Summary: Building community
The story is told about a man who survived for twenty years on a deserted island. When they found him they were astonished to see all that he had created. Left to his own, he had created a self-sufficient habitat with everything he needed to live comfortably.
As they toured the island they noticed all the impressive structures he made. In one corner of the island was a grand building overlooking the lagoon which he called, “Home.” Across the lagoon was a tall white building with a spire that reached up to the sky.
The rescuer asked, “What’s that building?”
“Oh,” the castaway said, “that’s my church.”
As they neared the other end of the island they saw another tall white building with a spire that reached up to the sky. The rescuer paused and said, “That looks familiar, what’s that building?”
The castaway responded, “Oh, that’s the church I use to belong to.”
There’s a certain degree of truth to that story. It captures the spirit of American individualism. We build’em and we quit’em just as fast. Our culture does not encourage commitment - not in marriage, not in the workplace and certainly not in the church. We live in a world where the only thing most people are willing to commit to is having things their way.
That was the problem at the church in Corinth. One group of people valued the leadership of Paul. They would say, “Paul’s our man. He started the church. We’re old school! We like the one who started it all!” Another valued the gifts of Peter over Paul. They felt Paul was inferior. They claimed Peter is the “Rock.” “Why would you listen to anyone other than the man upon whom Jesus said He will build His church?” Yet another said, “You all have it all wrong! Apollos is the real man. He is cultured, he is an Alexandrian! He is gifted in ways Paul and Peter could never imagine.”
No, the people of Corinth allowed personal preference to get in the way of unity. And as a result, they become a ‘Me Church;” a church were everyone looks out for their own interests and not the interests of others; a church were partiality overrides unity; a church were being heard and wining an argument is more important than listening and winning others to Christ. They lost their focus, they lost their purpose, and as a result, they lost their witness and effectiveness in the world.
It’s a common but sad story. Churches all over the country are torn apart, not by issues of doctrine or theology, but the color of the carpet, the style of music or personality conflicts. And in the process the church stops being the church and looks more like a country club; a place where people gather together because of their similarities, they all cheered for the same leader. And in other ways they became more like a city council meeting; a place where everyone is intent on protecting their turf at all cost.
For the next few weeks we are going to focus on building community. We want to take a look at why God values unity over individuality. We want to discover what builds unity and what can destroy unity. We want to ask what’s so valuable about the church? Why is it important?
First of all, the church is NOT this building.
We call this building a church, but the Bible never uses the word that way. The word church literally means, the assembled ones or the ones gather together (ekklesia). It does not refer to a building but to people.
In other words the church is not a building, it’s a COMMUNITY.
It’s a community brought together by one thing we all hold in common, a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That is the glue of the church, it’s the foundation of the church – it’s called grace – it’s called forgiveness. We share God together.
Definition: Christian community is a group of people built upon an UNCOMMON unity in Christ.
In a world where individualism reigns supreme, God works against the grain calling us to an uncommon unity. We say it’s uncommon, because the unity of the church should be unlike anything the world can offer. It is unlike anything the world can offer because it’s foundation is a crucified Messiah. God came to earth set aside his needs so that you and I could have our ultimate need met, a relationship with God. And all God asks of you in return is that you do the same for one another.
In Philippians 2:5-8, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!