Despite the shrinking world and global news, surveys tell us that people believe loneliness to be their greatest problem. We long for a sense of community: we may have more acquaintances but fewer real friends.
Our diaries and calendars might be filled, we have a greater choice in how we spend our leisure time but does anyone really know us? Do we really know anyone else?
The Bible describes a revolutionary way of life designed for any society, in any age. It offers the blueprint for a spiritual kingdom where the King's subjects are loved, nurtured and protected. In this kingdom, everyone has distinct gifts, yet real differences bring people together. Anyone can be included, yet each person is irreplaceable. When citizens in the kingdom are wounded, the whole community hurts; when new life or growth breaks out, the whole community celebrates.
Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren't rubbed in but rubbed out. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice. (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?)
The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world ....... the church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, to learn from one another and teach one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship. (N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense)
Pause for thought
- Please read Acts 5: 12 – 16. What was special about the way the early Church met together and what they did?
- What impact did this have on outsiders?
- What are the unique – and defining characteristics of Christian Community today? How does this relate to Warren and Wright’s definitions?
The Bible's most significant image for community is the idea of family. As God adopts us into his household, he introduces us to an extended family of brothers and sisters. The members of this family, as little children, make mistakes from time to time. They argue, disagree and occasionally disappoint their Father. Yet at other times, they perform miracles, release others to serve and impact their culture.
Please read Psalm 122
Worship in Community – Gathering Together (vv. 1 – 5)
- What are benefits come from being part of a close knit and supportive community?
- What elements of corporate worship are particularly meaningful for you? Why is this?
- In Psalm 122 verse 1 there is a sense of people preparing to worship God. What preparations should we make in advance of Sunday worship?
- Why is it important to prepare in this way?
- Jesus spoke of worship being grounded in Spirit and in truth (John 4: 23). What did he mean by this - and, how might it affect our practice?
- How do we worship God when we don’t feel like it?
The book of Psalms is the Bible’s hymnbook. Dip into the psalms and you will find writings that reflect the whole range of human emotion from great joy to deep despair and everything in between. Some Psalms are very personal, reflecting deeply human experiences – yet even these are designed for community use; as experiences to be observed and as lessons to be learned, understood and put into effect.
Worship in Community – Growing through Prayer (vv. 6 – 9)
- “Thrones for judgment” (verses. 5) is a reference to God speaking. How does this help us in deciding what to pray for? (Please also look at 1 Timothy 2: 1 – 4).
- In verse 6, the worshippers are asked to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Why is it important to use our worship as a means of looking out towards the wider world?
- How can we be at peace with one another?
- Worship ends with a promise (verse 9). Why might it be important to end in this way?
- What aspects of our worship might be changed to encourage a greater sense of community and fellowship? Be brave!
Thought for the week: Be united with other Christians. A wall with loose bricks is not good. The bricks must be cemented together. [Corrie ten Boom]