The Goal of Community – by Pastor Chandler
What is the name of our church body? I’m not going to answer that question right away. I want you to stop and answer it. Many of you are just reading this really quick before the service starts and I want you to pause and answer the question for yourself. Others are secretly peering at this pondering while it’s tucked in your Bibles during Pastor Tony’s preaching of the Word. If you’re reading during the preaching, can I gently suggest that you stop? Chandler, get back to the question. Okay. Sorry. What is the name of our church body? Before you move on just answer the question. What is the name of our church body?
New Life, right? No. That’s the nickname. We are New Life Christian Community. What does our name mean? Why are you asking so many questions? Good question. Our church name means that we are a group of redeemed people who have been transformed by the radical grace of Jesus Christ. The first part of our name comes from 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This is where we get the beginning phrase, “New Life.”
Yet, we include the word “Christian” in our name as well. This reminds us that we are not isolated from Christ’s global church. We are a body united to the larger global church body. We are one with those who are new in the blood of Jesus Christ up the road at Alliance and down the road at Hope. But we are also one with the church body in Costa Rica that Dave and Angie serve at and we are one with the church body hidden in China. Anywhere Christ is King, we are one with that church body.
Then, we include the word “community.” What do we want to convey by inserting the word community into our name? The dictionary defines community like this, “Community is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” We want our church to be a group of new people living out their faith together, in fellowship, centered around a common goal, the glory of Jesus Christ. But, how do we build this community? How do we develop a culture that is united like the church in Philippi or the early church in Jerusalem documented in Acts? How do we create a space that lovingly invites visitors or new partners at New Life to step right into the fellowship? Again, why all the questions?
Let’s consider what Hebrews 10:19-25 says:
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (ESV).
Let me make three observations about Christian community from this text.
First, Christian community begins with the blood of Jesus Christ. Did you see it in the text? We have confidence to draw near to God together by the blood of Jesus Christ. If you’re at New Life looking for community without knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you’ll never find the fellowship your heart desires. Christian community is not rooted in earthly similarities. It flows from the blood of Jesus Christ.
Second, Christian community is all about Jesus Christ. It’s great that many here are similar ages and have friends in similar life situations. But if your community is not first for the sake of Jesus Christ, then the fellowship will fall flat and feel lifeless. The author of Hebrews encouraged the community to “draw near with a true heart of faith.” He said, “Let US hold fast the confession.” Christian community has to be about spurring one another on towards Jesus Christ – it’s about encouraging one another to stand for Christ until he returns.
Third, with the root being Christ and the goal being Christ, the author of Hebrews says, “Meet together for encouragement while we wait for our King to return.” When Christ is the very center of our community then we naturally bless one another, encourage one another, cry together, laugh together, bear burdens together, and help one another. When Christ is the center and the goal then we find community with all different kinds of people. Barriers that prevent friendships in the world fall away when the gospel unites our hearts.
New Life Christian Community becomes a true, deep, intimate fellowship when each heart is aimed at and consumed by Jesus Christ. I challenge you to make your friendships about Jesus. To be bold and ask your friend, “What have you learned about Jesus lately? How can I help you honor Christ? What are you struggling with in your walk with Jesus?” These are the questions that lead to everlasting friendship. If you’re new here, looking for community, tell someone, “I need your help honoring Christ while we wait, together, for his return. Hebrews tells me that.”
It sounds Christian-cheesy, but we’re in Wisconsin. We like cheese. Let’s build friendships not for our sake, but for the sake of Jesus Christ.