"Authentic Community"

One of my children really enjoys acting; a few summers ago he participated in a summer program that taught him the fundamentals of acting. He had a great time and the show they did at the end of the summer was great, unique but great. During the show in Fredrick, MD, I found some promotional material for a theater company entitled “Authentic Community Inc.” Seeing this companies title brought to memory the numerous times that as a Christ Follower I have heard people use the terminology of Authentic Community within the church. So what does it mean to have this type of community? How do you achieve it? Why should we achieve it?
Thank the Lord for dictionaries; let’s begin by defining the word authentic. It means “being actually and exactly what is claimed.” Community is defined as “a unified body of individuals with common interests or characteristics living together within a larger society.” Ok, so the combining of these two words means: “A group of people who are what they say, who are unified behind a cause within a larger society” (my definition.) So within the church this can be appropriate terminology as long as we live out the definition. Like a pendulum we are good at either doing what we say or being unified behind a common cause but I am not convinced we are good at being both. The balance is critical, it’s not either I do what I say or I get behind the cause, Authentic Community only happens when we say it, do it, and get sold out to the cause.
What does the bible say about authentic community? In the Old Testament, a prominent example would be the relationship between God and his chosen people. We find times when the people of God were an authentic community resolute and unstoppable. We find times when they became fragmented as a community and the consequences of their choices are noted throughout the scriptures. As New Testament believers we see Jesus’ example within the gospels, we read his teachings and the relational connectivity that developed with the disciples.
A key passage that I would like to look at is found in the book of Acts 2:44, 45. Within this passage we find the early church gathering together for relationship building, they are worshiping together, sharing meals, and meeting each other’s needs. It all started with God’s plan of salvation, Jesus presented the message to the disciples and others. The message was then communicated by Jesus’ followers. In the book of Acts, Peter shares a message that transforms a community. He shared the message; the community received it and believed it. Once the message was received a utopia of unity did not just happen. As the people allowed the Spirit to do His work in their lives there hearts started to change. The result of the Spirits work was people putting others needs above their own within the community of Christ followers. Over and over throughout the New Testament we read that as followers of Christ we should be united, in one accord, and in harmony. In Ephesians 4:4 we read “You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.” (Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message Eph. 4:4-6)
Jesus, when praying for the disciples and for us, prayed that we would be one as he and the Father were one. To be an authentic community of Christ followers, who defined are “a group of people who are what they say, who are unified behind a cause within a larger society” I am convinced that if we in our passion to know God begin to align ourselves to become this kind of community. We will see God’s Spirit transform our communities as he did in the early church one person at a time. “He added to their numbers daily.”

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