The experience of parenting can be challenging to say the least. As a parent, you enter a seemingly unending journey of teaching your children about all they should and should not do, and how to tell the difference between the two. Pick up your toys. Use your fork. Don’t hit your brother. Don’t run with your fork.
What I find amazing, however, is all of the things I have never had to teach my children. I have never had to teach my daughters to play with dolls. I have never worked with my son to teach him how to make car noises. I have never had to convince my girls to love Barbie movies. Some things just come naturally.
If you survey the book of Acts and look into the life of the early church, you will find something that came naturally to that group. In a word, COMMUNITY. No one ever teaches the believers to gather. None of the disciples have to stand and say, “You know, you really ought to get together.” We find quite the opposite. These believers, apparently of their own free will, are meeting daily, celebrating meals in one another’s home, and even pooling their property in order to share with one another.
So now for the big question: WHY? Why did this group have such a natural inclination to be with one another? I believe that their decision to follow Christ was intricately tied to a decision to be with His people. To love Christ was to love His people. To know Christ was to know one another. To worship Christ was to worship with others who had the same desire.
Though we live in a radically different culture today, we can move in that same direction. Here are a few ideas how:
1. Look for the Spirit. The first church had encountered God in a radical way on the day of Pentecost. I think they gathered together because they experienced more of that Spirit when they were in community. When we celebrate as a church, whether at our weekend service or a special event like a Baptism, we can experience the same thing. Seek out those places where the body of Christ will gather- the Spirit has a way of showing up!
2. Think people before tasks. One of the real traps of our society is that we are taught to think task first. What am I accomplishing? What am I getting done? Sometimes we approach church with the same mentality, “I am going to church. I went to church. Check that off the list.” How different would it be if we consistently thought, “I am going to gather with others who seek God with me.” Suddenly the whole point of our meeting takes on new meaning.
3. Place reality before formality. When we think of church as an organization or a social structure, we begin applying rules to how we should act. Dress a certain way. Say the right words. Act like life is fine, and then go home and be real. As a community of believers, however, the church is a family. And family is a place where you can be real and find acceptance no matter what’s going on in your life. When we can stop “cleaning up” and just be real, we find the kind of community Jesus had in mind from the beginning.
I dream of the day when my kids will be naturally inclined to clean their room. Until then, I will keep training them in the right way. I also dream of a day when each one of us feels naturally inclined to gather regularly in Christ-centered community. Until then, I will keep encouraging people to move in the right direction while modeling a life that does the same. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.