Tag Archives: community

Reflections on "God Exposed." (Part 2)

How do I describe the impact of C. J. Mahaney’s message this weekend?  I have yet to hear a teacher of the Bible who so accurately understands his own shortcomings yet so clearly magnifies God.  Mahaney taught from 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and encouraged faithfulness to the gospel through the content and character of the preacher.

Mahaney made clear that the Word of God is essential to the church.  Before being overwhelmed by the obvious he traced out the implications of such a thought.  For example, the primacy of the Word of God should be reflected in the schedule of the preacher (i.e., I should set aside adequate time to unhurriedly exegete, applicate, and illustrate the text of Scripture).  I cannot let lesser duties overwhelm this primary concern nor can I allow sinful procrastination to cripple my Bible Study.

I was also reminded during this time that a pastor/elder is most adequately equipped to teach the Bible at a particular church because preaching requires pastoral skill and discernment to teach and apply the Bible.  A pastor should know the struggles and victories of his congregation and, therefore, know the appropriate use of admonition and exhortation.  I would not want to admonish the weak and encourage the unruly!  This requires an atmosphere of community that is conducive to openly sharing life.

Mahaney pierced my heart with his encouragement to preach “with all patience” (2 Tim. 4:2).  It is sometimes easier to give a weekly monologue than be patient with people.  I must always keep in the front of my mind God’s patience with me.  Further, I cannot expect my listeners to immediately understand and apply everything I preach.  God has been slowly working on my heart and I have been “living in the text” for weeks.  How foolish of me to think that what took me weeks and years to understand will immediately be fully grasped by my audience.  Further, it is the height of arrogance to think that I am such a good communicator as to condense years worth of Biblical study and personal sanctification into a single hour-long sermon.

All-in-all I must persevere in the careful and consistent teaching of the Word of God and “be grateful and surprised” that anyone shows up to hear me speak at all!

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On Community – Shared Lives (Part 2)

“Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

What a beautiful picture of the gospel!  Paul, Silas, and Timothy came to the Thessalonians promising not to compromise on the gospel message that was entrusted to them (v. 4).  They refused to fall into any doctrinal error (v. 3).  Their speech was not obsequious or motivated by personal gain.  However, in the midst of sharing their message the apostles made sure to share themselves.

In reflecting on this passage I have come to understand a few things about genuine Christian community:

1. Christian community is gospel-centered. Christian community involves more than just gospel information but it does not involve less.  There are plenty of groups to join if you want friends. You can find people that have similar interests (e.g., scrapbooking, MOPS, fantasy football).  Shared interests, however, do not reinforce gospel community.  The gospel breaks down external barriers.  A gospel community is not concerned with external uniformity, but internal unity (Phil. 2:12-13) centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Most people are concerned with finding persons that look, think, feel, and act like them.  People with similar interests and values will tend to confirm what you already believe.  A gospel community is not bound by age, race, or political preference.  A gospel community will challenge you to become like Christ rather than validate your own preferences.

“We often surround ourselves with the people we most want to live with, thus forming a club or clique, not a community. Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community” (Philip Yancey)

2. Christian community is participatory. The information of the gospel was not enough; the apostles humbly participated in the lives of the Thessalonians.  It was not enough to teach a few truths about Christ, their genuine affection motivated participation.  Getting involved in someone’s life is messy.  It is easier to show up on Sunday morning, sing a few songs, smile and shake hands.  It is much more difficult to sit on someone’s couch and listen to their struggles.  It is uncomfortable to go to the hospital when someone is sick.  It is terribly inconvenient to give your money to someone who is in need.

And that brings us back to the gospel.  Think about how messy it was for Christ to become flesh, to endure temptation, and to experience pain.  Sharing your life with others provides the only context to genuinely articulate and, more importantly, demonstrate the gospel.

– Mark