Episode 1. Community and Commitment
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More and more these days, people struggle with commitment. When you think about it, commitment is the stuff of long, lasting relationships. Commitment is the fabric of community. But here’s what I …
More and more these days, people struggle with commitment. When you think about it, commitment is the stuff of long, lasting relationships. Commitment is the fabric of community. But here’s what I see in churches all the time. People just aren’t committed.
Have you noticed the more money people earn the more choices we have? And the more choices we have the busier we are at work and with the kids and we get tired. And so, these days, getting a sense of community is really hard. There are lots of lonely people around the country and around the world and yet God has this plan for His family.
God has a plan that His family should get together and be a family and that plan is called Church. Now for a lot of people Church is a four letter word. A lot of people are browned off with Church. They’ve tried it, they’ve had enough. People are starting to write text books about this huge number of Bible believing Christians who’ve decided they’re not doing Church anymore.
And for someone who hasn’t come to faith in Jesus Christ yet the whole notion of Church is old-fashioned, out of date and irrelevant. So Church gets a lot of bad press yet God writes Himself in Psalm 68, in verse 6, it says:
God sets the lonely in families.
So God has a plan for His children, for His people, to be part of a family and that family, by and large, is called Church. Now our society is struggling with having a sense of community. Just out there, every day in life lots of people are struggling to connect with one another and a lot of people never do. A lot of people feel very lonely and to tell you the truth, in a lot of quarters, the Church is struggling as well to create a sense of community.
So often Churches come up with programs, you know they have this program for the youth and they do all these programs, it’s almost like they’re going to ‘McChurch’. It’s two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun approach to Church where you’re kind of ground through the mill.
Community is about relationships. Community is about, well, it’s organic isn’t it? It’s naturally people getting together, getting on with one another, living with one another as a family. Helping one another, compensating for one another. I was reading something that a man by the name of Malcolm Langford wrote. He’s a lawyer and a musician. He wrote this. He said:
I have a dream of a Christian community that when I entered you were excited to see me.
When I revealed my wounds you held me close.
When I lost my job you paid my rent.
When I needed a home you became my family.
When I followed bill boards you led me to the cross.
When I ran after mini loves you opened my eyes to The Lover.
When I was self-absorbed you taught me to love the broken.
When I hurt others you showed me the struggle for justice.
When I destroyed everything you helped me to create beauty.
When I let you see my true self you celebrated my journey and when one day heavens glories opened to call me home I was torn.
That’s a beautiful passage isn’t it? That’s a beautiful verse. It’s a beautiful picture of what Christian community should be like. But sadly a lot aren’t. Sadly a lot of people who attend Churches with the right intention, the intention of worshipping God, the intention of hearing His word proclaimed, the intention of being part of a family, it doesn’t happen. Where they love and they’re loved. Where they’re supported and they support. Where they’re cared for and they care for other people.
People go to Church with that intention yet so many Churches struggle in this area of community. After all, if a Church isn’t a family, if a Church doesn’t provide community, well we might as well all just stay home and listen to sermons on the radio or the CD. That’s great but it doesn’t help us be part of a family.
I would strongly encourage you, if you are struggling with Church you hang in with us this week on the program and again next week because I believe that God wants us to flourish in the House of the Lord. Churches can do programs, the can do ministry activities, we can do all that stuff until we’re blue in the face and yet still not build community and relationships.
Community, well community is the Holy Spirit stirring our hearts and moving our hands, you and me. And this week in this series of messages looking at flourishing in the House of the Lord we look at some of the key impediments to that sense of community. We’re going to name them, identify them and I pray, help remove them.
The first of those is the impediment of commitment. When you think of a relationship as a relationship between two people matures, it moves from being casual to ultimately becoming a relationship of commitment. Marriage is like that. Boy meets girl, they’re attracted to one another, they might date, they might stop dating.
They might date again and progressively they go through a process of greater and greater commitment. Of becoming engaged, spending time in engagement and then becoming married. And the whole marriage thing is supposed to be a life long commitment to one another. And as that commitment begins with marriage, so the relationship deepens and matures, that’s God’s plan.
It doesn’t always work out that way. I know that half of almost all marriages end in divorce but God’s plan is of a mature relationship between a man and a woman as husband and wife.
Now in the New Testament the word Church, well there are two words for it. One is the Greek word ‘Ecclesia’. Now I don’t normally talk Greek words but this is important. One is the Greek word ‘Ecclesia’, it literally means ‘an assembly’. I guess that’s what we do on Sunday mornings or Sunday evenings when the Church meets together. It’s the word we get Ecclesiastic from.
But the second word, the second word for Church in the New Testament is ‘Koinonia’. It means ‘a fellowship’. It comes from a group of words that have a root meaning ‘to share something in common’. You can go to Ecclesia, you can meet together on Sunday more as an assembly and have zero commitment but you can’t do that with Koinonia Church, a fellowship Church without commitment being the foundation of the relationship.
Now you might well say, ‘I’m committed to Church, I think’. Well let’s have a read of what God says in Psalm 92, verse 12 to 14. If you’ve got a Bible grab it and open it up. This is a great passage. He says this:
The righteous flourish like a palm tree and a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the House of the Lord and they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they will still produce fruit, they will always be green and full of sap showing that the Lord is upright. He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
See the plan for us is that we should be like the trees, the cedars of Lebanon, like the palm trees planted in the House of the Lord. Flourishing. The problem is that these days we want to be pot plant Christians. We don’t want to put our roots down in the House of the Lord. We don’t want to be part of a fellowship so much.
We want to say, ‘Well, you know, I’m a Christian and I don’t need those other Christians. They’re a pain in the neck half the time so this is what I’ll be. I’ll be a pot plant Christian. In my pot I’ll be protected, I won’t get hurt, I won’t be disillusioned.’ Maybe you’ve been through that in the past in a Church and you’ve had enough. The hurt’s never gone and so you’ve put yourself in a pot instead of a forest. You’ve put yourself into a pot instead of the House of the Lord where you’re supposed to flourish.
You put a pot in the wind and it dries out and it blows over. Ultimately you put a pot out there in the weather and the chances are the tree will die. To flourish means to grow well, to thrive, to luxuriate, to be at a time of the highest productivity and excellence and influence.
And my hunch is that it’s not up to us to transplant ourselves from one Church to another. You’ve probably heard that term ‘going Church shopping’. Isaiah chapter 61, verse 3 says this:
We are trees of righteousness, the plantings of the Lord.
God plants us where He wants us. He means for us to be committed and He means for us to flourish in the House of the Lord.