Build Community 4

Matthew 18:20

Time alone can be very important. We often need some time where we are by ourselves, to spend an hour or two in quiet reflection, to have some peace and quiet to rest and think. But we are not meant to be alone. Since the creation of the world God has intended for humanity to be in a community with others and with God.

This passage from Matthew specifically follows a command that those who believe have the authority, when they are in agreement over a matter, to ask God for assistance in doing the Lord’s work. What does this closing comment remind us of?

A community of faith is vital for the work of God’s kingdom. Community with other believers is important in the growth of our faith and in our own spiritual journey. As believers we may feel comfortable in the knowledge of our connection with God and that may lead us to believe that it is not necessary to spend time in a worship community.

But we are in the company of more than just one another when we gather to offer worship to God or when we gather to do work in the Lord’s name. Whenever we gather as believers Jesus is present with us also. What a comfort and an assurance to know that in our frailty we are empowered with the presence of our Savior.

This is a reminder of how deeply God loves us and how much we are loved by the Son, Jesus Christ. We are not alone. The Lord is with us at all times. But it is also a reminder that it is important to gather as believers, coming together in a faith community, because when we gather the Spirit of God is with us.

Whenever we gather to worship we must bear in mind whose presence we are in. We must remember that our coming together in community is also an invitation for Christ to be with us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you have an attitude of hopeful expectation and invitation when you attend a worship service?

Build Community 3

Deuteronomy 10:18-19

One of my worst experiences was when I first began working as an editor at a newspaper. It took me a while to learn the ropes and really become comfortable in what I was doing. But I felt the other editors were a bit snobbish and impatient with me. They had very little tolerance for my mistakes in those first few weeks.

I said nothing about it but applied myself even harder until I could at last do my job as well as they did. But I did think that it was unfair of those other editors. There must have been a time when they were new to the job. Didn’t they have to learn as they went too?

Deuteronomy has some instruction for the followers of God. What does God do? What are the faithful to do? What should the faithful remember?

It is very easy to look down on the people who are not devout Christians. We can consider the non-believer, the non-member to be ignorant and foolish. We may even think of them as somewhat corrupt and evil. We know the truth about holy living; why don’t they?

But before we get too comfortable in our smug attitude and self-righteous opinion, we must first remember that we are commanded by God to love the aliens – those people who are not part of our faith community. We are to care for the outsider – the stranger, the visitor – in the same way and for the same reason that God does. God welcomes the stranger. God loves the alien.

We must remember that the faith and knowledge we hold now has not always been with us. Some of us have come to Jesus later in life, turning away from a life of sin or at least a life of lukewarm faith. Some of us have been believers since birth but, honestly, has your faith always been as deep and strong as it is today?

We all have times of doubt. We all have times when our faith in God seems to wane or falter. Even if we think of ourselves as firm in our faith we certainly encounter times when living out the love of God is a frightening proposition.

We need to keep this in mind as we deal with the new believer or the visitor. Our faith community should not be a community of judgment and snobbery. We should be welcoming and loving to all, remembering that at one time or another we are all less than perfect.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can remind you that you need to be more welcoming?

Build Community 2

1 John 4:18

The fear of the unknown can be a powerful force. Most people are not always comfortable going places they are not familiar with or meeting total strangers. We are much more comfortable with what we know and who we know. The idea of perfect strangers coming into our lives can really raise some fears.

The writer John continues in his letter to new believers by addressing the fear of the unknown. What does he say about fear and love? What does love do?

As we look at the all too common experience of declining attendance in churches throughout the nation, most church members are confronted with a dilemma. If we stay the way we are, wrapped in our comfortable habits and traditions, surrounded by only the comfortable familiar, we will soon die off as a church. If we seek out new members and new believers then we are faced with encountering strangers, people we do not know. And this can cause fear.

But we must remember why we are doing what we are doing. We should exist as a church to be the manifestation – the real and tangible presence – of the love of God. We should be the expression of God’s love in the world.

And that expression of God’s love should involve a desire to build a community of believers. And if we will build a community of believers then we must go out from the walls of our place of worship and encounter the stranger. We must be welcoming to the visitor.

Is this a frightening idea? Absolutely.

We don’t know these people. We don’t know what they will bring to our church. They may bring their own problems and issues with them, their own baggage that might be a bit unpleasant for us.

Or they might bring in new ideas, concepts and approaches that are exciting and dynamic, that might turn our church on its head in a good way. They might bring a new vitality and energy and love to a stagnant group of believers.

Whatever awaits us we must approach the idea of building a faith community with love. We must approach the new believer and the stranger with the love that God has shown us. That is perfect love; and, as John points out, “perfect love drives out fear.”

DAILY CHALLENGE: What will it take for you to approach the stranger and the visitor with perfect love?

Build Community 1

1 John 1:3-4

When I was in college I was asked to be a date for my cousin’s friend for their prom – they both attended an all-girls school. On that date we went to a quaint Italian restaurant, one of those old-fashioned, family-run places that hadn’t changed in years. After we were married I took my wife to the same restaurant so she could experience the place. Years later I took my co-workers there for lunch so they could enjoy the restaurant.

I had a great time and good food on every occasion. It was fun to be able to share the experience – the food, the atmosphere, the kitschy d├ęcor – with those I cared about. Sharing good things can bring about a sense of community and joy.

The first letter from John, possibly one of the disciples, explains the reasons for writing to new believers. What is he proclaiming, or telling? Why does he do this? What is the benefit?

Clearly John has had an experience with Jesus Christ, whether he has had a first-hand, personal encounter with the Savior, or he is among the early believers who have heard the stories of Christ. Whatever the case, John is compelled to share his story. He wants others to know of the wonderful news that he has heard and he wants others to come to know who Jesus was and is.

One desire of his is that these new believers, those who will read his letter, will come into fellowship with John and the other believers. That fellowship not only includes John and others, it also is a fellowship with God, the Father, and with Jesus.

As each new person enters into this community that John hopes to build there will be joy. That joy is not just for John and not just for those who come to believe. That joy is for all who will celebrate the arrival of the new believer. And with that joy comes a sense of completeness, fullness, community.

We must be like John. We must desire to share the love and joy we know in our relationship with Jesus. We must desire to build a real community of believers, a complete collection of all who have come to know Christ. To do that we must share Jesus with others and welcome the new believer in true hospitality.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you invite someone into your community of faith?