Friday, September 25, 2015

The Power of Community

            The Europeans who came to settle North America found it vast and unexplored. "Self-reliant" was the watchword, and the scout, the mountain man or pioneer, with his axe and rifle over his shoulder, became the national hero.  In the early days the government gave away quarter sections of land to anyone who would homestead, in order to encourage settlement. People flocked west from crowded cities and villages to have their own land at last. Before they could farm the land they had chosen, their first job was to build a sod hut to live in, and most families built them right smack-dab in the middle of their quarter section. The reason was obvious. People who had never owned land before had a new sense of pride and ownership. They wanted to feel that everything they saw belonged to them.  But that custom changed quickly. This chosen isolation did strange things to people. Occasionally, photographers went out to record life on the frontier and returned with photographs of weird men, wild-eyed women, and haunted-looking children. Before long most of these families learned to move their houses to one corner of their property to live in proximity with three other families who also lived on the corners of their property. Four families living together, sharing life and death, joy and sorrow, abundance and want, had a good chance of making it.  Chuck Swindoll, Dropping Your Guard.

            We Christ-followers share some similarities with those early pioneers.  Just like them, we have embarked on this exciting adventure into uncharted territory.  We now have this new life given to us free of charge, and it’s ours…no one can take it away from us.  The possibilities are as limitless as the God we trust.  But just like those early pioneers, we can sometimes get the mistaken idea that we don’t need other believers.  And so you have an increasing number of Christians who are disillusioned with the institutional church and drop out.  And you have many millions more who experience God in corporate worship, but never get any deeper.  To them, church is very much a spectator sport.  Bud Wilkinson, the old Oklahoma football coach, once said, “Football is a game with 22 people who are desperately in need of rest performing in front of 40,000 people who are desperately in need of exercise.”  That is what these Christians experience: They watch a select group of “called” believers serve God while they fight to stay awake, or maybe—if the show is really good—applaud in some way, or even participate.  But they never really get their own hands dirty.  And like those early pioneers, both groups start to get a little weird.  We’re in a series called What the World Needs Now.  God’s plan was to reconcile the world to Himself through Jesus, and He created the church with the primary mission of bringing about that reconciliation.  As we’ve studied Acts, we’ve seen it wasn't just heroic people like Peter and Paul who made the Church great; it was everyday believers who sold their property to provide for the poor, or found a role in God’s work when it turned out the job was too big for the apostles to handle on their own, or took the Gospel with them when they were fleeing persecution and actually shared it with people different from themselves.  That’s how the Church changed the world. 

            And here’s the point of Sunday’s message: Our church can’t accomplish its mission unless it’s a place of true community.  And you can never be all God intends for you to be unless you’re experiencing real community.  When Jesus created the Church, He intended it to be more than a building, an event, or an institution.  He created it to be a family like no other, with a love the world would find puzzling and inviting.  Sunday, we'll look at a story from Acts 12 that shows how deep that love went.  We'll also talk about why you need that kind of community in your life, too.  Don't miss it!

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