Elevating Community: Together…

plant (9.23.18)

Championship sports teams/successful work teams have certain characteristics:
talent/skills, yes.

  • Also chemistry: ability to work together, not as individuals—
    the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Knowing roles:teammates have strengths that are your weaknesses
    & vice versa.
  • Effective communication: reading between the lines, what is the person saying/needing, what encourages/discourages them, etc.
  • Understanding the mission & specific methods (culture)
    of your particular team to accomplish that mission.

What ties all of those characteristics together?
Long-term commitment as shown through time & practice.

It takes committed consistency, time & practice for a sports/work team to grow in those areas. It doesn’t happen overnight/accidentally. Like Dancing with the Stars: what a night & day difference between start of the season & the end because of commitment, time & practice with the same dance partner!

Now imagine your favorite sports team changing players every few months. Could they hope to win championships if they constantly start over building chemistry, learning roles/ communication, understanding the mission & how to get there?

Same with work: imagine having new colleagues/employees every few months, constantly retraining new people? What would happen to productivity…& the fun of working together if beloved teammates suddenly stopped coming to work? It would be a serious problem if a department at a company inadvertently acted like a temp agency.

In the next two posts I hope to show how much more important long-term commitment is in a local church—more than at work/in sports—what some call membership or covenant. We’ll tackle some questions like:

  • Why is it important to have long-term roots in a particular local church for years? (& not just act like it…but to inwardly decide & outwardly declare it).
  • How does conditional short-term attendance—instead of committed long-term investment—affect the health & fruitfulness of a person & a local church?
  • Does the Bible teach this idea of longer-term commitment to a specific local group of Christians? If so, what does that look like at this local church?

Is This In Scripture?

It’s implied. We don’t see the word “Trinity” in the Bible, but it is taught & implied that God is 3 Persons in 1 God (we also don’t see the word Bible in the Bible! 🙂 ). Long-term commitment to a particular group of Christians is implied & important:

Titus 1:5-9:“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed youAn elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy&disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy messageas it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

  • “elders in every town”—these elders/overseers are responsible for a specific group of Christians—clearly defined in each town—not over every Christian everywhere. What is an elder/overseer?
  • “an overseer manages God’s household”—not as a king/dictator, but as a servant/shepherd/leader. Specific work amongst a specific group of Christians. What does the overseer do?
  • Believes correct Bible Truth, teaches correct Bible Truth in an encouraging way, respectfully/gently instruct those who oppose correct Bible Truth.

Here’s another passage that teaches/implies long-term commitment among a specific group of Christians:

Hebrews 13:7,17,24: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith…

  • Implies pastoral/Biblical teaching to you, a specific group of Christians to whom Hebrews is written. These were leaders that these particular Christians had personal access to—it’s the only way we can know, think about & imitate the leaders’ way of life & faith.
  • We can learn from other Christians via their books & internet sermons, but we can’t imitate/consider the outcome of their way of life—we don’t know what they’re like in their daily/weekly lives. This implies a local community of Christians.

17Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority,
because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.

Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden,
for that would be of no benefit to you.

  • This isn’t submitting to Christian authority in Wyoming, Rochester or around the corner. I’m sure those elders are fantastic! But they don’t keep watch over you, they won’t give an account to the Lord Jesus regarding you. It’s implied that there are specific, clearly defined local congregations of Christians being taught/served by specific elders—their work is in view of eternity, not what is temporary, long-term, not the short-term.
  • Oh how humbling it is to think that I will give an account to the Lord Jesus of how sacrificially, genuinely, Biblically, and consistently I shepherded/served this local church. I need His transformation & your prayers daily!

24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people.
Those from Italy send you their greetings.

  • Again, we can’t greet all the Lord’s people around the world—that isn’t what the writer means. The writer means all the Lord’s people in a specific local church, a specific congregation where there is long-term commitment.

In this local church, a dear sister-in-Christ had a cactus plant that was inadvertently drowned by a well-meaning neighbor. This sister then diligently cared for the plant for weeks without a sign that the plant was alive, then for months seeing only small signs of growth.

But the plant IS alive, & there IS growth!
Because of God & thru her diligent/consistent/long-term nurturing.

Thats a picture of covenant & membership in a local church
the local church is alive by God’s grace, & only He can make us grow healthy, humble, holy, fruitful.

But He uses our diligent & consistent nurturing among each other—

  • the praise we offer Him Sunday mornings together,
  • the prayers during the week for each other,
  • sacrificial acts of washing each others’ feet,
  • knowing each other deeply & carrying each other’s burdens.

This local church may become a 300 foot Redwood someday,
or a budding cactus plant in a small pot:
both glorify God, both require committed people
to nurture this local church over the long-haul.

Why This Is Difficult

1.We will hurt each other/let each other down eventually
whether the pastor, worship band, children’s program,
lack of reaching out by other members—
& it’s easier to stay in a local church at arms length,
not invested long-term in knowing & being known,
or it’s easier to move to other local churches
where you have no issues (at least not yet!).

  • Like when many of us were kids: we drew something, made a mistake,
    crumpled up the paper & got a new sheet. Eraser marks were ugly scars
    on our drawings; we wanted a flawless picture.
  • In a local church, zero eraser-marks is an idol. We honor the LORD when we work thru, forgive, heal from the ways we hurt each other/let each other down! Oh the spiritual fruit that comes from that smelly fertilizer! Oh the final picture He is drawing through us!

2.We often don’t realize that we’re on the verge of giving up/moving on from a local church. It often just takes one more disappointment/unmet expectation/uncomfortable situation. Commitment & membership helps us make the decision ahead of time to work thru the inevitable rough spots & not let our feelings in the moment make our decision.

  • Like exercising/running: don’t wait to “see how u feel at 5:30am”—
    unless you’re nuts ( 🙂 ), you won’t feel like getting out of bed! So the decision needs to be made the night before, that you’ll exercise based on your choice, not your feelings.
  • Marathon training is not a day to day/see how it goes process; because of the time/effort needed to prepare for a marathon, a decision is made ahead of time and then seen through to completion, regardless of feelings/weather.

3. We often unconsciously act as consumers/customers instead of committed cultivators. A turn-key house is a blessing—it’s “move-in” ready! New construction, no projects, just start enjoying immediately!

But a fixer-upper house, a handyman’s special, is difficult. It is VERY rewarding in the long-run—just ask anyone who has renovated a house—but in the short-run it requires much blood, sweat and tears.

  • Some local churches are turn-key: just show up & enjoy, just get in the pipeline of community, discipleship, serving, etc. Praise the LORD for this!
  • But even those local churches at one point had people who were—& still are!—committed cultivators: it didn’t get that way accidentally, & won’t stay that way automatically. It takes long-term intentional investment.

What This DOESN’T Mean

This doesn’t mean it is always wrong to move to another local church! Some local churches have five kidneys, & others are on dialysis. The Holy Spirit does move certain Christians to other local churches to help make the city-wide Body of Christ healthier/more fruitful.

  • But the Holy Spirit moves people to serve MORE sacrificially,
    not just to meet particular personal preferences.

This doesn’t mean you sign a lifetime contract
& can never move to another local church!

  • But it does men you won’t do that the moment things start getting dry/difficult. Grass may be greener on the other side, but it’s also greener where we water/fertilize it. 🙂

This doesn’t mean you can’t have friends & fellowship
with Christians outside of this local church!

This isn’t an ultimatum/confrontation—do this or else.

This is an invitation—step into this next level of following Christ.

New attenders: Get to know this local church: Elevate 101 on a Sunday in October (will be announced next week).

Longer-term attenders: Explore more specifically what commitment/ covenant/membership is: Elevate 201 on a Sunday in October (will be announced next week).

Let’s move from tenting on the lawn—ready at a moment’s notice to pack up & change campgrounds—to settling down in this section of God’s house, rubbing shoulders long-term with this portion of God’s family in all the beautiful & frustrating ways.

Closing Challenge

Please do pray, dig into Scripture, think & discuss this, my friends.
It will take time for some, & that’s ok!
I will post links to helpful articles
on the Elevate FB page this week & in near future.

There isn’t pressure at all…

But what an opportunity we have to take another step
towards becoming the local churchour Savior died & rose again to make us…

elevating God, community & others,

becoming humble, healthy, holy and fruitful…TOGETHER! 🙂

plant 2 (9.23.18)