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The Gospel Creates Community: The People of God

Wanting to Belong:

Reaching the next generation is an epidemic for the church at large (for more click here).[1] With the continuous rise of individualism coupled with the idolatrous pursuit for vocational prosperity, the following generations will discover the complexity in finding genuine and authentic community. Created as image bearers of God, humanity is intrinsically built for deep soul soothing relationships that point away from the self onto something greater—namely the triune God. To this end, Christ's work on the cross, according to the Apostle Paul, was accomplished "that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Cor 2:15). The soul's thirst for relational life can only be satisfied by the One who personifies life, Jesus Christ. This is why in his Gospel the Apostle John articulates the reality that "[in Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4)


I have been in ministry, youth ministry in particular, long enough to understand the genuine desire to connect and find a church-home that would grant an avenue to establish close knit communities with the desire to grow, live, and love. I have engaged in countless conversations with young adults who criticize the inability of the church to engage in authentic community, all the while these same individuals lack the compassion and patience to be a source of community for the saints. What seems to be neglected is the fact that the source of our unity—the Gospel—has been marginalized.


The Gospel Creates:


The beauty of the Gospel is that it speaks life into dead situations and redeems things that are out of reach. The gloriousness of God is the fact that His "hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear" (Is 59:1). His saving power transcends all that we can imagine and if we approach His throne in humility and His Word in submission we will be "like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers" (Ps 1:2). In cultivating Gospel community, we must align ourselves, by the power of the Spirit, to God's mandate in loving Him and loving others.


The power of the Gospel supersedes all human elements that tend to bring forth division and animosity. The Gospel reconciles paradoxical components while reforming erroneous preconceived notions. The Gospel renews faulty dispositions while illuminating the mind and heart with greater percepts to guide and build a spirit fueled lifestyle. The Gospel is the power onto salvation (Rom 1:16).


The Power to Break Down Barriers. The Gospel is the central figure within the universe in which barriers crumble at the feet of Jesus. Social, economic, and cultural facades cannot contain the truth which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul unfolds the mystery of the Gospel in displaying the unifying power that is illustrated within the Christian church. The predominately Jewish community, converted by the Gospel, had their worldview transformed in coming into covenantal union with their gentile counterpart. The apostle illustrates that "in Christ Jesus you who once were far off (Gentiles) have been brought near by the blood of Christ. . . And He came and preached peace to you who were far off (gentile) and peace to those who were near (Jewish). For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father" (Eph 2:13, 17-18).


In building community, we tend to gravitate toward people of similar interest, yet the Gospel challenges our propensity in remaining socially comfortable by displaying the generosity of God in Christ Jesus. The call of salvation is not contingent upon any qualifier that we possess, but rather is indisputably hinged upon the grace of God. Therefore, acceptance of individuals is not based upon cultural fashion nor societal idealism, but in the Gospel dignity of humanity that "is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator" (Col 3:10).


Gospel-people do not wait for community to happen, but rather they establish community out of response to the work and person of Jesus Christ (for more click here). Empowered by the Gospel, followers of Christ are "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3). The unity finds its origin in the Spirit's work of adoption; the duty of the saint is to walk in step with that unity—hence the term maintain. The community's discipleship orientation derives from the unity that produces a genuine love relationship with the Son. The aim of community, then, is not merely community for its sake, but rather Christ conformity. We strive, then, "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Eph 4:13). The ideology of maintain and attain are not paradoxical, but rather speak of the reality of our unity in the Spirit (maintain) in pursuit of the greater reality (attain) of full maturation.


Humbleness. If the Gospel breaks down barriers, it also humbles us to the point where no one can be prideful in God's Kingdom. Upon entering into His earthly ministry Jesus proclaimed, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mat 5:3). Lowliness is the posture in which God decrees in order to enter into His presence. The psalmist conveys, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Ps 51:17). Isaiah echoes the psalmist in saying, "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly" (Isa 57:15).


A diffident heart is necessary in coming before the Lord because it places ultimate dependence not upon self-righteousness but upon an alien righteousness that is not one's own. The psalmist says, "The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate" (Ps 8:13). Christian humility is an acknowledgement that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (Jas 1:17).


If humility is the posture of believers, then, community should not be built upon social ideologies, but rather grace that has been extended from the Father. The attitude to love is not self-generated; love is a response that is fueled by an ever gaze at the cross and throne of God. When our hearts are transformed by the compassion and mercy of God, our communities can embody grace and truth which flow from the life source of Christ (John 1:14).


A United in Mission. As Christian communities experience the groundbreaking Good News of the Gospel and the humbling compassion of our Lord, the church can begin to move on mission corporately for the sake of His Name. The unifying strength of the community of saints is that their gathering and union derives from one sole purpose—the glory of God. The people of God stand together to see the evangelization of their friends, family, neighborhoods, schools, country, and world. They take serious the biblical mandate to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Mat 28:19-20). The community of saints engage in Great Commission lifestyle individually, while being encouraged and empowered communally.


As saints stand shoulder to shoulder in the work of the Lord, these endeavors unify the community. Paul spoke lovingly of Epaphras as he described him as a "beloved fellow servant [who] is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit" (Col 1:7). Paul regarded Timothy with words of endearment in saying, "To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (1 Tim 1:2). Epaphroditus was viewed by Paul as a "brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need" (Phil 2:25). It is not that the church has a mission, but rather the mission has the church. Rightly so, it is not that community enables the mission, but rather mission creates community for the sake of Christ!


The Gospel Re-creates:


We embody in one degree or another a consumeristic viewpoint which taints our perspective on the local church. "Church-shopping" has become a craze in which people hop from one community to the next evaluating which body of believers best serve my needs. Yet if we allow the Spirit to enable our eyes to grasp the Gospel lens, we will begin to see that the posture of the believer should model the character of Christ. The Apostle Paul articulates it in saying, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others" (Phil 2:4).


As the people of God we have been given His Spirit to breathe forth life into areas of our surroundings that embody death. Though we look for community, and rightly so, let us also remember that by His power we have been given the ability to create Gospel communities that will serve for the betterment of the saints and fame of our Savior. In doing so, may we not only serve our own interest in comfortability, but may we be challenged to reach toward the margins of our society in which Jesus made some of His biggest ministry moves.


Sometimes we can assume that the grass is greener on the other side, but in reality, we may be right where God has called us to be; creating Gospel communities by His Spirit.

 

***footnote***


[1] This article has been adopted and modified with approval from http://mcyoungyang.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-gospel-creates-community.html

 

McYoung Y. Yang (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; ThM, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the husband to Debbie and the father to McCayden (12), McCoy (11), McColsen (9), and DeYoung (5). He is a Teaching Pastor at Covenant City Church in St. Paul, MN and a homeschool dad to his four children. McYoung is continuing his doctoral studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His ambition is to use his training as a means to serve the local church in living life through the Gospel lens.

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