The word meaningful has lost some of it’s meaningfulness. In this era of quick thrills, bells and whistles, our definition of meaningful can be summed up in whatever makes me feel good now. We say a sermon we just heard was meaningful, yet we completely forget the speakers message a week or so later. A song that was meaningful for me in college is now a mere afterthought. And sadly, the really meaningful people in my life can change every few years.
With this loss of a deep, long sighted meaningfulness, it is no wonder that our Christian communities are the same. Whether it is Church or a small group, we have traded meaningful community for cheap thrills. We go to get “recharged” or “refueled”. Some of us go to be entertained or because we are lonely. Christian community is now an event, not a lifestyle.
Here’s my problem. Social clubs provide a great chance for people to mingle and feel connected, but they rarely transform lives. True Christian community is so special because of its ability to completely transform. This idea is perfectly portrayed in a line from the classic song “Amazing Grace”: “I once was blind but now I see.” The amazing transformation that Jesus offers is actually fleshed out through a deep, meaningful community of believers.
I want to stop here and read Acts 2:42-47. As you read this, consider if there is any type of community other than Christian community that is like this. Also consider if your current Christian community is like this.
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.
Wow. That is what I want to be a part of. Many don’t like Christian community because they accuse it of being stale and religious. But the above passage does not sound stale or religious at all. The early Christians lived out their faith. They weren’t looking for entertainment or for some weekend refueling. They were looking for deep meaningful community. The kind of community that awakens the dead.
Now what should we do in light of such a verse? Well the absolute last thing you should do is go and complain to your Pastor that he is not doing a good job. Or worse yet, leave your Church and start searching for one that clearly does the above. While some of us may need to reconsider what Church or small group we attend, most of us have a better option.
My advise for those of you looking for this type of community is to start right where you are. “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.” (1 Corinthians 7:20). Here Paul is specifically addressing slaves. He encourages them to remain slaves rather than try and free themselves. His point can be taken that the Lord has placed you in a set of certain circumstances in which He has planned for you to make a difference. Yes there are times when the situation isn’t good, the community is unfruitful and we must change. But today I want to focus on how we can help our community right where we are.
There are three quick things I want us to consider in trying to achieve a more meaningful community. The first is service. Just as Jesus pointed out in Mark 10:43-44 “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Of course, Jesus did this himself by dieing on the cross for us, (Mark 10:45). Leaders of Acts 2 communities are people willing to serve. So leaders, let us serve and in doing so set an example for our people to follow.
Second, we must be generous. Generosity is one of those traits we all think we have yet none of us really do. Giving 10% to Church and some money to charities at Christmas time, but then spending more money on yourself and family than the money you gave is not exactly generous. In the community described in Acts 2, you see that they gave to all “who had need.” We Americans do not like to give or share our possessions because we feel we have earned them and that if others haven’t then they are lazy. This attitude is reeking havoc to generosity and meaningful community in America. Let us remember it’s not our stuff anyways, we are just borrowing it from God for 60-80 years, and thus can share it with others.
Last, we need urgency. The early Church leaders believed Jesus would return any day and thus lived a life of study and evangelism. We don’t expect Jesus to come back anytime soon, so we have grown lazy and complacent. Do you feel an urgency to share the Gospel with those around you? With those around the world? Do you feel an urgency to help someone in desperate need? We don’t live with any urgency because our lives have become too comfortable. I once read a quote by a Christian that said, “Once I get too comfortable somewhere I know it is God telling me it’s time to move somewhere else.” Our communities need urgency in sharing the Gospel and proclaiming the Good News to the Nations.
Again, all three of these things can be done right in the community in which you are. Lead by example. Complaining and accusing only destroys community. Rather, take these things to heart and live them this week. May we stop being satisfied with entertainment and recharging and instead seek after meaningful, committed community. May we be willing to serve, give and do so as if the world were about to end. May we be the community of believers that Christ can call His Bride.