Thursday, August 9th, 2018
By Scott Ashby
Christianity was never designed to be a do-it-yourself, go-it-alone plan for life. I’m grateful that we live in an age with more opportunities for spiritual growth than at any other time in history. Even in the last 20 years, opportunities have multiplied exponentially. Not only do most of us carry digital access to the Word of God in our pockets or purses, we also have access to television, radio, online videos, apps, e-books, etc, which leaves us with no excuse for not ingesting and studying the Word of God.
However, none of these things were intended to be substitutes for the community of a local church. Christ died for the church (Acts 20:28) because He knew that we needed to live in fellowship with one another just as He lives in fellowship with His Father. He also knew that the church would be an agent in our sanctification and the proclamation of the gospel. Here are eight elements of a biblical church community to which we are called:
1. Community cares.
I Cor. 12:25-27 That there should be no schism in the body; butthatthe members should have the same care one for another.And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
The image of the body is extremely apt to describe the local church. When I stub my toe, my entire body responds to protect and care for the injured toe. So it is with Christ’s church. We gather round those who are weak and suffering. We celebrate with those who are marking victories and blessings.
2. Community loves.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.By this shall allmenknow that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
John boldly proclaims that love for other believers is the evidence that shows our love for Christ. If we love Christ, we will also love those whom He loves.
3. Community encourages.
Rom.14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
The church ought not to be a place of bickering and backstabbing but a place where we uplift one another. By putting others first, we encourage one another on the road of life and point each other to the “finish line” and the joy of knowing Christ.
4. Community motivates.
Heb. 10:24-25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of someis; but exhortingone another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
When we gather together, we encourage others (see #3). But this is more than simply cheering each other up. We motivate each other to continue the battle against sin. We hold each other accountable in our areas of struggle and exhort each other to not be “weary in well-doing.” (Gal. 6:9).
5. Community confronts sin.
Matt 18:15-17 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.But if he will not hearthee, thentake with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tellitunto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Although we encourage and motivate each other, we will continue to struggle with sin (Rom. 7:14-21). We continue to fight against our fleshly nature. At times, we will lose that battle, and the community of the local church is there to confront sin. We need other believers to act as a mirror to allow us to see our true nature, to speak truth into our lives and to shed light on our deceptive hearts. In this way, the local church is an irreplaceable agent of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to repentance.
6. Community cultivates Christlike character.
Eph. 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Our church verse for 2018 articulates the major purpose of the church, to bring us into conformity with Christ. To know Christ in such a way that we become like Him. Unity is not found in common personality types, careers, ethnicity, or hobbies. We find unity as we each conform to His character.
7. Community defends truth.
I Tim.3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
God has not given the stewardship of the gospel to a military force or an academic institution. He’s given that to the local church. We are the institution that God has ordained to defend and live out the truth of His Word.
8. Community declares Christ.
Phil. 2:14-15 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
When the church acts as a community in the ways God has intended, it shines the truth of the gospel brightly into whatever region of the world it finds itself in. No matter how dark or dangerous the world is, we are called to declare Christ in our words as well as our actions!