Tuesday, May 11, 2010

R12: What is authentic community anyway?

Famous last words. The cliche of leaving that last impression, something that will survive history, long after you are gone. Often times, they're not famous though. They're honest, open, and heart-melting with an awareness that the end is near. The last thing I said to my grandfather before he died of a heart attack was "see you tomorrow." Neither he nor I had any idea what the next day would bring. I remember the last words of my father vividly. He, on the other hand, knew that his time left on this earth was short. His last words were filled with a sense of foreknowledge, "you win some and you lose some, but you gotta keep playing." Even though we were talking about football, I knew what he meant. And he succumbed to cancer two days later.

Jesus, on the last night he spent with his disciples (prior to the resurrection, but they did not see that coming), gave his disciples a command. These last words, which could be expected to resonate throughout religious history, were not about politics (though many of his disciples, especially Judas, expected him to be a political or military leader), were not about the current state of the synagogue/temple or Pharisees/Sadducees, nor were they about church polity. Instead, they were focused on the disciple's relationship with each other. "A new command I give to you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35) His disciples had no idea a new church, a new religion, would be established following Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. If they did, they may have expected some "how to's" for this new movement. Ironically Jesus gave them just that- instructions on how to establish this new church- by loving one another.

This weighed so heavily on Jesus' heart, it was even the focus of his prayer in John 17. Love. Unity. These were important to Jesus. More than politics, religion, or even a list of pious do-nots. Now look around the religious landscape today. Do you see Jesus' prayer answered? Do you see his "new command" followed? This was Jesus' intent for the Church. This is his prayer for our relationships.

This love, this unity, is not only for inside our walls, but should also extend outside our walls. It should exist beyond Sunday mornings. It should be vulnerable and honest. It should show the world that we really are his disciples. As Chip Ingram puts it, "the credibility of Christianity would rise or fall on the basis of Jesus' followers' relationships with one another."

By Chip's definition: Authentic community occurs when the real you shows up and meets real needs for the right reason in the right way. The next few chapters will show us how.

Think: What did Jesus command and pray for His disciples?
Reflect: Why do you think Jesus made such a point of focusing on our relationships with one another?
Understand: What gets in the way of experiencing authentic community in your life? Too busy? Too religious? Disconnected from like-minded believers?
Surrender: Are you in a meaningful, growing, Christ-centered relationship with a handful of people? If not, will you ask God to show you what you need to do in order to move in that direction... or deepen what He has already provided you?
Take Action: Declare war on isolation adn superficial relationships in your life! Write out John 13:34-35 on a 3x5 card and commit to living it out as God leads you this week.
Motivation: Consider watching the fourteen-minute video message "How to Experience Authentic Community" at r12 online [r12 button on the right, Serving tab, under "free resources"].
Encourage Someone: Make the first move this week. Initiate coffee, dinner, or dessert with someone(s) and talk about your common need/desire for authentic community.

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

1 comment:

JC Dude said...

Love this thought...By Chip's definition: Authentic community occurs when the real you shows up and meets real needs for the right reason in the right way

Awesome, thanks for sharing!