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.
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For the past 8 months, I’ve been writing about the Church as a family. We’ve lost sight of this practice in our culture, but the Lord is bringing it back. Some are calling it the 2nd Reformation. The first Reformation was about correct theology. The 2nd is about correct practice. Here are the links to each post, along with their summaries. May the contents change our mindsets about how to live the Christian life together. But more importantly, may it change our behavior.
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.
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.
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.
Summary: The Church has a leadership problem. It mirrors the world. Theologically, Christ is the Head. But not functionally. Until She gets back to organic Kingdom leadership principles, She will be largely ineffective in Her mission.
In the last post, we learned that current Christian preaching and practice focuses almost exclusively on the individual. But the gospel is more than that. It’s the creation of one new man. For the church to be effective, it must reverse the dominant cultural mindset and behave like one new man.
But if it’s going to do so, it must address and correct its problem with how it handles and executes leadership. Currently, it’s in a passionate love affair with the world’s top-down hierarchical leadership model that undermines everything the Church was created to be about. As Joseph Hellerman points out in When the Church Was a Family…
…the problem rests with both the number of leaders and the nature of leadership…the two principles God has given for leadership in His surrogate family are plurality leadership and servant leadership…these provide safeguards against functional, spiritual and relational disaster… (paraphrased)
There are no human heads
Christians concede that Christ is the Head of the Church, but only theoretically. He is also meant to be the Head practically or functionally. This means there’s no humans between us and Him on the authority ladder. What’s that you say? Weren’t there leaders in the early church? Aren’t there supposed to be pastors, elders, etc.? Why yes, but not in the way that you’ve become accustomed to where they’re stacked on top of each other in a hierarchical manner. That’s the world’s way of doing things, not the Kingdoms.
In a righteous Kingdom, there are no special classes of citizens. There’s the King and there are citizens. Every citizen has the same access and standing with the King as any other. A good King does not show favoritism, but makes Himself and His resources available to all. Christ is a good King.
Summary: Current Christian preaching and practice focuses almost exclusively on the individual. But the gospel is more than that. It’s the creation of one new man. For the church to be effective, it must reverse the dominant cultural mindset and behave like one new man.
Unfortunately, this is pretty much absent from the average American church. For the most part, what is preached when it comes to entering the Christian life focuses on only part of the truth. It focuses on the individual. I am not saying that salvation is not an individual decision or experience. It is. But, it’s not only that. It’s more than that.
We preach individual salvation
We’ve fallen for…
an American Christian paradigm that understands salvation to have everything to do with how the individual relates to God and nothing to do with how we relate to one another…in our typical gospel presentations, we introduce God’s family only as sort of a utilitarian afterthought – church is there to help us grow in our newfound faith in Christ. (When the Church Was a Family)
This is odd given the fact that when a person becomes a Christian, they are transferring their allegiance from the world to the Kingdom. They are inheriting a new spiritual family of brothers and sisters who are to be first priority in their lives. Only once in the New Testament is the word “savior” connected to an individual (Luke 1:47).
Why do we emphasize the personal side of salvation and neglect the corporate side? It’s what happens when you filter the world through the lens of individualism. It’s what interprets the meaning of things for you. It’s what tells you what’s important. And we’re drinking that water.
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
In 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.
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.
In 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…