1. Common Interests Aren’t Deep Enough
Friends come and go. Why? Because people change. When the only thing that ties a group together is a shared interest the group will disseminate eventually. We see this all the time. Watch one person mature or make a transition in life and suddenly there is little to no contact between friends. This could be as small as giving up partying, playing on on a different team, leaving a social group, moving, getting a new job, etc. You will start to realize that without my shared interests, my friends are no longer interested in me. It’s at this point that you find out the answer to one of the toughest questions, “Do my friends desire to spend time with me because of who I am or because of what I do?”
Biblical community is usually comprised of many individuals that have several different backgrounds, preferences, ages, and even aspirations in life. As individuals they can be as different as Tupac and Napolean Dynamite but what binds them together is their deep-rooted and unbreakable connection through Christ. It’s in Christ that they all have the same story. All were once dead in their sins, called to Christ, and now are infected with an incurable disease to know God and make him known. True biblical community should leave people wondering, “How do all of you guys know each other?” because there are such distinct differences between each person. One of the best compliments I have ever received was at CiCis Pizza. After a large group of my friends were getting up to leave, one of the workers came up and asked, “Ok. So tell me, who are you guys? My staff and I have been trying to guess but we just can’t put our finger on it.” She was shocked to find out that we had all just got out of a bible study. “Wait…..You guys are church people? No way!” she responded. I love that! I love that we were able to break the stereotypical image of Christians she had historically come across. We were different colors, had different styles, and different personalities, but we loved the same Jesus.
2. True Friends Will Hurt You
Too often friends are functional universalists. They may be Christians but they will support anything done under the sun, even if it will destroy you. You could choose to start partying and getting drunk. They will support your decision. You could decide to go to church. They will support your decision. It seems good, but it’s actually deadly. Because you usually don’t decide what’s best for you. We need guidance. When was the last time a friend said to you, “I know this is probably the last thing you want to hear, but I think it was wrong that you did that.”, “I think you need to apologize.”, “I think you need to repent and turn to the Lord alone as your refuge.”? Someone that actually cares for you will not let you follow every desire of your heart. They will not let you live by emotions and feelings. They understand that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” (Jeremiah 17:9) Charles Spurgeon said, “There is nothing so deluding as feelings. Christians cannot live by feelings.” A friend cares about you, but only so much as it does not rock the boat within the friendship. A true friend cares about your soul far more than they care about your heart. A true friend will break your heart before they let you lose your soul. If all your friends do is tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear, they’re not actually your friends. True biblical community shares the same love for each other that Christ shares for us in Revelation 3:19 where he says, “’Those whom I love, I reprove.”
3. Biblical Community Is Not A Clique But It Is Cool
Acts 2:42-47 gives one of the best pictures of biblical community within the Bible, specifically in verse 47 where this community of believers are described as “praising God and having favor with all the people.” Now I don’t know when or where it happened but somewhere along the way, being a Christian became lame. Which is ironic because Jesus wasn’t lame. People really wanted to be around Jesus. You know how I know people wanted to be around Jesus? Well, you tell me. When was the last time you saw a grown man climb a tree in order to be recognized by another man. I personally haven’t seen that yet. However, at some point Christians split this verse and put them at odds, as if you cannot “praise God” and still be “favored by all people.” Notice that it isn’t favored by all the “Christians” but by everyone, lost or saved, Christian or pagan, all people. How many times have you come across Christians that are loved inside the church but hated, disliked, or even avoided at school, work, or in the outside world? Now I get it, we are living for God’s approval and not for the approval of men but I don’t think that means completely disregard the approval of men. Of course, we will offend some with our message, much like Christ did. But we can also relate to the world like Christ did. I know too many Christians that make awesome Sunday school teachers but they can’t relate to the real world the next six days of the week. They are labeled a “church friend” but no one ever really wants to hangout with them outside of church. Paul said, “I become all things to all people so that I may save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) I don’t know many people that are eager to hangout with the next boring, lame, legalistic, judgmental Christian. Oh joy! According to Acts 2:47, this church was “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Clearly, this Christian community was more than just favored, people wanted in. These Christians were popular and sought after. Our lifestyles and our friendships should leave the world yearning for such unity. We should love Jesus and each other in such a way that the world feels like they are truly missing out on something. And for the record, that kind of love doesn’t develop in the 15 seconds they tell you to greet the people sitting near you in church.
Christian friendships tend to turn into Christian bubbles but biblical community should always turn into revolving doors. What I mean is that biblical community should not terminate on itself like a Christian bubble but instead it is constantly flowing new people in from all paths of life. The reason the community in Acts grew so rapidly was because they were favored but unlike many Christian bubbles, the community in Acts had open arms to anyone and everyone that desired to join. It was a snowball effect. In fact, they didn’t just have an open door shaped for all people. They went out searching for people as well. C.T. Studd said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” We need more biblical communities that see themselves as rescue shops. This community in Acts was on mission. And a biblical community that is on mission is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a city.