I grew up in a family that loved our church. Many of our best friends were also in our church community and I loved my friends and the way I was grown and encouraged to become a man who could follow after God. For me, church was not a once-a-week gathering, it was my extended family and support network. Even now, when I go home, I consider these friends as my family and I always make a point to connect with them.
Whether you had the same experience as me or not, I think many of us thrive when we have a community of people around us who know us, love us and stand with us in good and difficult times. A church community brings out many of our highest hopes (because we’re all trying to follow the Way of Jesus) and it’s where we can experience crushing disappointments when the community of faith fails to meet our expectations. Even worse is when leaders in the church abuse their position.
By now I’ve been in a number of church & secular communities. I’ve also been a member of a number of Christian organizations and I am growing to understand what I love about the community of people trying to follow Jesus. Without trying to use the early church as an ideal model for what we should be doing, I have been reflecting on the story of Pentecost (Acts 1 & 2) and found some values there that I have found to be of high importance to me. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list or to reflect a new list of church values, but to identify what I love about what I see in both the first church and what I hope for the church today.
The starting point is Jesus: for 3 years a community grew around Jesus. At times Jesus made it easy to follow him. Other times he made it nearly impossible to be with him. These followers were trained & tested to see and act like Jesus. Then, at the moment of Jesus greatest need, they were scattered and terrified.
The turning point in this little community continued to be Jesus. As they encountered the risen and resurrected Jesus they transformed. Following this, nothing would change their story and the Way of Jesus has outlasted and overcome empires, kingdoms & economic systems. The church is united around Jesus: God becoming man, crucified, risen, ascended to heaven and coming back. Acts 1. 1-11.
For me too, a community is great. Aspirations are great. But everything begins to make sense when I start with Jesus. And he is a good guy, memorable teacher and inspirational model – without the resurrection. The risen, living Jesus is my story changer. We would be a community that sees everything starting from this reality. We need Jesus.
As the story of the first church emerged, the message of the church wasn’t good philosophy or holy living, it was the amazing story of God entering history in the person of Jesus – the one who was bringing the culture of Heaven to earth.
So over the next few posts, would you like to join me in reflecting on the story of Pentecost and the values you value in church community?