If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3 NASB)
What a blessing it was to be able to attend many of the Life Action meetings at White Marsh Baptist Church the first week of May. Their 8-day Summit was filled with excellent instruction and passionate prayer that God would bless all who were there with revival. More and more God is making that my heart’s cry too: “O Lord, revive Your Church, and begin with me!”
Our family was so thankful to be able to attend most of the evening meetings (and it was wonderful to see several of you there too!), but I want to share one of the lessons I learned from Saturday’s “Home Life Café.” The focus there was on the family, but it most certainly applies to the church family as well.
Family Revivalist Shane Black began by pointing out that the foundation of the family crumbles when we live without following God’s direction. This is obviously true in the larger society as well—witness the crumbling of even something as basic as the definition of marriage in our culture. And our church family too must heed this principle. God has called us to live together in community, but what does that mean?
Altogether too often we define community by what we want and how we want to be treated. The result is that although we may dress it up in nice language, the bottom line is that it is all about ME. It’s my church and I’ll defend it, even if it means hurting or alienating a brother or sister in Christ. Honestly, at that point, what we’re fighting for is not God’s kingdom, but my (little) kingdom. And if we’re honest, most all of us will have to admit that at times (more times than we care to see sometimes) we are more concerned about our kingdom and less concerned with God’s kingdom. But it is not about us, is it?
So what is God’s purpose in calling us to live in community? Astoundingly enough, the Bible does not seem to say that God’s highest purpose in calling us to live together as His people is our own personal happiness! Instead we see right from the beginning of creation that we were made to mirror God’s holy image, both individually and in community. It was not good for Adam to be alone (not that he was lonely!), so God created Eve in order that together they could better reflect the Triune God’s image. However sin has marred everything. Sin separates us vertically from God and horizontally from each other.
God’s good purpose is still for us together to reflect His holy image, so we could say biblically, that God wants us to be holy, even as He is holy (see 1 Peter 1:15-16; Leviticus 19:2; Titus 2:11-13). So God brings us together so that we will be instruments of grace in His hand to make us increasingly like Christ. Pastor Shane quotes Paul Tripp who defines community this way: “Community equals Christ-centered, grace-driven, intentionally, intrusive, redemptive relationships.”
Are you willing to be a part of that kind of community? As scary as it may be to give up our love-affair with individualism and privatism (the only thing that matters is Jesus and me and I’ll stay uninvolved unless it meets my own needs thank you), we must love and serve one another as a church family. And just as our own family relationships are messy, so is church. Real, in-depth, loving and in-it-for-the-long-haul relationships are messy and sometimes difficult. But we stick to it and we pray to God for more grace. How amazing that God by His sovereign grace has brought you and me into His kingdom, has adopted us into His family! It is HIS house!
So allow me to ask some questions about how you are engaged in this community, in our church family. These are drawn out of Tripp’s book, Broken-Down House, from his chapter on Community.
- Are you pursuing relationships within your church family (even with those folks who are not the same as you) because you know how much you need Jesus Christ and these brothers and sisters in a multitude of different ways point you to Christ?
- Can you offer others not just your love, but Christ’s grace in your relationship?
- Have you been grace-driven as you encourage others to do what is right? That is, “we do not try to function as a private detectives or self-appointed prosecutors. The purpose of the relationship is not to catch the other person doing wrong . . . .”
- Does your life and interaction with others in the church motivate them to godliness? Or does it frustrate and alienate them?
- Do we recognize that change is a process and doesn’t happen with the snap of our fingers (either in our own lives or in the lives of anyone else)?
- Will we commit to being part of God’s good and redemptive purposes in another person’s life? Or do we see other people as projects for our own personal agendas? Or maybe we see others as obstacles in our way of reaching our own vision of what the church needs to look like?
- Are we willing to allow other believers to be part of God’s good and redemptive purpose in our life? Sometimes (many times) God loves us enough to want to save us from ourselves!
May God bless us, His family!