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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

A Community Of Believers
Date Posted: September 28, 2018

What is a community? Most people would start with a description of their families, a group of people living together with common goals and interests, striving for success as individuals and as a group. Beyond that, many people would consider their neighborhood, towns, counties, states and country as a community as well. Some might characterize their school or workplace as a community while still others would list clubs, athletic teams and churches as such. Again, in each, striving for individual success, but with a strong emphasis on others within that community.

The importance of our vision of community is that it gives it and us definition, purpose and direction; for our purposes here, within our church community, our involvement helps define us as we identify with its mission and goals. Most of us acknowledging that the church is not merely a building, though we call building churches. The church actually being the people who gather within its walls for fellowship, worship, disciple-building and mission development.

One Greek word for church, used more than 80 times in the New Testament, is Ekklesia; literally meaning those who are called out, meeting in an assembly – encompassing civic groups, synagogues and Christian gatherings. The first time ekklesia is used in the Gospels is in Matthew 16:18, Jesus referring to Peter – or rather his faith – as the rock upon which He would build His church; an assembly of people uniquely belonging to Him.

Another word used in the New Testament for church is Kuriakon, its meaning being similar to holiness or being set apart for service to God. The church attaining “holiness” when it loves Jesus above all else and seeks to please Him through faithfulness; consequently functioning best by not asking what the church can do for us but what we, through the church, can do for Him and others.

As human beings, we need community, whether we realize it or not. Any number of studies showing the importance of belonging for mental and physical health as well as satisfaction with life. All likewise true for the community of believers. We need encouragement, to be challenged, to be cared for as we do the same for others; never reaching our full spiritual potential without this communal investment. (The very reason the church is often referred to as a family, its members characterized as brothers and sisters nearly 100 times throughout the New Testament. The church likewise designated as Christ’s body, for which He gave His life. See Ephesians 5:27, Colossians 1:24 & 1 Corinthians 12:27)

Another word giving depth and structure to the idea of church is Koinonia, often translated as sharing or fellowship. Embracing the ideals of familiarity through relationships. A paramount expectation of church being its proper response to those in need – within and without the church. (See Matthew 25:31-45) A critical aim of the church being to express love for God first and foremost while glorifying Him by our care of others. (See Matthew 23:37-40) Our common belief inspiring us to live out our personal and collective faith in the world to best advantage.

All of which sounds fine, unless you come from a dysfunctional family. And sad to say, a certain amount of dysfunction exists even in our churches today; which are, after all, made up of imperfect people. We get it right much of the time, but often get it just as wrong. And then there are those darn hypocrites among us! But aren’t we all a little hypocritical at times; imperfectly living out our calling in Christ?

We, however, as individuals and the “church”, will be perceived as gracious, appealing and inviting when we go the extra mile to accommodate others. Within the bounds of sound doctrine, refraining from demanding to be heard but listening and seeking to understand – if not condone others points of view. Actively seeking for ways to be a blessing to the less fortunate; making people feel welcome – if not always comfortable. (Concentrating on the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19,20 to set the bar for our “success.”)

All of which would go a long way in addressing a common problem among churches today – attendance – especially among so-called Millennials; who are often drawn to Christ but not church, sometimes with cause. But church attendance should not be thought optional. If yours is struggling, become a part of the solution. If it’s beyond repair, find one you can become productive in. Merely being critical and dropping out is too easy. It’s not just that you need the church but the church needs you, to set an example and inspire others to do as you do.

Attending church is an essential part of being a Christian. It is, after all, an institution Christ died to establish and sustains with His Holy Spirit. Paul exhorting believers, then and now, to “…not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing…” Hebrews 10:25 Our individual participation strengthens the church as a whole. (1 Corinthians 14:26) (Which is not to infer you can’t survive without attending church if it’s denied to you, but can you thrive outside it – especially if you willingly surrender the opportunity to be involved?)

Despite its shortcomings, the church still represents Christ to the world. What an awesome opportunity and awful responsibility. The fate of the world – in part – resting on our shoulders. Paul’s assertion that we are “the body of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 12:27 at least inferring that when God sees pain, brokenness, injustice and need in the world, he send us – not angels – to address those needs.1 Jesus saying, “As the father sent me, so I am sending you.” John 2:26 Becoming His feet and hands, and more importantly his heart in a heartless world. Again, Paul describing the church as, “…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (taking on the attributes formerly held by Israel), a people belonging to God…” With a purpose! “…that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light…” 1 Peter 2:9

The last word with significance for defining the church is Hagios, appearing 235 times throughout the New Testament. A descriptive word for God, his angels, the Holy Spirit and any other place or thing that belongs to him. In referencing the “saints” of the church, those who are not perfect but “holy” by virtue of their being set apart for service to him; we are reminded by Paul that as a result of the grace manifested to us through Christ, we are indeed “…God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” With the expectation of our “…do(ing) good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (Often expressed simply as, “…speak(ing) up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Proverbs 31:8

A community of believers encompassing the whole world, a universal church (the true meaning of “catholic”) that is united in their love of the Lord, surrendered to His will and committed to His way.

1From Creed, subtitled What Christians Believe and Why, by Adam Hamilton, published by Abingdon Press

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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