Gospel Communities | Introduction | What Are We Even Doing Here?
As we have mentioned at our most recent members meeting and on Sunday mornings, we are making some changes to the orientation of our midweek gatherings. With the change of name from missional communities (MCs) to gospel communities (GCs) (which will be explained further in a future post), we are implementing some principles that will hopefully reorient us to deeper communion with God and deeper obedience to his word. Over the next several weeks, we will be making these principles available for your edification through posts on Realm. Today’s post is an introduction that will hopefully help to frame this discussion for the weeks to come.
“What are we even doing here?”
This is a question I have often received and have even asked myself countless times within the first half hour of attending a weekly GC gathering. The question has fluttered through my mind even as I prepared for midweek gatherings at my home, with talks and agendas that I myself had organized with my wife. Whether called a bible study, a community group, a missional community, or some other variant, almost all of us who have been involved in church life for an extended period of time are intimately aware of the blessings and burdens of gathering midweek for study, food, and fellowship.
Many of us, myself included, have of course benefitted greatly from these meetings over the years. Childhood, college, and young adulthood have all brought with them gatherings that have given me friendships, teaching, and a sense of home even in the darkest days of my life. More times that I can count, the body of Christ’s followers has extended to me, in the realest of senses, the love, acceptance, and forgiveness of Christ himself. I have been rebuked and challenged and have been better for it. I have been forgiven as I cracked a smile through snot and tears. There is a reason the writer of Hebrews reminds us not to neglect gathering – we need to be stirred up, encouraged, and reminded that God is on the move and that Christ will return someday (Hebrews 10:24-25).
However, many of us, myself included, have experienced firsthand the frustrations of living together with other believers in Christ. Throughout my life in church, I have gone through seasons of attending a group, then leading, then attending again, then leading and facilitating again. No matter my role, and no matter who was in the group, when we met, or what we did or didn’t do, life with other people was, and continues to be, difficult; this is true especially as we seek to live God’s way together. As we relate on this side of heaven, unfortunately the sin that dwells in us will continue to cause pain, bitterness, and hurt. Search as you may for the perfect community, the perfect church, the perfect friend group, you will never find it, because you (and me) – we – are to blame: we are sinners saved by grace (Ephesians 2:1-10), and though as followers of Christ we are presented holy and blameless before God (Colossians 1:21-23), we still wrestle with our selfish and sinful desires, which affect the people we love (Romans 7:7-25). He does it, she does it, and you do it too. No matter how green the grass looks on the other side, wherever you go, an imperfect community awaits.
We know we are to gather together, and we know it will be hard, but the question still remains… what are we even doing here? Why put up with all of this? Why give up my precious evenings to eat some food, listen to some talking, and risk pain and hurt only to leave frustrated and unchanged?
While conceding that Anthem, and any other church, will never get this all right, since October of last year the elders and community leadership of Anthem have taken a season to pause, pray, reflect, and attempt to answer these questions of purpose. While Holy Scripture is full of instruction on how to live and love as followers of Jesus, what we desired was a clear example. While they too walked imperfectly, what rhythms did the early church adhere to, having just walked with the Son of God themselves? What did life look like after recently receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in a real, tangible, life-altering way?
Our consideration eventually brought the elders to the book of Acts, where we found the well-known passage in chapter 2:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).
While many of us have heard this text time and time again in the church, what we found was a template, a means of fulfilling the Great Commission and living out our anthem to make Jesus known, within the walls of our church and in the county of Marin.
WHAT'S TO COME
Throughout the next several weeks and months, we will be examining this text together, walking through the meanings and implications contained therein. Each gospel community will spend time learning, discussing, questioning, and implementing these principles. Each community is different with respect to region and demographic, and rather than dictating a set of rules that must be followed within each group, we instead hope to distill healthy biblical community into a few important principles that can be adapted in unique ways within each context. We hope that providing leaders with principles will help each group to prayerfully consider how these can be owned and adapted in a way that brings about fruit, obedience, and holy joy within each member, young and old.
We also hope to provide the outlines and principles in posted form, just like the text you are reading now. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting material about this reorientation week by week, at a digestible rate for the whole church. We don’t want to dump information, we want to sow seeds for reflection, discussion, and real heart and community change. We hope to then compile this information into a PDF booklet that can be reviewed, shared, and updated as necessary.
We as the Anthem leadership are excited for this shift. Rest assured that we are not chasing trends, following the latest book/blog/Twitter/Instagram craze, or restructuring to match up with the hippest (is this a word?)/coolest/most relevant new church. In fact, we trust that we are doing the opposite – ignoring the noise of do’s and don’ts that are rampant today and focusing intently on the examples put forth in Scripture. We are on this long, winding, crazy journey of life together, and we trust that by God’s grace and through adherence to his holy Word, we might be able to laugh along the way and invite many new members into our gospel family.