January 28 – Community


Main Focus: Our response to God in worship inevitably spills over into meaningful, faith-nourishing friendships.

We’re on week two of our Being the Church series, in which we’re looking at five key practices of Jesus’s church: gathering, community, serving, giving, and evangelism (Love One). I’m excited for this week because it’s the bread and butter of what we do every week: community. We’ll turn back to Acts 2:42-47 to see a vibrant picture of the community produced by the good news of the gospel, then we’ll turn to Colossians 3:16-17 to capture some further attributes of this sort of community.

As a reminder, in Acts 2:42-47 we meet the early community of Jesus’s followers right after Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. Aside from the small core of Jesus’s disciples, the rest of the early church was made up of recent converts, many of whom were from other countries and regions (Acts 2:5; you can imagine what this required of them in navigating cross-cultural dynamics). Their brand-new faith in the risen Lord Jesus united them, perhaps because it also disrupted their existing familial and community relationships. Like we saw last week, you get the sense that these people simply couldn’t stop getting together to celebrate their new, shared life in Christ.

In discussion, we’ll re-read this passage and talk about what we find most beautiful or compelling about this early community. When you first read this passage it likely sounded outstanding, ideal, perhaps even too good to be true. However, note that tensions will soon flair over food distribution in Acts 6; what we’re seeing in Acts 2 is the honeymoon phase. Nevertheless, their shared life can form a pattern for us. Here we have a people who are freshly aware of the work of Christ and the forgiveness they have in his name, and the overflow of this awareness is a community of rejoicing, mutual care, and devotion. Their wonder over the gospel and their joy in community were inextricably tied. The same thing can happen in our lives.

To get a sense for what that might look like, we’ll turn to Colossians 3:16-17. There, Paul wraps up a section on how we as citizens of Jesus’s kingdom put on the life of our King, particularly in how we relate towards one another as fellow citizens. It’s easy to miss in our English translations, but the “you” of verse 16 is plural; it’s a shame the translators won’t use “y’all.” That’s to say, the commands aren’t strictly individual but both individual and corporate, calling individuals to know and speak Christ’s word with one another. In our individualistic culture we’re brought up to view our faith as a merely personal affair, but here we see that the practice of the Christian faith is intimately tied up with others.

Clearly there’s loads of application here for followers of Jesus sharing their lives together, particularly when it comes to community groups. Oftentimes we read passages like this and think something like, “teaching and admonishing one another, singing together—what a nice idea,” and leave it at that. Our last three questions in discussion are meant to help us move towards legitimate, real-world application of this passage. What could it mean for us to use the knowledge God has given us to teach one another? Where is God calling us to admonish, i.e. correct or warn, others, and where do we ourselves need to be admonished? When do we need to sing together?

We should all come away from this week recognizing that following Jesus includes a marked commitment to doing so in the context of relationships. Biblical community is part-and-parcel with the Christian life. But, as we mentioned last week, we aren’t interested in just drumming up more to-do list items for church members. Our last question will help us ask how God can use these commands to bless us, which will help us see that these aren’t boring old rules, meant only to restrict and control, but sources of blessing that God uses to manifest the abundant life that Jesus promised his followers (John 10:10).

Finally, here’s the summary on this practice from the New Member packet:

There are about 60 commands in the New Testament like [Colossians 3:16-17] that use the phrase “one another,” and plenty more that carry the same idea. That tells us a simple yet weighty truth: You cannot obey the Bible without cultivating relationships. And for those relationships to truly thrive they must inevitably spill over from Sunday gatherings and take root in our Monday through Saturday lives. The primary way we facilitate this at Vintage is through community groups, which are small groups of people who meet in one another’s living rooms and learn together what it means to know the gospel, live the gospel, and advance the gospel.

Discussion questions

– Could someone read Acts 2:42-47 again for us?

– What’s most beautiful or compelling to you about this early Christian community?

– How can this help us see the role of community relationships in Jesus’s church?

– Could someone read Colossians 3:16-17 for us?

– What gaps exist between this passage and how you typically live your daily life?

– In what ways do you think God wants to grow you and our community group in the vein of this passage?

– Imagine our community group living out this passage to the full—what benefits or blessings do you think could come through that?