Living in community with other believers is great, isn’t it? The local church, and specifically the small groups of friends and Bible studies within the local church, are the support system for the Christian.
As it pertains to Millennials, young people love community. While many Millennials have an aversion to institutions like the historical understanding of the local church, they don’t have an aversion to the nuclear family. That’s huge, and has a myriad of implications for church life.
If the church is going to reach Millennials, it ought to feel like a family more than an organization.
Whether you live close to or far from your blood relatives, the local church is meant to be as much your family as anyone else. Seriously.
The church community is unity on the unshakeable, sacrificial love of Jesus. Even many families can’t claim this.
But what does this look like?
The Basics of the Gospel
What is the gospel, and how does the gospel affect how the Christian church lives in community? The gospel, or “good news” of the Christian faith, can be, and has been, explained in a multitude of ways. Simply, the gospel is the good news that God the Father sent Jesus his Son to live a perfect life, die and resurrect from the dead so that humans have the opportunity to spend eternity with God rather than apart from him.
People are “saved” by this good news by understanding that their sin, or disobedience, has earned them eternity apart from God and trust the work of Jesus to save them from this eternity, called “hell,” into an eternity with God, often called “heaven.” This is the gospel on its most basic level—this good news that though humanity is damned to eternal suffering, there is hope found in the work of Jesus, God’s Son.
What is Christian community?
Christian community, most plainly, is seen in the gathering of the local church. When we think about how we live our lives, we may think of it as a picture of ourselves juggling work, school, church, family, hobbies and more. But true Christian community doesn’t look that way. We think of our lives revolving around our individual agendas. True Christian community is the hub around which all of the rest of life revolves.
So then, this is the operative question:
Why is it important that our Christian community is gospel-centered?
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
The gospel is at the center of what the Christian believes, and community is at the center of how the Christian lives. What we believe and how we live are intimately connected in a number of ways in various spheres of our lives, and it is also the case here. Scripture is clear: In order for the Christian to become more like Christ, he must be part of a Christian community built on a gospel foundation.
How does that actually work though? Here are two simple ways the gospel must inform our church community:
1. Gospel-centered community is built on sacrifice.
The root verb at the center of the gospel is sacrifice. The good news is that Christ gave himself up for the sins of the world.
Jesus Christ lived the perfect life we can’t live and died the horrible death we should have died so that by his sacrifice we can live with God forever.
What does this sacrifice look like in our church community, though? Does it mean we should be giving our lives for people? Possibly, but obviously that’s not very common.
Gospel-centered church community requires us to sacrifices our time, our money, our emotions, our homes, our hobbies and a host of other things we might rather keep to ourselves.
Gospel-centered community looks like:
- sacrificing your time on a Saturday to help someone in your small group move.
- taking up money to help pay for a car for a single mother in the church.
- hosting a missionary on furlough for a couple of months.
Sacrificing for your small group or your local church may sound odd, but that’s likely because you think of the church as a club or organization more than you think of it as a family.
It’s natural to think of the church as a social club, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct. It’s hard to justify sacrificing for a social club. It’s easier to justify sacrificing for family.
2. Gospel-centered community is built on unconditional love.
Next to sacrifice, nothing is more central to the gospel than love. God shows his love for us through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus. The love that God shows for us in the gospel is unconditional. How so?
The love God shows in the gospel has no bearing on who we are or what we do. The only “requirement” necessary for accessing the saving love of God is knowing you need it!
The source of God’s love for his people is found in the One who is loving, not the ones being loved. Because of this, because the motivation for God’s love is Christ’s sacrifice for us, nothing we do can make that love disappear.
It’s pretty clear how we show this love to others: We love people no matter who they are. Some examples:
White church members invite Latino church members over for dinner.
Athletic church members host a game night with “nerdy” church members.
Younger church members shovel the driveways of older church members.
Furthermore, unconditional love must withstand disputes and fights within the church community.
The church is made up of a bunch of sinners, and the sin that involuntarily oozes out of our mouths and our hands will inevitably burn others like a sort of radioactive acid. When such filth and pain accompanies Christian community, the temptation is to bail. I’ve written about this before.
Christ died on the cross for the people spitting at him and the people praying for him.
We ought to love our community enough to endure the sins of the community.
Christ loved us enough to save us from our sin by dying on a cross constructed in sin.
We ought to love each other enough to forgive and love as he has.
Like I wrote about marriage earlier this week, when your friendships are built on a truth that exists outside of yourselves, no fight or disagreement will destroy that friendship.
Community is only as strong as the foundation upon which it is built. Thankfully, for the church, that foundation, the gospel of Jesus, is invincible.
If our Christian community is rightly built on the good news of the gospel, the community will withstand the sins and sorrows of the people that make it up.
This article originally appeared here.