They’re buzz words of our age. Authentic: not false or copied, genuine, real. Community: a group of people having a particular characteristic in common.
We want authentic community. We know church should offer it. So how do we build it?
Do we arrange ourselves into common interest groups; mums, doctors, pensioners? Do we spend more time together; socialising after church, living in the neighbourhood? Do we just need to be more open, honest, ‘real’ with each other? Do we need to get out of our buildings, and invest in our local community?
These things are all great. But they don’t get to heart of what builds authentic church communities.
Only the Bible shows us how real church community is built. We see two particular things in Ephesians:
1. Jesus ‘built’ authentic church community at the cross.
In Ephesians 2:11–22, we see that at the cross Jesus created a single people (v15–16). He then made peace between that single sinful people, and God the father (v16). That single people, at peace with the Father, is the church community (v19–21).
So we should actually ask—what built authentic church community? Answer? Jesus did!
St Helen’s is not a community because we live near each other, because we have common interests, or because we’ve ‘been real’ with each other. St Helen’s is real community because we share the fact that Jesus died to make us one. We’re community because we share the reality that Jesus died to secure our relationship with the Father.
But we do have a ‘community-building’ role….
2. We ‘build’ authentic church community using Bible truth.
Have a look at Ephesians 4:1–16: It tells us that God’s people, speaking God’s words, builds God’s community.
Following the steps in the passage: every member of the church is equipped with truth (v11–12). Equipped, every member speaks truth in love to other church people (v15). Only then does church community grows in number and strength (v16)—that’s surprising isn’t it?!
We don’t build community with new initiatives. We build the authentic community of God, as we listen to Sunday’s sermon, and then talk about it together. We build it as we come to RML and discuss what God is saying in his word. We build it we read our Bibles alone in order to be able to encourage each other with truth.
Do you see authentic church community is brilliant in its simplicity? We build authentic community around Jesus and his words.
And have you noticed how beautiful this community we’re building is?
It’s where we really can ‘authentically’ love each other; because we know Christ has made us one body. It’s where we can ‘authentically’ be community; because in God’s word, we’re seeing the biggest and best things we have in common. In community built around Jesus and his words, human differences don’t matter. Anyone is allowed to fit in; from any gender, race, education, or neighbourhood; the socially adept and the socially awkward. No wonder Paul describes church as the community through which ‘the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known … in the heavenly places’ (Ephesians 3:10)!
Authentic community. It’s a beautiful place to be. It’s a beautiful thing to build.
So let’s get on with it.