In a couple months I’ll be retiring from the US Air Force. It’s been almost 20 years (they offered early retirement and I jumped on it) and now I finally get to grow the beard that I’ve long dreamed about. As I draw close a number of people have asked me what I plan to do. Professionally I’ll probably take some desk job doing Human Resource Management stuff, but that’s only transitional and I plan on being able to leave that in the next five years and write full time. There are actually a lot of things I want to do, but only one that has been gnawing at my heart and soul for the past four-ish years. I’ve blogged about it before (HERE), but with my impending departure from the USAF and the possibility of getting to see this thing come to pass and becoming ever more real, I figured I’d put it in writing again (it’s as much for me as it is for you).
Toward the end of 2009 God started forming, in my heart and in the group I was serving with in ministry, this idea of what church could be. The idea revolves around an All Volunteer Ministry (AVM). There is a lot that goes in to AVM; too much to address here and I’d love to share it with you if you’re interested, but the basis for which it’s built is this idea of Gospel-centered Community. I know this term is quickly becoming a Christian buzzword, but it doesn’t take away any credibility from it, on the contrary, it makes it a movement. For me this idea falls somewhere between institutional church and organic church. I call it “structured organic”. The basis for Gospel-centered Community contains four elements, each of which is essential in it’s own right. For the sake of length, I separated this into two posts. In this first post I’ll address the first two and in the second post, because I’m super predictable, I’ll address the other two.
Here are the first 2 elements essential to ensuring genuine Gospel-centered community.
The word “fellowship”, like many other Christian terms, has been high jacked by the ultra-religious and has sadly been abandoned on the “Island of Misfit Christian terms.” Because of it’s over use, people tend to either shudder at its use or make fun of it (check out this VIDEO, it’s hilarious… and kind of true). But, just because Christianity has started looking for other words to explain gathering together to enjoy each others’ company, doesn’t make fellowship any less important. Fellowship is so important to Gospel-centered community. Fellowship is about friendship and camaraderie. It’s about enjoying the company of others. And it’s an all-inclusive thing and the “company of others” includes both believers and unbelievers. So, I don’t care what you call it; call it “Youtube Video Night”, call it “Canaan 2014 Water to Wine Night” (that one’s free), call it a party; just get together, spend time and enjoy each other. Also, this is and should be a reflection of how we fellowship with Jesus. Fellowship is how relationships start, even with Jesus.
2. Seeking God
As a community is drawn together through fellowship, there will begin to be a desire for God to be a part of that community. God is always present where two or three of His own are gathered and will always make Himself known. This part of Gospel-centered Community involves seeking God in three specific ways. First, the community seeks knowledge of God. Seeking knowledge as a community is done through the gathered studying His Word (typically in the form of a bible study, sermonettes, etc.). Second, the community seeks the presence of God. Fellowship and the gaining of knowledge of who God is should eventually create a desire to be in actual community with Him. We seek His presence through private and corporate worship and prayer. Once we experience the presence of God, He begins to reveal His purpose, both for the individual and the group. Call it your community’s calling or mission or vision, it doesn’t matter; what does matter is how awesome it is to come together around His shared purpose. Seeking these things of God is an awesome journey and when it’s really from God, it brings unity.
So, that’s the first two. I don’t want to make it sound like any particular one of the four elements is more important than any other, because they’re all important for different purposes. But, if you desire authenticity in your community and if you desire genuine gospel-centeredness, then these two elements are the foundation for this whole thing. Without these two the other two become mundane, forced and eventually end in failure.
What are some things you’ve seen work in your community for fellowship and seeking God together?