.  The teaching met his standards, he told me; the music was acceptable, and he was pleased with the children’s and youth ministries.  He was married, he said, and had several children.

When I asked him where they were, he explained that they weren’t yet allowed to attend; he wanted to first check us out to make sure the products and services were in line with what he felt his family needed.

This wasn’t about theology; this was all about customer service.

Since we’ve been taught that we’re the center of the universe, we evaluate everything on its ability to meet our needs.  Some of the best communicators of the Scriptures I know have had people leave their churches because they’re not “being fed.”

I know that we’re all the sheep of God, and sheep require a shepherd to feed them.  But there must come a time when we become shepherds who feed others.  Over 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.  Is this also true in the arena of personal spirituality?

Are we too much about us getting fed and too little about exercising our faith?

—Erwin McManus in An Unstoppable Force

 

My Response: What changes might I need to make so that my church involvement is about more than consuming “products and services”?

Adapted from An Unstoppable Force (Group, 2001)

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.

Church: It’s Not About Me – The Membership Benefits?

Membership PrivilegesWho Said It … Erwin McManus

Erwin McManus is lead pastor of Mosaic, a congregation that meets in various locations throughout Los Angeles, and founding partner of The Awaken Group, a global leadership development consulting firm.

Erwin is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and Southwestern Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books including Soul Cravings, Wide Awake, and An Unstoppable Force.

He and his wife, Kim, have two children, Aaron and Mariah, and a foster daughter, Paty.

 

What He Said … The Membership Benefits?

Three denominational leaders visited our congregation. “What are the benefits of membership at Mosaic?” they asked.  Their question surprised me.  I suddenly felt like we were American Express.  So I asked our pastoral team what exactly were the benefits of being a member.

One responded, “Members are entrusted with responsibility.”  We started laughing at the irony of realizing that membership was the entryway to service.  The only benefit was the privilege to serve!

Becoming a member of Mosaic is a declaration that you’re moving from being a consumer to being an investor; that you’re joining not simply the community of Christ, but the cause of Christ.

On a deeper level, it is an invitation to genuine intimacy.  People who become members say they’re submitting to the spiritual authority of this community and welcoming genuine accountability in their spiritual journeys.

So up front, we ask for this sincere commitment: to allow God to work in and through them as they invest their passions, their service, their resources, and their relationships for the sake of the Kingdom.

Adapted from An Unstoppable Force (Group, 2001)

 

Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.