Summary: We cannot be solo Christians. The Christian life is lived out in community for several reasons.
1 John 4:7-21 “Relationships—Places for Support and Accountability”
The poet John Donne penned the words, “No man is an island. No man stands alone. Each man’s joy is joy to me, each man’s grief is my own.” Later his words were turn into a top selling record in the 60’s. Perhaps one day it will become words to a chart-topping hip hop song. Donne’s words are ageless, because they express an ageless need.
We are social animals. We are such not because of choice but out of necessity. We cannot survive by ourselves. None of us have all the gifts and talents needed to survive, and examples of self-sufficiency—hermits and mountain men—certainly aren’t anyone’s idea of an abundant life (unless its comes after a day of dealing with the demands of a couple of children, or sitting through endless committee meetings).
Today’s lifestyle and culture militate against community and relationships.
¨ We leave our families and friends and move to distant lands,
¨ We work in a “dog eat dog” world where the trust necessary for deep relationships is often betrayed.
¨ We cocoon ourselves, when we are home, behind six-foot concrete walls, and surround sound.
On this first Charter Sunday, we gather to celebrate God’s gift of community, and to commit ourselves to make Desert Streams Church a place where everyone can experience significant, vital community in a number of ways.
A PLACE OF SUPPORT
In his letter to the church, John stresses the need for love. He understands love to be a core personality trait of God, and the central distinguishing characteristic of the Christian community. When the church is at its best, it is a fellowship of love. A Roman official wrote of the early Christians, “Behold, how they love one another.”
One of the ways that love is translated into everyday language is through support. I once had a friend who was both a pastor and a biker. He once shared with me that there are two types of bikers—those that have fallen and those that will fall. Following his logic, there are also two types of people—those who have encountered hard times and have needed the support of others, and those who will.
Faye and I have experienced the support of the church and the love of fellow Christians when our youngest son was diagnosed with cancer. Within hours we were cared for, and literally thousands of people were praying for us.
The congregation can be a place of support and comfort in the midst of grief. It can be a place of support and encouragement during the process of recovery—which is a life long process.
A PLACE OF CELEBRATION
The congregation is a place where celebration can take place. Together we celebrate God’s blessings, God’s use of our talents and abilities to make an impact on the lives of others, and God’s powerful movement in our world.
Perhaps one of the emptiest moments in life is when we have a success to celebrate and no one with whom to celebrate it—no one to toast us, and no one to cheer.
Congregational love celebrates the milestones in our lives, the accomplishments we achieve, the obstacles we overcome, and the lives that we touch. Certainly, the glory goes to God, but God is doing great things in and through us.
A PLACE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Change rarely takes place without being accountable to others. How many times have we vowed to lose weight only to fail because we kept our intentions to ourselves? Last fall during the Great American Smokeout people were warned over and over again that they could not quit smoking alone. They needed support and accountability.
One of the blessings of small groups is that there can be accountability between members of the group. We can read the Bible alone, agree with its words, and still not change. In a small group, when love is present and trust is strong, we can challenge each other concerning the call of Scripture on our lives.
We have been taught for many years that our relationship with God and our Christian discipleship is a personal thing—it’s just between God and me. We set out to improve our relationship with God by self-discipline and trying harder. Usually we have failed miserably. We cannot grow in our relationship with God until we grow in our relationship with others. We cannot grow in our relationship with God until we are accountable to our Christian brothers and sisters. It’s not just about us. It is about God and the body of Christ.
At this first Charter Sunday, many of us will be signing the Charter document of Desert Streams Church, celebrating that God is creating a community of faithful and committing ourselves to be part of that community.
Community is more than talking with each other over coffee and sweets. Community is deeper than that. Community is friendships nurtured in small groups—Bible Studies, Support Groups, and Work Groups.