This past Saturday our church had a Covenant Membership class where we explain how the story of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ define our vision and mission as a church. It’s an opportunity to become a partner on ministry committed to caring for our community as our community commits to caring for you.
Each time we have this class I have the opportunity to share the vision for Community Life and explain what we are asking for from Covenant Members in Community Groups. I started my portion differently this past Saturday. I asked about people’s experience or views of a Christian community and then I asked the most important question.
What should a Christian community be most passionate about?
The answers ranged from the bible to community to social justice. I mentioned last week that mission or community should not take center stage, but that the gospel of Jesus Christ should always be of first and foremost importance.
This shapes the way our church approaches forming missional communities, which we call Community Groups.
Leading with Gospel Enjoyment
It’s one thing to know and give vocal agreement to the gospel being primary for Christians, but it never happens unless you really love the gospel. You only live for what you love. When you enjoy something you reorient your entire life around it. Why do we treat Jesus and His gospel different?
Our core values are Gospel Enjoyment, Intentional Community, & Prayerful Mission, but they all start and are maintained by gospel enjoyment. Gospel Enjoyment is centering on and celebrating the finished work of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 22, Jesus says the greatest commandment is love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He then follows that with the command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
In the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are called to value what is most valuable. We are shown that Jesus Christ is the only perfect Savior who died the death we deserved to die because we couldn’t live the perfect life. We are forgiven of our sins and no longer defined by our mistakes and failures, but defined by Jesus’ success in the eyes of God.
This moves us to celebrate Jesus and to value Him above all else in every aspect of our lives, not just in our Sunday best while singing songs. This freedom from our past mistakes and freedom to live without the burden of perfection results in us loving people who share our faith and loving those who do not share our faith. It leads us to love the lovely and the lowly because it declares that God has loved us enough to die for us. Our response is to extend that love back to God through living sacrificially for others inside a community and with that community to be on mission with the message and mercy of Jesus Christ.
In the Book of Acts chapter 2, the first gospel is preached and the response of the community that hears this and believes is to be devoted to God through the Apostles teachings, devoted to one another through shared resources, space, and life and to be devoted to invite others into this community every day.
This passage, along with other scriptures, shapes our core values and leads to some key convictions that shape our community life.
Leading to Clear but not Mandatory Convictions
Starting with Gospel Enjoyment also guides our convictions, which shape many of the practical ways we approach Community Groups. We speak of 3 convictions that shape the practicals; Proximity over Affinity, Rhythms over Events, and Incorporating Children. I’ll expand on each of these in their own blog posts, but explain them briefly here.
Proximity over Affinity
Since Gospel Enjoyment is our primary value, our Community Groups gather in their local neighborhoods with a focus on the gospel, not on their affinity. Seeing the gospel as the definer of our identity, we don’t gather around life stage, industry, or mission when we organize our Community Groups.
We seek to be Community Groups that reflect their local neighborhood and seek to love their neighbors. Gathering around the gospel being expressed to a local neighborhood challenges our communities to seek the spiritual and physical welfare of their neighbors. They extend the gospel through serving their neighborhood as well as sharing the gospel.
Rhythms over Events
My initial understanding of church when I started going at 13 was Sunday morning worship and Sunday school followed by Wednesday night youth group. This led to viewing church as an event to attend, the time where you worshipped Jesus, clocked in your Christian time and the rest of the week you could live for the American dream. This event-based Christianity opposes the gospel of Jesus Christ shaping all of life.
Our Community Groups are encouraged to become a family instead of a weekly meeting through using their spiritual gifts and creating community rhythms throughout each week. Proximity even enables and encourages this type of community living and sharing their life with one another.
Our Community Groups include children when they consider who is a part of the community. They are included in the people who need to be cared for, shown Christ, and called to serve in the community. Children are always seen as a challenge with community life in churches because they can quickly double or triple the number of people in the community.
Our hope is that our communities express our church as the family of God. Whether your single, married, or have kids, we desire for you to experience a family, but also we recognize our families need a community committed to loving their children to thrive.
These convictions guide the majority of our approach to Community Groups, but they are not mandatory. We recognize the value of men’s only and women’s only Community Groups and are open to people starting Community Groups in their workplace or with a specific mission.
We see the strong encouragement from scripture to gather in your neighborhood around the gospel of Jesus Christ to enjoy and extend this gospel through word and deed.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll expand on how our Community Groups seek to practically embody our core values and how we came to these key convictions. I’d love for you to comment, challenge, and add your communities approach.