Faithlife Sermons

Radical Community

Notes & Transcripts


  1. Disappointed. Distrustful. Disconnected. Forgotten. Neglected. Unnoticed. Unneeded. Unused.  Those are just a few of the terms folks use as they talk about their bad church experiences.
  2. Many LifeSpringers have similar things to say about their own experiences and have spoken positively about how they are treated here and why they like being part of this community.
  3. Still, we have the capacity to imitate the very things we say we hate: exclusive, judgmental, and insider ethos.
    • Indeed, we have actually had people say, "I didn't feel welcomed and included."
    • Which forces us to ask, "Are there people that I move away from for whatever reason?"
    • Phil Ware writes, Unfortunately, churches often toss around family language and the closed language of community to talk about themselves. Yet all too frequently, these words do not have the substance to back up the talk. People feel cheated and lied to when they realize the language isn't real!
  4. Over the next two or three weeks, I want to dissect the idea of "church." What does it mean? What does it require of us in order to be an authentic, welcoming community? What does the Bible say about community?

I. The Language of Community:

  1. Acts is the first place we get a picture of the newly formed community we call the church.
  2. The church in Acts 2 is in its infancy.
    • It has informal leadership. Three thousand new members would have created interesting challenges.
    • It has to figure out how to meet the needs of the community created by the economic needs of the impoverished.
    • It existed off the energy of its exciting new beginning, the news of Jesus' resurrection, and the power of miracles they witnessed.
  3. The language used to describe this community is the language of relationship, and it never becomes institutionalized until the third century. When the apostles planted the church in Jerusalem, the idea of an institution, in the corporate sense, was not in their minds.
  4. In fact, it seems clear that the language was carefully chosen.
    • Not sunagoge because of its association with the Law and Judaism.
    • Not the language of the Greek cults, sunados, thiasos, and koinon because of the confusion that would occur with those terms.
    • The word ekklesia contains no inherent religious significance. It simply means a group of people assembled for some purpose.
    • In the case of the church, it can refer to a group as small as a house church or as large as Christ's universal church. But it always refers to the people and never to the building.
  5. The difference between the church and an institution: one is defined by walls and resources, the other by its people. One is rigid and inflexible, the other is nimble and adaptable. One has to be defensive and protected, the other is protected by the power of Christ and not even the gates of hell can prevail against it. One depends on power and strength for its growth, the other sees the power of small and insignificant things to bring growth.

II. The Practices of Community:

  1. In describing the life of the first church (Jerusalem) Luke said they steadfastly continued in the study of the apostles' teaching, fellowship, eucharist, and the prayers. In so saying, Luke described a repetitive, devoted lifestyle of being together.
  2. What Luke describes is a partnership. They relied on each other. Supported each other.
  3. Do you understand what that means? Conventional wisdom says otherwise.
    • Conventional wisdom says "Look out for number One."
    • Conventional wisdom says you have no obligation to anyone else but yourself.
    • Conventional wisdom says no commitments. Travel light. Don't get involved.
  4. So imagine what would have happened to the momentum of the first century church IF:
    • The apostles had not taking their leadership seriously.
    • The Seven in Acts 6:1-6 flaked out on taking care of the Hellenistic widows.
    • The disciples at Corinth did not bring their "gifts" to worship (1 Corinthians 12).
  5. At MBX we strongly emphasize the importance of presence. The group feels this when they each have their turn with the 5-minute presentation.
    • They put in time preparing for their 5-minute which only occurs every 3 months.
    • A bunch of members are absent. What is the impact on the one giving?
  6. There is also the question of what happens to the disciples who do not make the commuity of faith a priority in their lives. Like what happens when a burning log rolls away by itself. Or a strand of rope unravels and becomes alone.
  7. In our world this is easier said than done. Randy Frazee in his book, The Connecting Church says that it is a challenge to overcome our schedules.
    • Extended family live in different cities around the U.S.
    • We don't make plans to do things with others.
    • Getting to know each other is a time-intensive activity, and modern day lives make it dificult.
    • Children's sports and activities.
    • The view that quality relationships must COMPETE with busy lives.infrequent nature of the group getting together outside regularly scheduled meetings.
    • Biggest challenge for thechurch of the 21st century is to develop a solution for the discontinuity and fragmentation of the American lifestyle.

III. Seinfield and Community:

  1. Seinfeld and Friends both received the top awards from the People's Choice Awards. 
    • Why?  Both were about a group of friends moving in and out of each others' lives. 
    • Seinfield's marketers said it was the show about nothing, but we all know that we loved Kramer's sliding into Jerry's apartment and George's angsting to his friends about breaking up and relationships with his parents.
    • We like, and envy, those kinds of relationships.
  2. Assume for a moment that the show was real. What if Kramer, Elaine, Jerry, and George did not have the sort of accessibility to each other we saw on the show. What if they had to "schedule" their interactions?
  3. Randy Frazee says the coming together would not have happened nor been nearly so intimate. And something valuable and sweet would have been lost.
  4. The Bible recognizes the importance of community. The Hebrews writer told his community that they should not NEGLECT meeting together. It's a death sentence to commitment and relationship, and he knew it.
  5. Frazee tells a story about his family's pet dog.
    • The family took a vacation, and, loving their dog, put him in a pet hotel. His own room, bed, feeding schedule, pet run, etc.
    • When they got home the dog was glad to see them, but its hair came out in clumps when they touched or rubbed him.
    • A call to the vet revealed this was normal. After two hours of playing with the dog, the hair stabilized and quit coming out. Touch and relationship are important for life.


  1. Robert Putnam wrote Bowling Alone. In his research he discovered this:
    • Joining and participating in one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year.
    • Every ten minutes of commuting reduces all forms of social capital by 10%.
    • Watching commercial entertainment TV is the only leisure activity where doing more of it is associated with lower social capital.
    • There is a national trend of declining social capital. Trends over the last 25 years:
      • Attending Club Meetings 58% drop.
      • Family dinners 43% drop.
      • Having friends over 35% drop.
  2. The disciples of Jesus have a huge advantage over the culture.
    • They know the value of being together in meaningful relationships.
    • They know what practices encourage the development of social capital and what the result of that is.
  3. In the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus describes the communal nature of the rule of God. Where that rule is present, ...the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. Matthew 13:32.
  4. There is something hugely desirable about the community of Christ. People migrate to it.
  5. What will our response be to them?
  6. Dear Father, please help us to be a welcoming and committed community. May we not lose sight of the importance of it to the life of faith both in its absence and presence. In Jesus' name we pray this. Amen.
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