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Posts Tagged ‘community’

Welcome home: Commission, Community and Compassion

September 5th, 2011

Romans 15: 2-3, 5-7

The Biblical Principles.

  • God is community – in the community of the Trinity, God is never lonely. God did not create us so as to fulfill any need in himself. We were created in his likeness to reflect his glory, which includes reflecting his community.
  • It is not good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18), we are created to be in community. Although this has been disrupted by the Fall, the gospel comes to us as a message of reconciliation.
  • Our main problem is our disconnection from God which leads to a disconnection with others. Jean Paul Sartre illustrated this with his comments “God is solitude, God is absence” and “hell is other people” – in our fallen world, this would be true had not Christ come to reconcile us to God and to each other.

 Hospitality – an attitude of heart

  • Although hospitality can be shown by anyone, even those who know nothing of Christ, we, of all people, should excel at welcoming others home.
  • John Calvin argued that the existence of restaurants and hotels is proof of the depravity of man. People earn money by providing that which human beings should freely give to each other.
  • Attitudes to hospitality vary across cultures. There is something very defensive about British culture, but, in Christ, we don’t need to be afraid but, instead, should reach out to the unloveable (Matthew 5:43-47)
  • 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – We are called to be ministers of reconciliation, called to the mission of God and the commission of Christ to make disciples. We should affirm other people as important.
  • There is a danger of thinking that the current move to multi-site is, in itself, the answer. The answer is a church which genuinely loves people on mission and actively cares about the people in our communities.
  • The church family which God is building is one for all kinds of people. Martin Luther argued that the kingdom of God must be among enemies or else we are simply blaspheming and betraying Christ, who lived among his enemies!
  • We are not just to be receivers of hospitality or just givers of hospitality (spending all out time in the kitchen but barely talking to anyone).
  • But what about people living in tiny bedsits or flats, how can they invite people into their homes? We can be grateful to God that Brighton is full of other places (cafes, pubs, parks etc) where we can invite people.
  • When you do invite people in, care about them. Watch your language and the subjects that you talk about so as to include people.
  • A word on boundaries – The question “Who is my neighbour?” is answered by the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) where a man risks danger to help an enemy. However, note that the Samaritan is in danger from bandits not from the person he is helping. It is right to seek to protect our households when we invite people in. We should be both extravagent and wise in our hospitality. Christian leaders, in particular, are called to model hospitality (literally: “being fond of guests”)
  • 1 Peter 4:9 – Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:22 – to the weak we make ourselves weak to lead them to Christ.
  • Ephesians 4:28 – The point of not stealing but engaging in honest labour is to share with others.

Breathing life into small groups

  • We should not merely have two or three front doors (with the new sites) but hundreds of front doors across the city to welcome people in.

Seven points for small groups:
(1) Ensure that you are on God’s mission (i.e. that mission is not a “bolt-on” activity but the spine of the small group).
(2) See yourselves as God’s immediate provision for one another (gathering around the gospel and showing Christ to each other).
(3) Build one another up for mission. (We also need to open and honest when inviting others).
(4) Transcend “small group night” (the small group is the people not the meeting).
(5) Pray for individuals and localities (we want the city to be blessed by our being here).
(6) Pray and strategise for the area (be proactive and seize opportunities).
(7) Preceive and receive (asking God to show you what he is doing and whom he is sending to you).
Is there a family who will welcome people in?

 

Did Jesus Start a Religion by Accident?

October 19th, 2010

Many people question whether Jesus really meant to start Christianity or the Church, usually because people tend to like Jesus a lot more than the Church and Christians. People blame the Church for many awful things done in the name of God or Jesus, and famous figures like John Lennon have said that it is the disciples that ruin the image of Jesus. People often don’t reject Jesus but the Church.

However, we need to examine whether Jesus meant the Church and we need to look at his actions as well as his words. One thing Jesus did was that he chose 12 disciples – just like how God’s people began with the 12 sons of Israel. In this he was making a clear statement – that he was starting a new community belonging to God. Jesus also called his disciples his “little flock” – same terminology used by God to describe his people Israel – and he used the imagery of the bride and the bridegroom like in the Old Testament. It shows Jesus was meaning to do the same thing as in the Old Testament – preparing a people for God.

Jesus also called his disciples his family above his natural family – this was a shocking declaration in that culture. It was radical and it showed Jesus believed in this.

Matthew 16:13 – the turning point of Jesus’ ministry, the first revelation of Jesus’ identity. This changes the course of events – Jesus says they’re on a new mission. This is the plan – ‘on this rock I will build my Church’. It is so serious that not even the gates of hell will prevail against it.

Jesus entrusts the authority and legacy to Peter and the disciples to inherit his calling. God wills that people carry this authority – His reign – on earth. When Jesus was on earth he was the light of the world; now his Church is the light, carrying his rule and glory across all over the world.

Jesus invented and intended the Church.

It’s no use debating about the good vs. the bad that has been done by the Church; the real question is was it really true Christianity, or a distortion, when bad things have been done in the name of Christ? Unfortunately we live with the consequences of what Constantine did in the 4th century, which was to make everyone in the Roman Empire a Christian, leading onto the tie we still have between the Church and the State. Jesus did not intend for this to happen – no one can be forced to become a Christian. But what we have had over the centuries is people who claim to be Christians, who didn’t even believe in Jesus, doing terrible acts while wearing the “uniform” of Christ. The Crusades is one example, done on false teaching about how killing Muslims would be your ticket to heaven.

Don’t dismiss Christianity because of what some people disguised as “Christians” have done. There are also countless amazing things that the Church has done, because of faithfulness to Jesus and his commands, acting as it should – e.g. Martin Luther King. But we have to remember, this doesn’t mean the Church will always look right when it’s being faithful to Jesus – people won’t always like or approve of what it does. Jesus said the Church will be persecuted and hated.

As the Church, we should aim to have favour with all people, but ultimately our allegiance to Christ always comes before pleasing people. We will sometimes be criticised by people who thing they’re doing good or the right thing (for example, when the disciples thought they were right in criticising the woman who poured out a whole jar of perfume on Jesus’ feet). However, do not use persecution as an excuse for just being obnoxious.

Some people find joining a church of Christians unattractive – we love individualism in this culture and don’t want to conform. But the truth is we’re still conformists no matter what, just to other things and other communities. For others, it’s an issue of standards, thinking they’re better than Christians – that Christians are boring failures and hypocrites, and they can “do better”. But Christians are just people who have admitted that they’re failures – that is the difference. We all need to admit the same, because none of us are perfect, and come freely into Jesus’ community.

Alternative Fathers 1 Corinthians 4 v 6 – 21

December 7th, 2009

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Admonition, Not Shame

In this letter to the Corinthians Paul sometimes speaks harshly but he is not trying to make them feel ashamed or bad. He wants to admonition them as beloved children. He speaks firmly and corrects them but only in love. This should be our attitude also, we need robust care for one another.

The church is not to be a lecture hall, admonishment is not solely the preachers job. We have a collective responsibility for each other and we all need to preach at, encourage, admonish one another.
We can’t change on our own and we can’t change by just listening to sermons. We, all of us, need small groups, zones, discipleship. We need community to grow.

The thought of opening our lives to other people can be difficult, particularly if we’ve had previous bad experiences when doing this, so we should always look to restore people gently. As a church we need to grow in this.

Power, Not Talk

Paul is utterly confident in the power of God. There is lots of ‘talk’ that we hear and can even engage in ourselves but the test should be how much power comes out of it? If there is no power there the talk is worthless. We should be on guard against foolish talk. The power is in the Gospel not in the talk and Jesus is the only one with genuine power not just talk.