Staying in Community

11 Sep, 2014

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘The Power of Community,’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 9/7/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here:

Power in Community

There is incredible power in community. One man can chase thousand, but two can put ten thousand to flight (Deut 32:30)! Strength in numbers is easy to understand, yet more difficult to implement. In an age where individuality is celebrated and personal freedom is paramount, how can we make sure we don’t lose sight of the importance of gathering in community?

The early church set a precedent which all of us would do well to follow. Immediately before ascending, Jesus – as His final instruction – commanded His disciples to “…tarry in the city of Jerusalem until [they were] endued with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). So they did. But what exactly was Jesus asking here?

Jesus was asking His disciples to gather according to His instructions and wait for revival to break out. We’ve been discussing revival for several weeks now, but as a refresher, we’ve defined revival as God’s Holy Spirit working in and through us to accomplish things we could never accomplish on our own.

So why was community so important to the early church? Why was gathering together so important to Jesus? Let’s see what happened in the early church:

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. – Acts 2:1-4

All the disciples were gathered in community and the Holy Spirit fell. They immediately saw the fruit of community and began to exercise supernatural abilities by speaking in tongues!

The Upper Room

There were several elements at work in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. First, the Day of Pentecost had “fully come.” God had destined that day to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy: the moment in time He had chosen for His Holy Spirit to take up residence in Jesus’ disciples. But gathering in community activated the destiny. It pains me to think of how many times in history God may have designated a city and a time for revival, yet His plans were cut short by the refusal of the local church to gather in community.

Second, the disciples were all gathered “in one accord.” They were in spiritual agreement as to what they wanted to see accomplished. “In one accord” means with one mind and one passion. In other words, they all had the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).

Third, they were “in one place.” Physical proximity was required. This is why physically being part of the local church is so important. Now I am all for streaming church services on line and supporting para-church ministries; but the local church should never be neglected in the process. There is something to be gained as a result of physical community that cannot otherwise be gained

The like-minded disciples gathered in community at a specific place at an appointed time and waited for God to show up. And guess what? He did. And once God’s Holy Spirit descended, the Bible never says He ascended again. Jesus Christ ascended, but His Holy Spirit is still here! The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead allows us to perform greater works than those of Jesus Christ Himself!

Strength In Numbers

Community keeps us focused and on track. Community provides support. We’ve been reading about this in our Daily Bible Reading Plan:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Eccl 4:9-12

We need good friends to hold us up and keep us from being defeated. We need good friends to remind us of our destiny, purpose and calling. We need good friends to remind us that we are sons and daughters of God, and that there are tangible benefits that come along with that designation. And we find good friends by gathering in community.

My wife and I have been married for over 3 years now. Want to know what my favorite part of marriage is (and this is just as valid for friendship as it is for marriage)? Whenever my wife and I are together, we know that Jesus is right there with us.

Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. for where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. – Matt 18:18-20

When my wife and I agree on something, it’s done. God guarantees it as long as our request aligns with His will. And whenever you and your spouse – or you and your a friend – are united in prayer, God guarantees that He will be there with you!

Get Plugged In

The unfortunate reality is that Satan knows the power available to Christians in community. Because of that, his main goal is to try and isolate you.

Sometimes we see unfortunate trends in the church. One of those is the emergence of Long Ranger Christians: those who believe in Jesus Christ, but for whatever reason forsake our privilege to gather in community. Again, I am all for streaming podcasts and church services, and I have seen para-church ministries tremendously bless many people, including myself. But those elements should always be in addition to regular church attendance, and never in place of.

Find a church and get plugged in. I’m not saying that CityLight Church will be the perfect home church for everyone; but I am saying that everyone should find a home church. Without consistent community, you will find yourself robbed of the resurrection power God intends for you to have.

Nothing But the Blood

Let’s examine a profoundly simple concept: your body parts will die if they are not connected to the rest of your body. If you lose a tooth, you have about 60 minutes to reattach it before all the cells in that tooth will essentially be dead. If you lose a finger, you have about 12 hours to before it’s too late to reattach the finger. Without a proper connection to your bloody supply, all the parts and pieces of your body cannot survive. And in the same way, individual Christians cannot survive if they are cut off from the blood supply of the body of Christ – His church!

Many times we make the mistake of underestimating the importance of community. We think that if we fail to engage in Biblical fellowship, the most we’ll possibly miss out on is further spiritual growth. But I’d like to propose that the real threat is much more dangerous. If we’re cut off from the body of Christ, our very survival is threatened!

Have you ever watched a Discovery Channel documentary of a lion hunting prey? The predator always goes for the weak link. As soon as you see a gazelle wander off from the rest of the pack – especially if he’s sick or injured – you know what’s coming. It’s only a matter of time before that gazelle becomes lunch.

Yet we fail to see that same inevitability when we wander away from the church. The Bible says that Satan operates in exactly the same way:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

The devil is brazen. He doesn’t silently stalk his pray. He roars, knowing that most of us will either pretend he’s not strong enough to take us down, or deny his existence altogether. But how do we think we possibly stand a chance if we’re not gathered in community? As soon as we separate from the pack, we’re no better off than that gazelle. We’re toast.

But here’s how we’re supposed to deal with it:

Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. – 1 Peter 5:9

We can only resist the enemy when we’re gathered in community. There are people all around you facing the same temptations as you every single day. And we should never be afraid to talk about them: as a church, and in community!

Many Members

Jesus Christ brings us all together. As Christians, we are many members of His body:

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. – 1 Cor 12:12-20

Do not despise any member of the body of Christ. Never look down on anyone else. Every single person around you brings something unique to the table. Jesus organized His body – the church – as He pleased.

Perhaps even more importantly, do not underestimate your importance Jesus’ body. You bring something to your church community that nobody else can provide. Without you, the body is damaged. It’s incomplete. You can do things that nobody else can do. In fact, your background – no matter how stained – makes you uniquely positioned to reach other people for Christ who nobody else can.

God wants to accomplish certain things that can only be done with your help. He needs you to be part of His church. We can unwittingly prevent His plans from coming to pass by failing to understand our value and worth to the body of Christ. But when we recognize our significance, the enemy can never triumph.

– by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White and CityLight Church, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael White and CityLight Church with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.