Sunday, October 31, 2010

Early Church Model

Over the past couple of years, I have studied the book of Acts several times. If you have never read it, I highly recommend it. You can find it five books into the New Testament. You will not find a more honest look at new Christians, those who have been walking with Jesus for years, their struggles with faith, their ridicule, their mistakes, and ultimately,their desire to follow Jesus.

If you are curious at all about Christianity, first read the book of John. It tells the story of Jesus. Then read Acts. It is the story of the beginning of the early church. It is about a group of imperfect Christians just trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus. I have determined we have three big action commands as the church to be effective in reaching others:
1) grow as a Body both in understanding who Jesus is and understanding as a family of faith how we can follow Him
2) minister to the people around us
3)minister to the world. I talked about the last two in this post if you want to check that out.

I want to focus on number one. As Christians, it is so, so important to have a community of people who believe in Jesus surrounding us. Let's face it, life isn't easy and, contrary to popular opinion, Christians are imperfect. Our goal is not perfection, but following Jesus, and if we are doing that, we will grow better along the way. But perfection is impossible. If you do not live in a place where you can meet with other believers, begin praying that God will bring people to you with a desire to follow Him. He will honor that prayer because that is His desire and plan for you.

I looked at some of the communities that I have been a part of over the years outside of my family. I have truly been blessed. These communities look different every time. They are rarely perfect and they require vulnerability on our part to build genuine, God-honoring relationships. My prayer for you is that if you are not a part of a Christian community that the Lord will lead you to people who can encourage you, grow with you, and hold you accountable. Please understand,too, these friendships do not have to stand the test of time. Some of my closest friends I have never physically spent longer than 2 months with. One friend, I have never spent more than 4 weeks with and we live in different countries. I hope through these examples you will be encouraged about what the Lord can do through community. And remember, too, that love unites even the most different people.

My first true group. Not all have lasted, but the Lord used them to shape my life during very difficult times and during exciting new experiences. This is the group that has known me the longest outside my family and walked through the majority, if not all, stages of life with me. One example of a community - those who know you best and the longest.

My group in college. We aren't as close anymore, but the Lord was so gracious to provide these people during a time when I was lonely and scared of my new stage of life. They were with me as I really began to understand my faith personally. Others were very key during college as well, but this was a group that was very important to me. A true example of community that doesn't last permanently but serves a purpose for a certain stage of life.

This was my group at Focus. I call them my long distance family. They walked through a very rough stage with me, helping me heal and truly showing me what love looks like in community. They loved me when I was a mess. This is an example of community that isn't physically present, but are faithful to pray and encourage and love past distance and differences.

These people were my community my last year in Lubbock. They were instrumental in my healing process as well, and were very faithful to help me grow. Two are my cousins, the other two are some of my closest friends. They were all very unafraid to speak truth into my life. They were there all through college but particularly important this certain year. Another example of a few people making a difference during a period of time.
These ladies are my new community and I am really looking forward to getting to know them. We are all very different but all very willing and desirous to follow Jesus and grow in Him.

I don't do any of this to brag. I know I have been blessed in this area, more than even I realize. Other people have been instrumental along the way, as well. The point through these examples is to show you that all communities look different. We are called to grow as a Body and be in community. We were not called to do life alone. I am praying for you that God brings people to you that love Him and want others to know Him.

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:42-47


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