Called Together | Part II
If you haven’t had a chance to read part I of this blog you can find it here.
The Struggle for Community
If you accept the challenge of being called to come together, and I’m hoping that you will, a word of warning: We don’t solve loneliness by surrounding ourselves with godly people and praying really hard. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus was surrounded by lots of godly people and yet He was lonely. Even though He petitioned His Father in prayer, Jesus was still lonely because His friends were not there for him! They slept!
Suppose a friend you know and admire calls you late on a Sunday night begging you to come over and be with them while they petition God because of a crisis of faith. What would you do? Would you try and put him off because you have work tomorrow and need your sleep? Would you shake your head from side to side but go anyway? Remember we can do that on a telephone because they can’t see us!
This is exactly what Jesus’ friends did in the garden. Filled with anxiety about the cross, Jesus only had two choices: He could either keep things to Himself or He could share that anxiety with those closest to Him. Jesus tried to do that but when He came back to them they were sleeping, and it didn’t happen just once!
We don’t deal with loneliness by surrounding ourselves with people – even godly people – but by finding a common connection with a covenant community. The power of our C6 Groups is that we can taste and see it before we buy into it.
I learned major lessons through people I trusted and came together with. An important person involved in my journey to becoming a Christian and a little later in me growing as a Christian was a guy called Andrew. We used to call him, Paddy, because nearly every pair of trousers he wore had patches on them. Paddy may have had holes in his trousers, but he made sure that I didn’t have a hole in my soul.
I remember one period in our lives when Paddy and I decided to start to meet regularly with other young Christians in our homes. We had no set format. The reason it worked so well was that we all wanted the same thing: To know God more. When some of the church leaders heard what we were doing Paddy and I were asked to give an account for ourselves. It seems that some churches are responsible for the lack of community they promote. These ‘wise’ leaders told us that soul connecting like this was dangerous. Praying for a person all night could lead to strange things being said; to false doctrine and heresy.
They encouraged Paddy and I to try a more structured way of discipleship. When you are 16, you assume that those in authority over you are wise. It’s not always true. We tried structuring and programming the intimacy like they said but it wasn’t natural, and the group failed. Sure, people came but numbers dropped, and significant breakthroughs disappeared.
That experience taught me some valuable lessons about how people come together, the most significant of which is this: you can’t program connection. Connection in community works when people want to get past the facade of what church is and pursue a common goal.
That’s the importance of the words ‘in common’ in Acts 2:44. We read that the believers had all things in common. I work really well with Mike, Lynn, Dwayne and Steve to name but a few. Why? Because we are all the same? No. Because we have a common faith (Titus 1:4) and a common salvation (Jude 3). We work well together even though we are so different because our lives are connected by a common life source.
Having been told that the people had everything in common because they had Christ in common, we are now told in verse 46 that, “Every day they continued to meet.”
Precisely because we belong to Christ we meet regularly with believers. We read here that they met every day. Nowhere do we read that there was any form of pressure from the apostles for them to do this. They did it voluntarily. Their sharing and their concern for others could be maintained only when their sense of spiritual togetherness was maintained. As soon as this flame of passionate commitment began to burn a little lower, the attempt to maintain the communal life was plagued with serious problems.
Acts 5 and 6 are great examples.
In chapter 5 Ananias and Sapphira pretend to give all of their money to help others – with drastic consequences. In chapter 6 quarrels occur because food wasn’t being distributed equally. Coming together regularly is important. The early church did it. But, it isn’t the only key to our spiritual growth. Coming together regularly with people who share a common life source with you and do their utmost to keep the flame of God burning powerfully in their heart is what you are looking for. The two belong together. We cannot separate them.
Now look at the second half of verse 46. “They broke bread in their homes.” The phrase literally reads: “they broke bread from house to house.” Breaking bread means sharing communion. The Lord’s Supper. These guys not only met regularly they broke bread regularly – at home. House to house.
What the early church ‘relationalized’ we institutionalize.
There is no talk about an institution in Acts. Discipleship is a relational process and the truth is real relationships don’t happen on Sunday mornings when we are all together in ‘church’; they happen when we are small together in homes.
Wibke and I have loved ministering wherever we have been sent. And wherever we’ve gone, we’ve made real friends because we’ve communed together. Take London for example. We ministered in London from 1996 – over twenty years ago. The ministry was great, and one reason for that was the home group Wibke and I attended. There were six people in that group and it was a group of people with whom we could be real.
The great thing with that home group was we didn’t have to fulfill any roles. We didn’t have to wear a smiley on our sweaters every time we met up. It was in that group of people who accepted, encouraged and challenged me when attitudes I held were out of line that I entered a new area of my life with God. Next month two members of that group are likely to visit us. Twenty years later and the bonds are still there. The point I’m making is that real change happens from house to house; when life is passed from one person to another – just like the bread and wine.
This fall, we are going to extend the challenge for people to supplement their sense of being called out with the challenge of being called together. We weren’t meant to live alone. Knowing that community can’t be forced, and needs to flow, we have something called C6 Groups. C6 Groups are small groups focused around the series, lasting six weeks, that offer people a chance to trial a small group community. These groups will meet from the week of September 16 to October 21. We will have groups meeting here at church and in a neighborhood near you. We do this because we know how important it is to come together with a group of people where it works. We do this because it is from house to house, that God does the transformation. It’s from house to house that broken relationships are healed. We all need accountability and encouragement. Some of us more than we think.
Learn more about joining a C6 Group at centralwesleyan.org/c6 or by stopping by any of the tables in the lobby this Sunday. Embrace the challenge of supplementing your being called out as you’re coming together. It’s a decision you won’t regret.
Loving doing this life with you.