When you think about community in the local church there are any number of things that might come into your mind. In the church today we have heard a lot about all kinds of ways of defining community and many of them include ‘formulas’ to make it all work and make people feel comfortable. In his book Compelling Community, Mark Dever calls this a ‘gospel plus’ version of community. In other words we are acknowledging the gospel, but the important thing is having a formula that makes people feel as comfortable as possible to get them to want to stay. This community could continue to exist even if you removed the gospel from the mix. The biblical view of community is what Dever calls the ‘gospel revealing’ type of community. In this type of community these relationships would probably not even exist if the gospel were not present. This is a type of community in which people are out of their comfort zones, and relationships are being formed that would not be possible outside of the supernatural transformation that only comes through the gospel. This type of community ‘reveals’ the power of the gospel. In this same book co-author Jamie Dunlop goes on to say “You can’t physically see the gospel; it’s simply truth. But when we encourage community that is obviously supernatural, it makes the gospel visible.” The question is what are we uniting around when we think of the church community? Common interests, occupation, age groups, ethnicity, etc.? When we relate primarily on the basis of something other than the truth of the gospel we lose the supernatural element. You could be a part of any organization and experience the same basic thing. Jamie Dunlop goes on to say “When Christians unite around something other than the gospel, they create community that would likely exist even if God didn’t.” That’s not much of a church is it? We end up building something that can exist without God in the picture. Scarry isn’t it!
When we gather This month in our community groups we need to remember that our community together is based in the gospel and is therefore a supernatural community. It can’t exist without God at its very core. It’s ok to be with people you like, but that’s not what makes our community groups biblical and effective. It’s the gospel! It’s the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that creates love in us for each other rooted in one thing; we belong to the same Savior! And he has given us new hearts. Hearts to love even and especially those who are nothing like us in the natural. This is the kind of community that ‘reveals’ the gospel to a hungry world.
Here’s to a new year of supernatural relating to each other!