We Don't "Do" Community. We are a family.

Today as I was reading Every Day Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis,[1] I came across a very important point that I often forget concerning community. Because community is so important to us at Trinity, we spend a lot of time reminding one another about the commitment needed and the shape life needs to take in order for community to work. But there is a real danger here that I especially want to be careful to avoid, and I want to urge all of you at Trinity to avoid this danger as well. Listen to Chester and Timmis comment on 1 Peter 1:22-23:

What forms and sustains Christian community is, perhaps paradoxically, not a commitment to community per se but a commitment to the gospel Word. Sometimes people place a big emphasis on the importance of community and neglect the gospel Word. Community then becomes a goal toward which we work. But Peter says human activity cannot create life that endures. An exclusive focus on community will kill communities. It is only the Word of God that creates an enduring community of life and love.[2]

In short, we must be careful not to constantly focus on our commitment to “do” community. We are a family because Christ our brother died to reconcile us to God and give us new life by His Spirit through the gospel message. Our life together as a church community must not be the result of our work to achieve something so much as our living into the new life we have been given.

Let me give an example of what I think the difference between these two ways of living might look like in a practical situation in our church. Each of our home groups meets every week in different homes as a primary rhythm of our church life. These gatherings are critical for sharing life, prayer, fellowship, care, mission, and study. When we are living with the mentality that we must “do” community, we will struggle to stay committed to these gatherings and more importantly to the people that gather when our lives get stressful. We will muscle up our effort and pull it off for awhile when the social pressure is high and the relationships seem great. But if relationships become strained and conflict arises or if we manage to fade out of view for some reason, we will pull away from the relationships.

However, if we are living in light of the gospel and if we are living in light of our status as children of God, then we will no longer see ourselves as responsible for creating or maintaining community so much as enjoying the reality that we have been brought together by the blood of Christ and the uniting work of the Spirit. We may have busy seasons that make it hard to be present with everyone, but we will deal with this in at least two ways that are different than before. First, we will now face the rest of our lives as those who are part of a community by the power of God apart from what they have done. Rather than juggling our various responsibilities, we will live as those whose lives are connected to others. Second, we will begin to examine our lives to see how we may be seeking our identity in other things like work or school in ways that contradict our identity in Christ. Our inability to “do” community well may be rooted in our failure to rest in who we are.

So I want to repent of all the times I have put the emphasis on us committing to community and being a community without first calling us to praise God and rest in our identity as family members because of Jesus’ work on the cross for us. Let us remember that Jesus was raised into new life, and by the Spirit, we are partakers in that life together. Let that good news drive us to joyful commitment to loving one another deeply and with all sincerity.

[1] Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Everyday Church: Gospel Communications on Mission (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).

[2] Ibid., 60.