The Early Church and Community
One of the things that marked the early church was the significance of community.
In the time of the early church, the believers had a greater understanding of the necessity of being involved in a community. The spiritual climate of the early church was violent and this caused the believers to be dependent on each other. They not only removed things that caused themselves to stumble but they also worked to remove things that caused their fellow believers to stumble as well.
Persecution, bloodshed, and death were common for the believers of this time. There were many in opposition to the gospel. They wanted to eliminate Christianity. Specifically, the Roman government sought to kill Christians in hopes that the message of truth would be stomped out with the death of those who believed.
Since the believers faced this persecution, they couldn’t afford to not get along.
A great example and comparison to this is how the military operates at war. When bullets are flying and bombs are going off, the enemy is pressing forward: We become less concerned with our fellow soldier’s differences. The goal becomes simply to stay together and to stay alive.
The same is for us as believers living in a fallen world. One of the questions we are presented with is this: How are we going to live in a spiritually dark climate?
We were presented with this question during COVID.
Those making decisions for our educational systems concluded to remove students from school and go virtual. What they didn’t consider was the consequences of pulling children out of school and the impact it would have.
Pastor Mike tells us a story about a family who has a daughter that couldn’t wait to go back to school. Though she was the only student attending an in-person class at that time, she desperately wanted to be around someone to learn.
What was missed here was this: we were made for community! The necessity of human connection was pushed aside and replaced with meeting virtually. Virtual schooling and many different platforms were established. Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, and any new social platform seemed like the way forward at the time. However, no social platform is sufficient for or compares to being in a room with someone that you can speak with. Given the fear and the turmoil that occurred during COVID, the problem was that these online platforms never had a great answer to an important question: How are we going to live in a spiritually dark climate?
The Way Forward is Backward
The first-century church found the answer: Living in a community of believers.
This is what it says in Acts 2 about how the believers conducted themselves together:
“They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47).
There are three things that are discovered when a person chooses to follow the example of the early church and be a part of a community of believers.
1. A strong community requires frequency.
Relationships develop based on frequency! If two people want to be close to each other and become great friends, they need to be together.
Whether that’s working out, enjoying a cup of coffee together, playing sports together, or relating through different hobbies, frequency is required for that relationship to flourish.
Dating relationships are the same, if two people want to engage in a relationship they need to spend time together. It would be silly to assume that one person grows closer to another by creating distance!
The same can be said about being in a community of believers. Frequency is necessary if we are going to be involved in a strong community.
At NLC we are committed to this deep sense of community, so much that we felt the need to change our vision statement to “A Community Impacting Eternity”. We are inspired by how the early church lived together and we encourage one another by doing life together in the same way. If you’d like to experience community with us this summer, we have several different groups to choose from.
2. A strong community causes us to grow spiritually.
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
Timothy was instructed to not only turn away from youthful passions but to also pursue righteousness. He was to pursue Christ and His righteousness as powerfully as he was to turn away from sin.
There was a specific instruction in this scripture: He was to do it along with other believers. He wasn’t to attempt this alone. In our lives, it can be easy to say “All I need is Jesus and me”. We can at times be disillusioned into thinking that we don’t need to be connected but God created us to be in community.
The scriptures show us we need each other to grow spiritually. There are certain things the Lord will do in us that only come from being alone with Him. In the same idea, God will only do certain things in the context of us within the community of the local church!
3. The power of community.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16).
There is a strength that community provides in the process of healing. The Bible shows us in James that something significant happens when we get into community and start allowing God to heal the wounds of life.
Something happens when we begin to confess our sins to one another, pray for one another, and encourage each other. God brings healing through the encouragement of others! There is a power that is found in fellowship with other believers that we can’t find on our own. Community is essential for the life of a believer. We can learn how to grow spiritually in the fellowship of other believers as we continue to be a part of a community.
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