The Meat and Potatoes of Community

There is nothing better than being part of a community of people who follow Jesus. When I say those words, I often feel like a broken record that plays the same message repeatedly. However, for some reason, I can't get away from how important and essential being an active part of a community of followers is! I believe it is God's design, and in this amazing design, we can experience the depth, the height, and breadth of God's love. In this design, there is a real possibility of displaying God's love for the world. This community design also identifies us as his followers and disciples. By actively participating in this Community, you and I are the living, breathing communication to the world that we belong to Jesus, and we are following him.
With all of that said, is there a way we can tell or measure how we are more christ-like? Which translated means involvement and participation in God's Community. Let's admit it when things are easy, comfortable, safe, and a less demanding community sounds really good. Honestly, though, I wonder if the best time to discover Community is when there is long hard work to be done? You know when your tired or busy or your plate is full, this might be when the hard work of Community really puts on display the love we have for God and the love we have for his people. I would add to this the love we have for the world and serve them, so they know that God gave his son for them.
Last night I was sitting at the wedding reception dinner for my son Clancy and his new bride Mandolin. I was thanking God for all of the work it took from many people to prepare for this wedding and wedding reception dinner. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks; it was almost 8:30pm, and the next morning was church services. There was a bunch of hard work staring us in the face when it came to clean up and putting everything away so the building would be ready for Sunday morning!
It was at that moment of clean up that the real celebration of Community broke wide open! It was loud and noisy, full of passion, chatter, and encouragement. Instructions were shouted. Most of all, a bunch of Jesus' followers came together alongside our family to celebrate Community by God's design!
It was a bunch of people doing the hard work! Family, both local and those who traveled, friends old and new, all coming to celebrate Clancy and Mandolin but even more to celebrate that we are a community that is a picture of Jesus!
I was humbled as I witnessed a long time friend vacuum with excellence. Seeing a wife of a staff member compete with him on who could vacuum better was amazing. Watching everyone work together cleaning, organizing, putting things away,  and most of all, laughing was the celebration we all needed to see and to be part of. When we roll up our sleeves while thinking about others, not for applause or recognition, but just to do what needs to be done for the pure joy of doing it. Then we come alongside someone else; it reminds us that we really are a part of something larger than ourselves. That life, that fullness of life we all desire and God's Word talks about, is best experienced with other followers doing hard work together. Isn't that the truth?
Saying thank you is where we start, and then living out that appreciation makes it real. You see, I am learning that this principle of hard work builds Community and that we should celebrate that Community is maybe what the body of Christ and being Christ-like was designed to be about. It is one thing to put your own agenda on hold to help clean up after a wedding reception but let's take a step deeper for a minute. This can become complicated when it is time for challenging discussions, dealing with ongoing sin, making changes for the advancement of God's Kingdom, remolding attitudes about spiritual growth, and being honest about struggles and any discouragement we are facing. Now here is the beauty of being part of the body of Christ; we don't have to do the hard work alone. By God's design, we should come alongside each other so the hard work can be done in a way that leads to healing, transformation, relational restoration, and bringing God and His design a lot of glory!
But let's face it, when it comes to hard work, especially in many of the areas mentioned above, we run the other way. We ignore what needs to be done, blame others for our lack of desire to do the work, paralyze ourselves with yet another discussion on what's wrong rather than getting to work on the problem or issue. We do the most damaging thing in my estimation. We hide, we hide, hoping that somehow the problem or issue will disappear, and it never does. It seems to only worsen.
So, where can we start?
I believe we make a conscious choice to see the situation through the eyes of humility. Then we choose actions that portray humility. When healing and restoration occur, we speak words and live actions of thankfulness and appreciation in humility! Why? Here's why God allows us and gives us the resources and the opportunities to do hard work in the first place. By design, he put us in this family we call the church. By design, he promises that facing and walking through trials and hard times will produce joy and spiritual maturity. By design, we are surrounded by people we call brother and sister, and you don't leave your family hanging when there is hard work to be done. He chose to communicate to an unbelieving world by using His people, teaching us, and changing us into a Christ-like Community that does the hard work, and we do it in love.
As we learn that we were created for Community and that we can with God do the hard work together, we will discover a whole new definition for celebration! We will find that maybe the most incredible celebration of a community occurs when we together choose to do the hard work.
So......let the party begin!


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