Last week for the exhortation we talked a little about the difference between a community and a club. I want say one more thing about that this morning before we move into a time of confession.
The difference between a community and club is pretty straightforward.
A club is a group of people who have one thing in common, but the one thing does not (and should not) impact other areas of life. This is stuff like, we mentioned, stamp collector’s club, Spanish club, history club, rock-climbing club. The club is formed because a group of people have this one thing in common, but that one thing doesn’t really touch anything else in their lives. A club, by definition, is compartmentalized and exclusivist.
A community, though, is a group of people who have one thing in common, and that one thing does (and should) impact other areas of life. It’s more central and personal. And the truest of communities is when the one thing held in common doesn’t just impact other areas in life, but it impacts every area of life. In true community everything in someone’s life is affected by the one thing held in common by that group of people.
And here is one really important implication of that: if true community, with its one thing in common, impacts every area of someone’s life, then there is nothing about someone’s life that could keep them from that true community.
In other words, the community of the gospel — the church — is the only place where everyone can belong because the gospel impacts every part of who we are. There is no area of your life that the gospel will not impact, and therefore there is no area of your life that keeps you from the gospel. And because that is true — because nothing in someone’s life is beyond the reach of the gospel — no person is without a place in the community of the gospel.
Everyone from everywhere with every kind of story can be part of the community of the gospel because it is the gospel that binds us, and there is nothing that the gospel cannot change.
And to the extent that we don’t let that happen, we treat this thing more like a club than a community. And for that, we should repent. Let’s pray.
Prayer of Confession
Father, we confess that too often we have treated the community of your gospel more like a club. We have isolated your grace and made it exclusive. We have, in our minds and hearts, created barriers to true community by minimizing the gospel’s power to reach anyone. We have, instead, made the gospel irrelevant by imposing our similarities as the thing that brings us together. And for this, Father, we repent. Forgive us, please, for all the walls we have built in our minds — for all the times we have assumed that such and such a person would never want to hear the gospel from me. Forgive us for making the prospect of our effectiveness a disguise for our comfort. Forgive us for the sinful things we have done, and for the holy things we’ve left undone. And please lead us now as we confess our sins to you in silence. . . .