Here it is, part 2.
In the last post (HERE), I talked about the first two essential elements to genuine Gospel-centered community. I said that fellowship and seeking God provide the foundation for genuineness and authenticity in Gospel-centered community. Without the first two as the foundation community collapses under the heavy weight of these next two elements.
What I didn’t say it in the last post, but you may have heard me say in the past if you’ve talked with me about this, is that I don’t think this is the only way to do church, just the way that God has called me (and it appears a lot of other people recently) to do it. I will say this, however, every model of church ought to have, at its core, some type of genuine Christocentric community that contains these elements. You don’t need to call them the same things (I’ve been pretty clear that it doesn’t matter what words you use; use friendship, pursuit, responsibility and service), but the fact remains that a community centered on Christ IS and must be the core of Christianity. Churches that dismiss this core, either willfully or out of negligence, will eventually become nothing more than a business. And, just so it’s clear, the 4 elements I’m writing about aren’t my idea; they come from Acts 2:42-47.
So, without further ado, here are the third and fourth elements essential for genuine Gospel-centered community.
Put simply, accountability means, “being responsible for… or to something or someone.” This word, if any are, is typically a pretty foul and off-putting word in today’s church. This is especially true in the American church where so many people leave to start there own thing, typically under the guise of “seeking God deeper than their church offers”, but in reality are simply trying to escape some sort of accountability. In genuine community we are responsible for or to three things: others in the community, the purpose of the community and the Word. Just like fellowship, accountability has been dismissed as a necessary idea because it typically draws thoughts of sitting around on a Tuesday night with a group of guys or girls (most of whom you don’t know outside of Tuesday) and telling them your “dirty little secrets”. Nowadays it can also look like sitting at Starbucks and telling one of your “bros” what you’re “struggling” with. Often there is little, if any, honesty in what is shared, so it’s really only a manufactured and counterfeit form of transparency. Typically meant to give the guise of community, but only so far as the people don’t have to actually commit to it.
Accountability in community is far deeper than either of those descriptions. This part of community isn’t about airing your “dirty laundry”. Although it does involve transparency and vulnerability with one, or a few, other person(s) in your community. Those other people ate there so you can honestly share those things that actually burden you and that you really do struggle with. Accountability allows you to unload those burdens on to others in you community that will lovingly accept them and walk through the difficulty of those burdens with you so that you can succeed in being following Jesus. It also allows them to do the same with you. Most times carrying someone else’s burden is far easier than carrying your own. In community you’re responsible for others and you become other’s responsibility. The second part is that you’re responsible for and to the purpose of the community. What has God called your community to accomplish? What has God called you to accomplish in that community? Do you contribute to that purpose? Are you obedient to what the Holy Spirit directs you to do inside (and outside) of your community? Accountability to God’s purpose for the community is what helps draw it together, in unity, around one shared purpose. It helps us to be one body with one hope because we are called to one Lord. (Eph 4:1-6) The last area of accountability, and the most important, is responsibility for and to the Word of God (both in print and incarnate or the Bible and Jesus). You’re responsible for the correct handling, as a community and individual, of the Holy Scriptures. You’re also responsible to Jesus and the direction of the Holy Spirit and for the correct presentation of Jesus, because we are His ambassadors. (2 Cor 5:20) His introduction to to the lost is dependent of your accountability (or responsibility) to His Word (i.e. “Be my witness to the world“).
This last area of community is so vital and so difficult. This last area is what separates a bible study from a Gospel-centered community that’s on mission for Jesus. This last element, though the simplest idea, is far from the easiest. This involves giving yourself up. It involves being “poured out” for the sake of others, to quote the Apostle Paul. It requires your time, money, car, emotions, intelligence, dedication, tears, laughter, house, agenda, and the list goes on. This element says that you and your community will give for Jesus, each other, and your purpose, no matter the cost. This element is where the widows are cared for, the orphans are loved, the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given a drink, the naked are clothed and the sick and imprisoned are visited. This is where we focus our efforts to seek out the lost and introduce them into fellowship with a community that will love them and a Messiah that will lovingly save them. This is where we put all the other stuff we talk about into action. This is the deeds part of our faith. This is the perfecting of our faith that the author of the book of Hebrews spoke of. This is the true religion that Jesus described. Without this element, the other three are useless, because they don’t change anything.
That’s it; four easy steps to genuine Gospel-centered community. I’m just kidding; it isn’t easy. This is the most difficult thing you’ll ever do and it will take you the rest of your life. BUT, it will connect you to a group of people that will love you like you’ve never been loved before and to a God that will love you more than that. In the times that I’ve lived in community like this, I got to see Jesus in a way that I never had before. To be honest, it ruined me, in the most glorious of ways, for anything less. Once you’ve experienced fullness, nothing else will do.
So go on, go forth, love without exception or expectation and experience the fullness that Jesus desires us to have.
What would you add to the four?