When we moved to TN and were taking care of personal business around town, we had some interesting experiences. One stands out above the rest. While at the DMV, we were making small talk with the clerk, asking where she went to church and she asked the same. We said we were planning on going to LifePoint Church. She responded, “Oh, you mean Six Flags over Jesus?”
Now, how do you take that comment? Several pictures ran through my head. Was she saying LifePoint was just a group of people having fun on Sunday but nothing else? Did they reflect the gospel of Christ in their community? At that time the church had just recently built a new sanctuary, becoming (and is still) the biggest church in Smyrna, TN. Unfortunately, people judge on outside appearances. (Btw, we have attended LifePoint for 9.5 years; it is a fun church, AND it is a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church filled with wonderful people who love the Lord and point to Him.)
The old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover” holds true to each biblical community as well. What is the first impression your biblical community expresses? Recent experiences for me, and for many of us, is that biblical community is not as friendly and inviting as we would desire. Have you walked into a church and not even been greeted? Have you tried to join into church events, or even a small group, and continued to be treated like an outsider no matter how long you participate or offer to serve?
What about the flipside… Have you heard people talk with disdain about the new million dollar sign that the church just recently put up? Have you said negative things to a non-church friend or acquaintance about your church leadership? Some things we do and say as a church about our biblical community can be taken numerous ways in the many other community groups in which we live. Words are misconstrued; actions are misunderstood. Even here at CVR, the neighbors have misconceptions about who we are and what we do. Old timers remember when it was a hippie camp, free love and drugs. Or, when the troubled boys’ camp was here, folks began to think it was a Satanic camp. Recently, someone told us that one of the more paranoid neighbors thought we were the Feds because we have been coming and going for the last seven years.
A friend shared this quote on Facebook:
“I have heard it said that there are 5 gospels. T
hose being Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian.
Most people may never read the first four.”
Bobby Conway, The Fifth Gospel.
How does that statement hit you? Take a few moments for introspection. Do you reflect the true gospel or your own? Do you live your life as an effective witness for Christ? Does your walk with Christ make a visible difference in the lives of those around you? Look at what Peter puts together.
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9
Is that a tough list to swallow?
True biblical community requires that we focus not on our own wills but on the Lord’s – always and in every circumstance. That means, if we are seeking to honor the Lord, we will also be harmonious, kind, and humble. Those are major burdens if we are preaching our own gospel, but they are sweet fruit if we are living in the Spirit. Instead of badmouthing a fellow church member, we will honor God by applying His way of dealing with wrongs. Instead of seeking our own pleasure on a Sunday morning, we will be serving. Instead of vegging out in front of the couch all day Saturday, we will help the Care Ministry clean out gutters. Instead of grumbling and complaining at work about the boss, we will walk away from the gossip and pray for him/her.
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 1 Peter 3:15-16
And, most importantly, in all we do and say, sanctify Christ as Lord. If Christ is our filter for action, our lives would and should look differently. The hope that dwells within us can shine through us as we speak the love of God to others, gently and reverently. Many folks I know are either too soft and all “lovey” or too hard and all “righteous.” We understand that it is easier being on one side of that equation or the other. But, God desires we meet people in the middle and speak the truth in love.
Hopefully, this blog has spurred your thoughts towards a better biblical community, knowing that we are part of God’s plan and are His witnesses. To God be the glory.