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Five Ways to Apply Community

Five Ways to Apply Community

“Yes, I am convinced of the necessity of community. What do I do now?” If you’ve been aloof to the idea and are now prepared to engage this new world, you need to begin thinking carefully about incorporating community into your calendar. To do so, you need to budget your time. Community is intentional, which means you have to pursue it.

Here are five ideas to begin in the journey and joy of community:

a) Reserve a day each week for hospitality. Invite someone over for coffee/dessert or a meal. Pencil it in your calendar. Make it a priority.
b) If you are single/college student, invite someone from the church for coffee/drink. You may wish to invite an older saint in the church. We have a misguided idea that youth only spend time with youth. In a community, we are all one. The idea is to make an art of knowing others in the body and casual settings provide the right environment to hear others’ stories
c) If your church provides alternative gatherings (Bible studies, etc.) outside Sunday morning, be faithful to at least 50% of them. These activities provide opportunities to bond with fellow members. When people complain that they just don’t seem to fit in a church, it’s probably because they neglect these gatherings.
d) The Church is called to be faithful and your active engagement in her faithfulness makes her beautiful to the world. Every church has its own culture. What are you adding to make her a pleasing aroma in the eyes of non-church goers? How are you representing your community? Ponder these questions regularly.
e) Finally, be a force for peace in the community. It takes minutes to ruin communities, but a lifetime to preserve its peace. Be the ambassador of peace in whatever church community you are. Seek the well-being of the body by giving thanks to our Lord for incorporating you into His own body.

What do you most love? Community or Self?

What do you most love? Community or Self?

When we lose our love for the body, we replace it with ideological or technological addictions. For example, men who in their 20’s & 30’s engage in long cycles of gaming or gambling are substituting the community for a self-created reality. This engagement leads to aloneness which is a consequence of neglecting the gathered assembly (Heb. 10:24-25). The hard part is being involved in a divine community; the easy part is to find alternative realities to substitute God’s Church. And the evangelicals (my people) are happy to swim in their own reality.

Put 20 evangelical men from the ages of 18-30 in a room and ask them, “What do you most love to do?” What would their answers be? I seriously doubt they would bask in the glories of God’s redeemed community, the Church. They would probably alternate between a love of sports, gaming, political ideologies, etc. Yet, nothing is more beautiful to King Jesus than Zion (Ps. 87:2); of her, glorious things are spoken. Community is life. Choose you this day.

Father Famine

There is a hunger out there. It is not a hunger for food, money, power; it is a hunger for fathers. This is what Douglas Wilson referred to as Father Hunger. Sons and daughters are craving for them.

Where are these fathers today? They are nowhere to be found. We can find their shell in their homes, but we can’t detect their fatherly souls. This is tragic. And we do want to emphasize the important roles that fathers play in the home. But in order to do so, they must be present.

So to fathers who are present, what we want to do is to encourage you to be servants in the home; lovers of truth, carriers of joy, and examples of repentance and faith. Our children will mirror our worst traits, and this is frightening indeed. But God has not left us hopeless. He has provided Himself as an example of true fatherhood. Even those without a father today know that you have a heavenly father; One who does not leave the orphan or widow, but who cares and proves his perfect fatherhood each day.

Fathers, I urge you to take dominion over your role. You only have one shot at it, but remember that no circumstance is too late or too far gone. Every prodigal is within reach. Every prodigal still would prefer dad’s table to the table of doom. Be encouraged and hopeful.

Fathers, you are what you worship, and your children will worship joyfully the God you worship most joyfully. So worship most joyfully the God of your Father Abraham. Do not idolize your children, but teach them to crush idols. Do not serve mammon, but teach them to use mammon wisely.

This is the charge to fathers in this congregation. It is a noble and mighty charge: to love your children and to conquer their hearts before others conquer them. Learn early and often that you are a servant of your heavenly father. If you do not serve him alone, you will be another absent father in our culture. May it never be! May God grant you strength and wisdom as you lead your families, and may He lead you to your knees, beautify your words with truth and grace, strengthen your faith with biblical conviction, and renew you daily. Amen.

Jubilate Deo Summer Camp in Monroe, LA

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I will be involved with this fine work in Monroe in a week or so. Check them out!

Community Messiness

Community Messiness

Community life is messy. Doing life together can be a challenge. There are people who have never tasted of a healthy community and so the very idea of being and existing with a group of people with whom you are united in Christ may sound daunting. But yet, it’s our role and duty and the Bible makes it a command. So, the first step to engaging your community is to affirm its necessity and your role in it. If you are prone to complaining about the lack of community, perhaps the problem is staring right at you. The tried and tested way to find the community you want is to exemplify the community you need.

Community and Isolation

Community and Isolation

Our tendency to isolate ourselves is grounded in several factors, but one reason we usually avoid the company of fellow brothers and sisters stems from a stream of endless hypothetical situations about what might happen should I actively pursue community. “But what if they see me as I really am?” “What if they perceive me to not be as strong as they envisioned?” You see, fear leads to over-protectiveness/preservation of one’s aloneness, which means pursuing life together is crushed by the tyranny of the unknown. And God wants you to jump into the sea of uncertainty when it comes to church life. It is good and right to allow yourself to be known.

On Roles and Respect, Part 4

One of the problems we see with disdain for titles is the dread of the dated. Anything that appears to reflect the ethics of Mayberry or Casablanca receives the stamp of disapproval from an “enlightened culture.” The same applies to professional titles in our day. We have lost the common courtesy due to those who play important roles in our communities.

A recent article in the Huffington Post expresses this disdain for hierarchical categories when the writer says that authority titles serve to create a “culture of hate” since it places one person over the other. But to the contrary, using titles for doctors, pastors and leaders in the community serve to identify their roles and recognize their callings and place in their communities.

Three simple rules (by no means exhaustive):

First, when attending formal environments where distinctions exist for the sake of order, always refer to those who have active roles by using their titles (Pastor Schneider or Dr. Carter). When in doubt, ask your leaders how they would like to be addressed.
Second, children must always address leaders by their last name (Mr. Adams or Mrs. Smith). In addressing family members, there is more flexibility (Aunt Suzy).
Finally, remember that addressing professionals by their titles provide an environment of mutual respect.

Some professionals may discourage you from using such titles due to their own tendency towards informality. In these cases, I’d encourage one to insist on these habits and explain to these individuals why addressing a professional by using appropriate titles builds honor into a culture where honor is no longer virtuous.

On Roles and Respect, Part 3

One author writing for the Washington Post last year observed that the “first name” basis culture even between the elderly and the young stemmed from fear that someone might feel “beneath” someone else. I heard of a Christian couple recently in the Pacific Northwest who encouraged their children from their earliest days to respond with “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am.” The people from the church they attended demurred their supposed authoritarianism.
I am arguing, in contrast to modern sentiments of equality, that referring to a man as “sir” or calling him “Mr. __________” is a way to produce and perpetuate the great tradition of honor. When we lose such things, we lose the foundational structures of a society; yes, we lose the necessary boundaries formed by the fifth commandment.

On Roles and Respect, Part 2

We have a loss of civility in our day. Part of that loss, I argue, stems from disrespect of authority figures. We express that disrespect by ignoring titles. In our congregation, we make a concerted effort–under whatever administration– to follow Paul’s exhortation to pray for “kings and rulers” (I Tim. 2:2) such as the “President” of the United States and our “Governor.” Regardless of political dogma, we are to pray for those who rule over us. I suspect were we under Nero, we would still pray for him and address him as “Emperor” Nero. One reason there is a fatigue with titles and overall respect for authority figures is that we choose to honor whomever we see fit to honor. We have become selective in our respect and our disregard for titles removes more grass from the civility field leaving us a bit less civilized.

On Roles and Respect, Part 1

On Roles and Respect, Part 1

I’ve read a host of articles on the loss of civility in our culture in these last few days. The profound casualness in virtually every place leads to a disregard of titles and inevitably a loss of respect for authority roles in our culture. I want to just address the child/parent relationship at this stage.

As I walked to the green isle to grab the lettuce, I overheard a child (no more than 10 years of age) who was vehemently disagreeing with his mom whom he addressed affectionately as “Nancy.” She looked at me and then recognized my role in society (I was wearing a collar), and respectfully greeted me as “Pastor.” She quickly acknowledged what her child failed to acknowledge: that when roles are trivialized or not honored, relationships do not function as they should.

Let’s start with the basics: Children need to refer to their parents as “mom”, “dad,” or some variation. To remove titles means a parent loses his position of authority, and children now receive virtually equal authority in domestic decisions. When parents refuse to inculcate distinctions in the home with their proper titles, we lose the necessary structure and environment that make the home run.