By Bill Nicoson
Community is everything. It is where Christ lives in the heart of His followers. We talk about authenticity, but what we mean is that we are obedient to scripture. Lives transformed. The power of the living God is defined to the world by how we grow in Christ. Imitators of God, as the apostle Paul says. The most powerful witness we have is in our behavior and verbalizing that faith to our friends and family. Nothing happens without a deep dependence on God. Consider these ideas about how community and the power of God work in transformational living.
First, in the early church the Christian conversions followed networks of relationships. One of the chief arguments today about authenticity is that Christians do not intentionally make friends with nonbelievers. We are more comfortable with our own group. But clearly in the early church once the insiders were converted, they became the key to the Gospel spreading throughout the rest of the social network, while the “missionary” played a more supportive role (see Movements that Changed the World, pg. 74, Steve Addison). Addison goes on to quote Rodney Stark and John Lofland by saying, “The most reliable predictor of conversion is relationships, especially preexisiting, positive relationships. Conversion is a social phenomenon; it is often about accepting the faith of one’s friends.”
Second, there is an unwavering commitment to the rule of God in a Christian’s life. When Jesus preached on the kingdom of God he was talking about the rule of God. What does that look like in the life of a believer? It means that our citizenship is in heaven and that we should live like we are already there! We have been too anxious to be culturally relevant and therefore have blurred the lines of what scriptures teach. G.K. Chesterton says, “… tolerance is the virtue of those who believe in anything.” If a person is tolerant of everything, how can he say that he believes in something? If you believe in something then you will eventually encounter conflict with someone or some ideology. Even Jesus talked about the radicalness of the Gospel. When Jesus’ own family came to see him, He replied, “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear the message of God and obey it.” (Luke 8:19-21) Authentic community living in the power of the Gospel holds an unwavering commitment to the cost and obedience to scripture.
Third, living in the power of God through community means we are in this together. John 17:20-21 – “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.” Unity is a must in the body of Christ. We need to be fearless in our love for each other and for the world.
We need to be transparent to reach the lost. As John Burke says, “No Perfect People Allowed.” A true community of Jesus Christ knowingly and admittedly shares with the world that we have our issues. We are not perfect but we are redeemed and moving toward Christ-likeness. The power of God can be realized by the world only in our brokenness and a willingness to confess our sins to one other, to trust one another, to help one other move ahead.
Is your church body living with the power of God? Is it evident in changed lives? Are people coming to Christ because of intentional relationships and accepting your testimony? If you want to experience the power of God, allow Him to change your life. Allow Him to show up through asking forgiveness from each other and your neighbors. Allow Him to take absolute control of your life and in so doing, encourage other Christ-followers. Experience the power of God by doing what He says and your life will never be the same.