Summary: We build community in the church by willingly turning a blind eye to one another’s faults.
How many of you have watched the television show, “Cheers”? For eleven seasons, from 1982 to 1993, Cheers was one of the highest-rated shows on television, and since 1993 its spinoff, Frasier, has also consistently been at the top of the ratings. What accounts for this popularity? Inspired writing, well-drawn characters, talented actors, all played a part. But I think there’s something more. I think that shows like Cheers, or Friends, or even ER or West Wing, tap into a deep human longing for community. They all show us people who care about each other, who accept one another in spite of their many failings and frailties and idiosyncrasies, people who share an emotional bond, who are committed to one another. Just listen to the theme songs:
Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
I’ll be there for you (when the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you (like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you (’cause you’re there for me too)
Isn’t that what we all want? People who care about us? People who are glad when we show up? People who will support us and stand by us in the bad times, People who will accept us instead of criticizing and judging us? People we can just be ourselves around? I want that. I need that. And so do you. So do we all.
Well, I’ve got good news for you. Good news and bad news. The bad news is that Cheers, and Friends, and all the other TV versions of community, are pretend. They exist only on a Hollywod sound stage. People love those shows, they tune in very week by the millions, because they desperately want to be a part of that kind of community. They see something in those characters’ relationships with one another that they want. But it’s not real. The good news is that it can be real. The good news is that there is a place where that kind of community can and does exist. And that place is the church.
Or at least it should be. Let me put it another way. That’s the kind of place that the church should be, the kind of place the church can be, the kind of place that Jesus Christ intended His church to be. You and I know that too often, it’s just the opposite. We have to recognize that when many people think of an accepting, loving, supportive, place to be real, to just be themselves, they are more likely to think of an AA meeting than a church.
For the next five weeks, we’re going to be looking at what we can do to create and maintain community. How we can continue to become increasingly the kind of people who are unified in their love for one another and in their love for Christ. People who show their love for one another by the way they relate to one another – not just on Sunday morning, but every day of the week.
To be honest, one of the reasons I’m in church planting is that I want to be a member of a church like that. And I’m excited because I see this church becoming that kind of place; where discouraged, heartbroken people find strength and healing, where confused people find help and guidance, where people weighed down with sin find forgiveness and relief. I see WestShore becoming the kind of place where lives are radically changed by the love of God flowing through His people in their relationships with one another.
And as we become, more and more, that kind of a church; the world will notice. When they walk through that door, they will sense that something is different here; when they go home, they’ll say, “I want that”. They will want what we have, and eventually we will be able to tell them that what we have isn’t a “what” at all. It’s not a philosophy, it’s not a religious dogma, it’s not a program of self-improvement; it’s not a “what,” it’s a “who”, Jesus Christ, living in us and through us.
"A new command I give 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
“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:23