A Thriving Community Part 1
Well, I don't know about everyone else but I just can't wrap my head around the fact that we are already in the month of April. Our USFSP students will be going on spring break in two weeks then the remainder of the semester will be completed online. This means that some of the students won’t be returning to campus until fall but our hope is to stay connected with them as best as possible so they don’t lose the integration they’ve established in our community. That being said, I think this introduction is a good segue into this week’s topic, the official first part of looking into the imperative features of a healthy and thriving church community.
The first trait that a church community needs to thrive is a solid network of individuals and even other churches. Now, this purpose of networking is not for the sake of building up one’s own power or influence, which is how this resource can oftentimes be used. On the contrary, C. Kavin Rowe and L. Gregory Jones mention in their book, Thriving Communities, how “The early churches maintained a remarkable level of interconnection, something that helped them form a common identity and purpose, even across ethnic and geographical borders.” Meaningful and intentional relationships that are established between churches are meant to encourage and build each other up in the body of Christ. Acts 9:31 gives an example of what the authors of Thriving Communities refer to. “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”
Next, the second feature that is needed for a church community to thrive is visibility, meaning we need to live out our faith for everyone to see and know about. We are not called to keep our faith to ourselves as some might think. In fact, the early Christians believed that “to be “Christian” was by its nature a public confession and identity, so much so that the term “Christian” was applied first by outsiders to individuals belonging to a group that had a distinct, public identity….To the early Christians, being the church meant being a witness in the presence of and for the good of those around them.” (Rowe & Jones) Where is that kind of zeal now in the 21st century? It undoubtedly still exists among the unashamed faithful few, but how many people do we know claim to be Christians yet their actions contradict? Then again, there are even some Christians who even tend to be “overzealous” so to speak, and forget that it’s not their place to do the judging when someone commits an immoral sin. But that’s all for a later (and potentially more in-depth) discussion. The point of this matter is that we as the body of Christ are called to put our faith on public display so others can come to a saving knowledge of Him through the way we represent Him in our everyday lives. A prime example of publicly living out one’s faith for others to see, and even hear, is the story of Paul and Silas when they were in prison. “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them….immediately, all the doors were opened and and everyone’s chains were loosed.” (Acts 16:25-26) Even in the midst of trial, these two men openly expressed their faith in God and their actions resulted in the salvation of the jailer.
As providence would have it, I believe I’ve maxed out my time and space on this week’s discussion. While my writing space is technically unlimited (as far as I’m aware), I understand that not everyone has enough time to read long, in-depth posts so I’ll wrap this up momentarily. Trust me, I’m doing my best to keep these blogs as short, simple and succinct as possible. Next week, I’ll pick back up with the third and fourth features and we’ll see what happens from there. In the meantime, my prayer for all of us going into the next week (as Easter Sunday is in a few days), that God will give us the power of His Spirit to openly express the hope and joy we have in His Son who conquered sin and death for all eternity. Have a blessed weekend!
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