Why Community Matters Part I

by Will Flathers

As you are probably aware, we have been strongly encouraging people to get involved with a Gospel Community. In order to help everyone get a better sense of why we are heading in this direction and what that might look like, we are going to start a series of semi-regular blog posts discussing Gospel Communities. So, the purpose of this post is to set the stage for following posts. We want to first explain why the issue of community is so important for the church, so we can then explain how Gospel Communities fit into the picture.

Trinity – That’s Why Community Matters

The God of the Bible is clearly a relational God; throughout Scriptures, we see Him intimately and lovingly involved in the world. But contrary to what some religions teach, God did not create man to cure His loneliness. The one God is not a solitary individual, but a divine community. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) summarizes the doctrine of the Trinity by saying, “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.” One God, three equal persons. God is persons-in-relationship, existing in love from all eternity (John 17:24).

We are made in the image of the Trinitarian God (Genesis 1:26-27) One implication is that we are created for community; we too are relational beings. The only thing in the Garden of Eden that was not good was a solitary Adam. God forbade the Israelites to create an image of Him (Deuteronomy 4:15-24), for God Himself had already made an image of Himself in the world – humanity! That image was terribly marred in our rebellion, but God’s redeemed people are now His image in the world.

So the Trinity means that community matters, but it also shapes and defines our view of community. Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears write that “The Trinity is the first community and the ideal for all communities. That community alone has not been stained by the selfishness of sin. Therefore, in the diversity of God the Father, Son, and Spirit is perfect unity as one God communicates truthfully, loves unreservedly, lives connectedly, serves humbly, interacts peaceably, and serves selflessly. In a word, Trinity is the ideal community in every way.”

Gospel – That’s Why Community Matters

We are made in the image of God, but sin has marred that image. The result of sin is enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy (Galatians 5:19-21)—those words all describe broken communities and broken relationships. In the very first book of the Bible, we see sin dividing mankind from God, husband from wife, brother from brother, family from family, and nation from nation. Sin brings racism, classism, war, murder, divorce. We often long for true community but never quite seem to attain it – it is a longing for something that was lost in the Fall, and ultimately a longing for the Trinitarian God.

But we know the good news! Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. In doing so, Jesus brings reconciliation between God and man (Romans 5:1-11). Jesus brings reconciliation between Jew and Gentile, husband and wife, even nation and nation. The sin that separates us has been dealt with, once and for all time, at the cross. Jesus makes true community possible again.

Jesus is saving a community – not merely a collection of individuals. Jesus loves you individually and personally, but ultimately, He is about the business of saving a people – a new humanity, His Church – to whom and through whom He reveals His glory. Peter rejoices in that truth: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10). Our God is a God who creates people for community, and who also places people into community; our God is the God who “places the lonely in families” (Psalms 68:6), the God who ensures that widows, orphans, aliens and outcasts are cared for and welcomed (for example, James 1:27).

The New Creation is often described in communal terms: a glorious city; a wedding feast; a vast, diverse community worshipping Jesus. Heaven is more than just God and I; it is God and us. That is where all of history is heading – and that is good news for those who know Jesus! In the mean time and by God’s grace, we are called to reflect that heavenly, Trinitarian community together.

Tune in next week for part II