This week we will start looking at meaningful commitments…commitments that will help us to strengthen the Church and our relationship with other people…relationships that will help us have a positive, Godly impact on the restoration of the Church. For starters, consider the commitments you have made to people. In previous weeks we described the importance of clarifying your identity in Christ and being sold out to that redefinition of who you are. With an altered self-image in mind, you can them invest in meaningful commitments to other people that naturally flow from your identity and its related purposes. It is through these commitments that the growth we have experienced and continue to pursue has the ability to bear fruit in the lives of others and through those relationships we are able to change a culture.
Let’s take a look at three commitments that are important for the restoration of the Church and the redirection of our nation. Please notice that I continue to relate the direction of the nation…politics…with the important role of the Church. The three commitments I believe are: Community; Family; and the Disadvantaged and Hurting. Needless to say we will not be able to cover all three in one week but over the next few weeks we will look at the positive contributing aspects of each. This week the topic will be ‘Community’.
The true Church of God is not simply a large number of isolated individuals whose bond is defined by assent to a particular slate of theological perspectives. Historically…and Biblically…the Church has always been about the connection of believers to one another. Those faith-based relationships establish a new type of family, one based upon common love for and devotion to Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced, self-absorbed world the Christian Church has become an assemblage of individuals who have limited ties to other believers. Christian relationships are often built on the basis of convenience, proximity, and absence of conflict more than upon a decision to accept, understand, support, and love everyone who is similarly sold out to Jesus. The result is a nationwide group of believers who are every bit as fragmented as any other social club or business association.
Given that the Bible does not call on us to go to church but to be the Church, we may wish to reflect on what we hope to invest in and take away from being associated with other Christians in a gathering such as a local congregation or other regular meetings of believers. Here are a few of the suggested values/benefits:
One value of our regular assembly is experiencing trustworthy teaching, God-centered worship, and opportunities for meaningful service. In today’s society that recognizes and promotes narcissism more than selfless sacrifice, having a safe and consistent environment in which people of like mind and purpose can renew that focus is an invaluable gift.
A second benefit of belonging to a group that meets regularly around its mutual love of Christ is the opportunity to receive tangible support through voluntary accountability to people we trust. The basis of that trust is the shared commitment to Christ and the principles set forth in God’s Word. Accountability is not a concept that receives much attention or support in our nation these days unless it is applied to someone else. One of the keys to a healthy community is the willingness of each participant to hear and accept positive, constructive feedback and, when necessary, to yield to the advice or discipline of the community. The Scriptures describe this responsibility to the submitted believer as looking out for a brother, warning him about deception and self-deceit, motivating him to engage in appropriate behavior, and caring for and building up the accountable brother. [Romans 14:19; Corinthians 12:25; and Hebrews 3:13; 10:24-25; 12:15; and 13:17].
One of the under-exploited opportunities that engagement with a group of Christians, based on research by the Barna Group on transformation, is taking advantage of coaches and mentors who are at a more advanced stage of the journey and are willing to guide us along the path to growth. [Maximum Faith: Live Like Jesus by George Barna (New York: SGG Publications, 2011). This book on the transformational process emphasizes the value of connecting a believer with someone who is one or two steps further along the journey to wholeness. The research showed that participation in discipleship programs…Sunday school, small groups, Christian education classes…regular worship service attendance, and even personal Bible reading minimally correlate with spiritually maturation.
A relationship, however, is always a two-way street. You cannot grow if you simply take; you must give back to others as well. It is our responsibility to determine whose life we can invest in within the body of believers and to pursue the opportunity to do so. Based on the spiritual gifts and natural talents and skills we possess, we can find a role through which we can add value to individual lives.
Next week we will look at the commitment to family. As goes the family, so goes the nation. Politics has done much to discourage the family. As I see it, the only saving grace is the Church. Divorce within the family is sad enough. Divorce of the Church from politics is tragic.