Recently (11/08/2015) I was given the opportunity to fill the pulpit at my church. The topic for the sermon was “Biblical Community”. While I am not going to share the whole sermon here, I thought I would share, what I hope, is a thoughtful outline for your consideration.
Looking at the definition of “community” it describes groups of people by location or association that share common characteristics, attitudes, interests and goals. In our connected world today anything from our physical neighborhood to a diverse and connected Facebook group would fit in that definition. What makes Biblical Community different, or is it even different?
I think we get some great clues from Acts 2, the story of Pentecost. While the reading of the entire chapter is key to our understanding of the empowering of the Holy Spirit, Peter’s sermon of salvation and the advance of the gospel, it is also the story of the birth of the church. If not the birth of the church, certainly the story of its first major expansion as 3000 new believers are added to the 120 believers of Acts chapter 1.
In Acts 2:40-41 we see Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, sharing the good news of Christ. The result of sharing the good news of Christ is that some will accept. Right before our eyes in Scripture we see some of the curious move to the convinced and then to the committed as they are baptized as believers and followers.
Acts 2:42 reveals the process of integrating the transformed into the now growing Biblical Community. Luke outlines the basic process of discipling a new believer and what becomes the first step in being integrated into the community. The 3000, most likely led by the original 120, are taught four very important things. They received a common teaching (doctrine). They became participants in a common fellowship (taking an interest in others). They celebrate with each other a common tradition (the Lord’s supper). Finally, they are taught the common language of prayer (the heart language of Christ’s followers).
Yet, we must press on with the rest of the chapter to see why this discipleship is important. As we read Acts 2:43-47, we see the Biblical community in action. Functioning as a reflection of discipleship.
Just picture it! Everyone understood that amazing things were happening around this growing Biblical community. Personal transformation was represented in a healthy, dynamic community. A community that now shared a common language and a common memory as they were together and held all things in common. They held and celebrated common traditions, they gave to meet the needs of others, they held daily meetings at church and in homes, they celebrated together joyfully, humbly and praising God.
Wow! That sounds like the perfect Sunday School Small group to me. To be honest, personally I think I would like to stop there. Good teaching, regular church attendance, good fellowship, surrounded by humility, joy and praising God…what more could one want in a Sunday School/Biblical Community? People gathered around the table in love with Christ and each other.
In my sermon, I stopped short not reading the final sentence of verse 47. Often I want to live in a static community, just enjoying the moment. Yet, the final line is the difference maker to me. This community was built to accept those that the Lord was adding to them daily.
This story follows Acts 1:7-8, the fifth version of the great commission of Jesus to his committed followers. We have just walked through the example of how the great commission becomes great and full of transforming power. A community so different that it invites the curious to become convinced, and then committed to following Christ and living in a transformational community.
To live in a Biblical community is to live as a “fid”. A “Fid” is the tool that is used to open a rope up so that new rope can be spliced into an existing rope. The discipled have to continue the process of maturing to discipler. Small groups must grow not to merely hold more committed followers, but must open up to become more groups of committed follower. The Biblical distinctiveness in a community has, at it’s very goal, the integration of new committed believers being integrated, or spliced, into the rope of faith.
The closing question of my sermon, you guessed it, “are you a fid?” Have you reached the point in faith where you can demonstrate true fellowship by opening the community structure around you to receive new followers of Christ?