Learn the Secrets of Building Community

Here you will find resources of knowledge to help direct you in the desire for community in your life.  The focus of this blog is to concentrate on practical advice that reveals insights into how human beings were designed to live and function together.  When applied correctly, this information should bring forth a rich and effective experience of community in your life.

The World’s Greatest (and Only) Effective Church Growth Strategy

Summary:  The spread of Christianity hinges on behavior, not beliefs.  The current American lifestyle and the institutions that serve it don’t provide Christians with the opportunity to truly behave like Christians.  In order to change this, Christians have to be trained to live like healthy families.

In the last post, we learned the apostle Paul pointed out 4 major characteristics of healthy families in his writings in the New Testament – affection, unity, sharing and loyalty.  In a healthy Kingdom community, these characteristics will be consistently and frequently present.

Beliefs don’t cause growth

Church GrowthIn fact, it was these characteristics that caused the Church to grow and expand in the first place.  The society that it was born into was passionately pagan.  By default, people believed in many gods and called Christians “athiests” because they didn’t also believe in those gods.  As you know, they were even killed for their beliefs.  So obviously their beliefs were not what caused the movement to grow.  Instead, take a look at how Joseph Hellerman describes it in When the Church Was a Family

To arrive at a truly comprehensive explanation for the expansion of Christianity, we must move beyond ideology (beliefs) and enter into the social world (behavior) of the early Christians.  We must understand how Christians related with one another and with their pagan neighbors.

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4 Sure Signs You’re Part of a Healthy Church Family

Summary:  The apostle Paul pointed out 4 major characteristics of healthy families in his writings in the New Testament – affection, unity, sharing and loyalty.  In a healthy Kingdom community, these characteristics will be consistently and frequently present.

EvidenceIn the last post, we learned Jesus prioritized God’s family over his physical family, although it wasn’t socially acceptable.  A sign of a disciple of His is those who do the same.

But this doesn’t mean you should expect to see a church acting like a family at the beginning.  After all, behaving with the characteristics of a healthy family doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes knowledge and practice plus time for a group of people to be built together in agape love.

Just ask some of the early churches who motivated most of the letters of the New Testament to be written.  OK, I know you can’t ask them, but just pretend you did :).  The Corinthians were suing each other, splitting on the basis of social status and dividing based upon their analysis of the Christian worker they liked the best.  The Romans were dividing by their race.  The list goes on.

How did the apostles respond?  By writing letters and doing periodic visits to train them to think (and therefore behave) differently.  Specifically, they were out to train them to think and behave like they were loving brothers and sisters that were a part of a healthy spiritual family.  He pointed out how people in the world sue each other when they are wronged, but loving brothers would rather be wronged than stay in conflict with their siblings in Christ (I Cor. 6:1-8).

And how did everyone know when a church was starting to act like a family?  It was when they started to naturally and consistently show the characteristics that mark healthy families.  In his writings, the apostle Paul pointed out 4 of these major characteristics…

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Which Of Your 2 Families Is More Important To You?

Summary:  Although not socially acceptable, Jesus prioritized God’s family over his physical family.  Disciples of Jesus do the same.

In the last post, we learned how a Christian’s spiritual brothers and sisters are supposed to be the most important relationships in their life.  This means that they’re the most intimate, nurturing and ultimately satisfying relationships.  For many, this concept is quite the challenge, especially in cultures and with people taught that their blood families come first.

For Christians with physical family members that ARE Christians, the challenge is not to show favoritism to these spiritual brothers or sisters over others just because DNA is closely shared.  It’s also to see them according to your spiritual relationship and not your physical one.

For Christians with physical family members who ARE NOT Christians, the challenge is prioritizing their spiritual family over their physical family, bucking the trend against what’s typically socially acceptable behavior.

Prioritizing God’s family isn’t socially acceptable

Prioritizing the family of God over one’s physical family definitely wasn’t socially acceptable in Jesus’ strong-group Mediterranean culture when He said this…

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34-38)

2 choicesHe’s basically saying that commitment to Him and His family is going to create conflict between His family and physical families.  At this point, there’s a choice to be made.  Those who put Him and His family first are worthy of being part of it.  Those who put their physical families first are not worthy of being part of it.  He put it even more plainly here…

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-55)

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What Should a Christian’s Most Important Relationships Be?

Summary:  A Christian’s spiritual brothers and sisters are supposed to be the most important relationships in their life.  But to understand what that means practically, you have to understand what the sibling relationship was like in the culture in which the Church was born.

In the last post, we learned that while humans were designed to operate in the context of family, American culture has abandoned this mindset.  Until family (physical and spiritual) is once again first priority, we’ll have tremendous difficulty understanding and practicing the Christian life.

Since the family is the #1 metaphor used by biblical authors to explain what Church community is like, we need to know what it meant in the New Testament world for the Church to be a family.  In the Mediterranean culture of the New Testament, relational priorities were totally different than they are in America today.  Understanding the difference is the only way we’ll understand what the New Testament authors meant.  It’s also the only way we’ll be able to recapture God’s design for the Church.

The bond between siblings

Brothers and SistersWhat’s the most important human relationship in your life?  If you’re married, you most likely immediately thought of your spouse.  If you’re an American, this would put you in the majority.  But what you might not realize is this way of thinking is not common in many parts of the world in the present day, or in most parts of the world in the past.

Now this is not to say th at marriage isn’t important in other cultures, because it is.  But, it isn’t the most important like it is in cultures like ours.  For most cultures throughout history, the bond between siblings stands at the top.  Inside of the blood family is where the emotional and physical needs are met.  While the institution of marriage plays many important roles, it’s secondary to the family.

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3 Critical Life Decisions You Shouldn’t Make Without Your Church

Summary:  Humans were designed to operate in the context of family.  American culture has abandoned this mindset.  Until family (physical and spiritual) is once again first priority, we’ll have tremendous difficulty understanding and practicing the Christian life.

In the last post, we talked about how Kingdom community is the soil in which discipleship should take place.  Because we live in an individualistic culture, it’s hard to find Kingdom community.  But if we catch the vision for how we are meant to live collectively, we can be instruments that bring back a Kingdom community way of life to our culture.

Is this good for the group?

In strong-group cultures, seeing individuals sacrifice their own personal dreams and goals for the good of the groups they’re a part of is a normal, everyday occurrence.  In our culture, stories like this make the news.  In fact, the New Testament gives us a great example of this mindset in Romans 9:3 where the apostle Paul says “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race…

Admit it, you think he’s crazy.  You wouldn’t give yourself over to be cursed for the sake of others’ salvation, would you?

Life DecisionsWe make all of our important individual life decisions on our own, apart from the groups with which we associate.  Just think about the 3 major life decisions we all make on an ongoing basis…

  1. Career.  What do I do?
  2. Spouse. Who will I marry?  Will I stay married to them?  Will I have children?
  3. Location.  Where will I live?

What will make ME happy?

The primary factor in all 3 of these life decision areas is…what is going to make me as an individual happy and comfortable?  Also, the answer to the question “Who am I?” is first and foremost filled in by the answers to these questions, not by the groups we’re a part of.

Because of this, our personal identities and whether we are successful or not have become dependent on how these areas play out.  In general, if you enjoy your job, make good money, are happy in marriage and live in a nice safe place, you’re perceived as successful.  The problem is this type of self-reliance is not how humans were designed to operate.  When they do, the weight of these decisions and the consequences that come with them can be unnecessarily painful.

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