Spiritual Disciplines Ep. 3: Community

Show Notes:

Matt: J.D., today we’ll cover our next spiritual discipline, and this week, we’re talking about the “discipline” of surrounding yourself with Christian community.

J.D.: Yeah, this is a good one. The first two spiritual disciplines we covered – Bible study and prayer – are kind of intuitive. While it’s sometimes easier said than done, most people understand that part of the Christian life involves prayer and Bible study and spending time with God.

But a lot of us don’t think of being in community as a “spiritual discipline.”

  • We think “If I show up to church most of the time, I’m all set.”
  • Or, “I got friends. I’m not lonely.”
  • Or, “I go to my small group most times, so I’ve checked the box here.”

And I hear a lot of people say, “Well, I love Jesus, and I have a strong relationship with God, I’m just not that committed to the church.” 

  • Hmm. How do I say this? That’s not true. I know that you think it’s true, but it’s just not. You might have great respect for Jesus, but Jesus very clearly said that if you loved him you would be committed to his church. He says it in John 15. You’re to love each other so much that you lay down your lives for each other. You can’t do that for somebody you’re not connected to or in relationship with. Jesus told Peter in John 21, “If you love me, show that by how well you take care of my sheep.”  
  • You can’t say you’re obedient to Jesus if you neglect those he commanded you to love. 
  • The church is the bride of Christ. You can’t love someone and hate their bride. 
    • How do you think I’d react if you said to me, “PJD, we love you. Can you come over to our house for dinner? And here’s the keys to our mountain house, please enjoy it. But… these invitations are not for Veronica. We like you, but we don’t care for her.” 
    • That conversation is not going to go well. I’m not coming for dinner! If you love me and want to be friends with me, you have to love and be friends with my life. Thankfully, btw, with my wife, that’s easy. People always like her better than me. People always notice me first because I’m up here, but if we get invited back to someone’s house a second time, it’s always because of her. 

Let’s stop for a second and talk about how Jesus demonstrated loving people well.

  • He lived among them 
  • He served them.
  • He spoke personally into their lives 

Now let’s walk through those quickly and apply them to our lives…

Jesus lived among people. 

  • He walked with them. Gave real time instruction. He commented on conversations he heard them muttering to each other. He confronted them in their mistakes and comforted them in their failures
  • We see this demonstrated in Paul’s life. In Acts 20, when Paul speaks to the Ephesians elders–
    • He says, “You know how I lived with and ministered to you night and day, available to you at all hours” (vs. 31). His speech to them included very specific counsel

Secondly, he personally served them. 

  • John 13. He didn’t do that for everybody, but those 12 

He spoke personally into their lives… 

  • Me with Paul Tripp on why megachurch pastors fall
  • Living in community has added richness to my life even though it’s messy.
  • Prov. 27:10 says “Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away,” and we have an opportunity to be that for people through the church.

There’s also a limit to what God can do in your life if you’re not connected to the body. In 1 Cor. 12:25, Paul compares us in the church to members of the body. And at some point he asks, “How does the body care for it’s members?” answer: through other members! 

  • Say my left elbow itches, so it sends a message up to my brain, “I’m dying over here. Please help.” And what does my brain do? It doesn’t send down a magic “brain power zap” to fix it. No, it sends a message to the fingers on my right hand, “Go take care of your brother left elbow.” 

Matt: Brad asks “What should I do if I want to find community, but I’d consider myself a big-time introvert?”

    • Great question. And listen, I get it. While I wouldn’t consider myself extremely introverted, there are times when I just don’t want to be with people… and I’m a pastor!
  • But there are two things I would say:
    • First, this is exactly why we’re talking about the “discipline” of community. Discipline sometimes requires us to do things we don’t want to do or wouldn’t normally do. You don’t discipline yourself to do what comes naturally.
    • Second, though, I think it’s important to be kind to yourself: Some people legitimately have a higher “people capacity,” and that’s OK, as long as you are still disciplined enough to maintain consistent community. 

Matt: Alright J.D., one more question: This is one we’ve gotten a lot through the years and I know you’ve heard asked. What about the person who says, “It’s hard to find community at my church because there are a lot of hypocrites and a lot of judgmental people?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that there are three stages of growth when it comes to Christians engaging with the church:

  • The first is disgust at the sins of others. 
  • The second is disgust at your own sin. On their own, those first two stages push us away from the church. 
  • But the third stage is where we recognize that we can re-enter the church as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer—a Redeemer who has, in fact, redeemed us from being the self-righteous Pharisee committed to judging everyone else.

  • Matt: Next week, we’ll continue our series on the spiritual disciplines by examining what it looks like to observe the Sabbath. Don’t miss the first episode in that series next week as we talk about what a healthy prayer life looks like.
  • We’re now on YouTube; subscribe to @J.D.Greear.


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