Spiritual Growth Practices
The Inter-Realtional Practices of Worship- The Practice of Cultivating Christian Community
5 Community Building practices of the early church: DNA or culture of the church:
Acts 2: 42-47- They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Participate in the culture of the church: Church means simply “a culture of the called out ones”- This culture is clearly defined for us through the early church practices of how the culture of the called out ones is expressed through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
1. Corporate “Guiding practices of worship”-
The guiding practices of prayer, fasting and study are not meant to be only practiced alone, but also in cooperate gatherings. “Lone Ranger” Christians are not “early church” Christians
- They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. Place yourself before the teaching of the scriptures.
- They devoted themselves to Prayer (spend time praying together, it is not meant to be done just by yourself). Come early and pray with us before service at 10am.
2. Participation in the Sacraments (Baptism & Communion)-
Church is not just where 2 or more are gathered in Jesus name. Although we find a cooperate presence of Jesus in this gathering as described in Matt. 18:20.
- Breaking of bread (in this section it is in reference to the “Lord’s Supper, or Communion).
- Baptism is another sacrament not mentioned here but taught and modeled by Jesus and practiced and affirmed by the early church. Matthew 28:19- Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
3. Authentic Relationships-
Some people never take the time to develop meaningful authentic relationships in Christian Communities, they will drop “church” like a bad habit at the first sign of something they don’t like and agree with. This is very sad to me, because the “church” is not a business, or store, it is people, relationships, a living organism, it is you and me, our families, our stories, our lives, bonded together by a common faith, common experiences and a common unity.
All the believers where together and had everything in common…. Everyday they continued to meet together
Relationships where valued and time was spent growing in relationship not just with God but also with one another. 4 keys to building authentic relationships
- Time Together- It takes time, patience and persistence
- Shared Experiences- Celebrations, Recreation, Entertainment.
- Honesty- Don’t fake it, find people you can be vulnerable to. Go deep with a few.
- Facing and overcoming Obstacles, Frustrations, and challenges together. Celebrating good news, accomplishments and joys together.
Consumerism was not a part of the early church culture.
- Sharing of wealth- They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. You cannot say “I wish church where more like the church of Acts” and not be willing to practice extravagant generosity. They treated possessions and wealth as, not their own.
- Everyday they continued to meet together- Generosity of Time.
5. Formal and informal gatherings–
All the believers were together, Temple Courts & in their homes.
- More formal structured gatherings of worship & in more informal home gatherings of sharing life, worship and mission together. This practice allows for a community to grow in breadth (abounding- city impact & influence) and depth (abiding- growing deep roots in community) at the same time.
Risk and compelling goals builds communitas- Alan Hirsch in his book, “The Forgotten Ways” talks about this idea of Communitas. In his view this happens in situations where individuals are driven to find each other through a common experience of ordeal, humbling, transition, and marginalization. It involves intense feelings of social togetherness and belonging brought about by having to rely on each other in order to survive.
Shared experiences creates communitas. The more intense the experience the deeper the communitas.
4 Stages of Community:
1. Common Relationship-
Those you see on a regular basis, know there name, and a little bit about there life. A neighbor, fellow parent, friend of a friend, co-worker, or business person. To easy to leave, and not associate anymore.
Those you have common relationship with that you also have a shared experience with that is more personal, maybe around a shared interest or hobby. Someone you are on a sports team with, craft with, or go see the same band as. Harder to “bounce” there is a level of commitment and excitement that is not easily broken.
Those you have both Camaraderie with that you have overcame personal or cooperate obstacles with. Working towards a common goal with deep personal purpose, direction and mission. This is where life-long friendships form, that are heartbreaking when broken.
4. Communal Living-
Those you have communitas with that you now consider family and a personal obligation to help care for one another. Sometimes at this stage of Community the purpose and mission can take a backseat to caring for eachother. Communal Community can move into some un-healthy areas of co-dependence upon a community versus a personal relationship with Christ.
Alan Hirsch says in his book, “Forgotten Ways” Communitas is formed around a mission and undertaken by a group of uncertain but brave comrades. This reminds us of the great stories of how Jesus and the early church went about spreading the message, we evoke that yearning and that willingness to undertake an adventurous journey of rediscovery.
3 Community Killers: There is no I in Church
Expecting the mission and community of God to serve you instead of it being a mutual give and take for the greater mission of God. Slipping into a Christian Consumer mindset, making Christian Community about your needs instead of accomplishing God’s mission.
There are many more than these 3 Community Killers but these are the three I see as the most common today:
1.Gossip- Phrases that describe this community killer: I heard, I would assume, In my opinion. People who have adopted a mindset that it is ok to talk about others behind their back. Gossip is a form of relational cowardice, Cowards don’t build community they destroy it. Brave people willing to walk through conflict motivated by a desire resolution, peace and love. These are the people we are called to be. Gossip destroys community.
2. Greed- Phrases that describe this community killer: I want, I need, I deserve. This may be the biggest one for the millennial generation, also called a generation of entitlement. People who have adopted a perspective that Christian Community should be all about them, their needs, wants and desires, void of considering the greater mission of God. When church becomes all about what I can get out of it instead of what I can give or contribute to it. Remember blessings are experienced through giving not receiving.
3. Guilt- Phrases that describe this community killer: I am embarrassed, I am afraid, I am ashamed. Unfortunately Christian Community has tried to use guilt to be a community builder in the past. However its my belief that Christian community is intended to be a place of re-construction, you are not supposed to be perfect! So please, please, please do not allow “The accuser of the bretheren” the devil to get in you head and convince you that you cannot be a part of Christian Community because you have made a mistake, have an area of weakness or are afraid of being real with people. WE ALL ARE!! The church is compiled of the worst of the worst of sinners, come and join us you will fit right in!
How to deal with guilt:
– Recognize the source of your guilt- The Holy Spirit bringing conviction, or people trying to manipulate you
– Practice forgiveness- ask for God’s and others forgiveness if needed, forgive yourself, or forgive those that have wronged you
– Move forward- do something different, fill your life with some life-giving practices, or find people of grace (imperfect people, following God’s spirit, who are motivated by love for God and others)
The power of a gospel centered community- Our life together as the people of God is a life of poetry and light created by the gospel. We are called to live a compelling shared life that makes others say, “Man! Look at those Christians. I want what they have!”