Community

Ephesians 4:1–16

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

Community may not be the hottest topic, but it is controversial. It’s a big issue in our culture and the church. Our culture struggles with community. We have never been more connected in the history of the world, yet somehow, disconnected.

We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections…may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.
— Sherry Turkkle, “Alone Together”

Going beyond our culture, the idea of being committed to a community of Christians is quite challenging for many. 

Have you ever heard someone say, “I love Jesus but I can’t stand the church” or “I’m spiritual but not religious. I don’t do the whole organized religion thing.” or “I can just follow Jesus by myself my Bible, books, and Christian TV. Or maybe podcasts or Christian radio”

Some churches have tried to deal with this very sentiment. 

I’ve heard of one church that has members living out of state and so they will mail you your bread and juice for communion. And many of us are aware of churches that have online services. You can worship and learn from home and never be there in-person. You don’t actually have to be in relationship with anyone but Jesus. 

At Cities church, we set the bar quite high for our members. If you’re a member, you’re committed to a Community Group, Life Group, the weekly gathering, quarterly membership meetings, and a serve rotations. But why do we do this? 

Ephesians 4 is going to give us the answer. Ephesians 4 is one of the most thorough teachings in the Bible on community.There’s much here in Ephesians 4, I’d encourage you to study it carefully this week, but the primary question we’re going to answer today is: Why do we need to be in community?

Three reasons why we need to be in community: 

  1. We are a family. 
  2. The church needs you! 
  3. Maturity without community is impossible.

Reason 1: We are a family.

4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 

Notice the word, “Therefore.”This word points us backwards. Chapters 1–3 of Ephesians has typically been summed up as what Jesus has done for us. Chapters 4–6 has been classified as the commands, or what we should do because of what He has done. 

 

If we were on a series in Ephesians, we would have seen that chapters 1-3 are all about grace. Through Jesus, we have been saved by grace, through faith and not by works. God delights in us and desires us. 

So when Paul says in v. 1, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”Paul’s saying, “You know all that beautiful truth we’ve been talking about? If that is true of you, then walk in light of that. Live like that’s true, because it is.” 

We are living out of acceptance not for acceptance. 

Let's look at one of these truths. Ephesians 1:5, “He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”

If you are a Christian, you’ve been adopted into God’s family. Why do we need to be in community? Because we are a family. We already are a community.

3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 

Notice the repetition of seven, “ones.” We are one. We have one body. We have one father. We are a family. 

Notice v. 3 does not say, “Build” or “attain” unity. It says, “Maintain.” 

If you're a Christian and I’ve never met you before, we already have unity. We are family. 

 

I experience this every time I travel overseas. About 6 years ago I went on a mission trip to Korea. I felt out of my element, since I was taller than everyone and I speak as much Korean as a 2 yr. old. I’m a fluent 2 yr. old. But I can also read, but I just don’t know what I’m reading. So whenever I would see a white person, I’d immediately feel a deep connection. I’d think to myself, “Oh, another white person!” I’d forget I’m Korean-American (I grew up in Georgia). But whenever I would meet a Christian, even though there are so many cultural differences, I felt more connected to that person than any Americans I would bump into. 

Ephesians 2:11-22 is a beautiful section that speaks of Jesus tearing down the wall of hostility between us and God and between each other. The section peaks with this beautiful verse. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). 

You are not merely saved individually, but saved into a people. One aspect of salvation is being brought into a family. You are adopted into a family. Why do we need to be in community?Answer: We are a family. We are already a community. 

 Reason Two: The church needs you!

7But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 

 

Within this unity there’s diversity. We each have different gifts. Unity does not mean uniformity. Each one of us has been given gifts given by Jesus. So, if you are not involved in community, then we are missing out on those gifts.

How do I know my gifts? The best way to find out your gifts is within community. As your CG, what are my gifts? Can you help me discover my gifts? 

11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

God has given the church these different offices. For what purpose? Answer: To equip the saints (Christians) for the work of ministry, to build up the church. 

The job of the pastors is to help us to do our job. Every single one of us are in ministry. Its their ministry to help us do our ministry. 

We need them. 

But they need us too. If this church was just made up of pastors, this church would be severely limited. Dysfunctional. Unhealthy. 

Pastor Joe pointed out to me a section in C.S. Lewis’, The Weight of Glory. Speaking about a household. 

“If you subtract any one member, you have not simply reduced the family in number; you have inflicted an injury on its structure. Its unity is a unity of unlikes.”

Every single Christian here has been given gifts. No matter how unqualified or ungifted you may feel, you are gifted. If you’re a Christian, you have gifts because you have the Spirit. And you are a gift. We need you! I need you!

Reason Three: Maturity without community is impossible.

13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

Notice it says, “Attain the unity of the faith.” Earlier it said, “maintain the unity of the Sprit” Is this a contradiction? This is an “already not yet, reality.” The Bible does this all the time. It present a true fact but then give us the reality that it hasn’t been fully realized. For example, Jesus is King and reigns over the whole world, yet the world is currently still broken. Jesus does reign but his reign wont been fully realized until Jesus’ Return. So we are all unified by the Spirit. But in another sense, we need to fight for more unity. Our unity both a fact and also a goal. 

Let’s look at the phrase, “To mature manhood.” I want to qualify that phrase for the ladies in here. This does not mean you need to be a man. The Bible uses metaphors to make a point. 

Ladies, you need to be comfortable becoming mature men, just like I need to be comfortable being a pure bride. This does not strip us of our unique gender identities, but its a way the Bible brings out realities. 

But let me simply sum up maturity in this passage. 

Maturity = Becoming like Jesus

Expanded: fully Knowing Jesus and fully becoming like him. (v. 13) 

Verse 14 shows us the opposite of maturity. 

14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 

Look at the word, schemes. The only other time the word, "Schemes" is used in this letter is in Ephesians 6:11. "Put on the full armor of God, so that you can withstand the schemes of the devil." 

The Devil is tailor-making schemes just for us. Trying to get us to see ourselves, to see others, to see God wrongly. Not just schemes but deceitful schemes. 

Think about the word deceit. Do we know when we are deceived? Answer: No. That’s part of the definition of being deceived. We don’t know. The scary thing is that at this moment, I have blind spots. The way I view God, myself, and others is imperfect. 

That is why v. 15 is so needed. 

15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

The word literally says, “Truthing in love.” There’s no word for speaking there in Greek. So I believe it is both word and example.

I think the phrase, “In love” was included because there are some who use the truth as a club. They beat people with truth. Some of us have been beaten over by truth.  

Instead, we are truthing each other in love. I need you to truth me. We need each other to truth each other. 

Hebrews 3:13 

13But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

This is one of the reasons why Life groups are so important. We cannot meet everyday, but you can speak to your life group everyday. I need people to truth me everyday, lest I am deceived and my heart hardened.

When we meet with our CGs, LGs, and have our weekly Sunday gathering, we are detoxing ourselves. The truth unravels the lies that are fed to us all day by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are reminding ourselves of the Gospel. We are truthing one another now. I’m truthing you right now. Dave and the band have been truthing us with songs. You are truthing me as I hear you guys sing. We are truthed by our weekly assurance of pardon when we are reminded of the forgiveness we have in Christ.

These words are absolutely important, but being an example is also important. 

 

When my family and I first moved to Minnesota we lived in a5 bedroom house with 3 families. It was so hard but so good. One of the ways I was “truthed” was by Adam. If you remember, Adam Pohlman is a church planter in Rochester that our church supports. Adam convicted me by the way he loved his kids. He was on the floor playing with them a lot. He had 3 kids and worked as an engineer, yet played with them more than I did. Eventually I had to ask myself, “Why?” And it revealed deep levels of idolatry as I put ministry and school above my family. 

 

He truthed me to be a a better husband and dad without saying a word. 

We need to truth each other in both word and example. And usually examples can only come with close proximity. 

16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Note the words: “When each part is working properly.”The growth of the church is dependent on each part working. The church can only be all that its called to be when every one of us. everyone of us, is working properly. 

This is why online church can’t work. You can only grow so much without other people intimately in your life.

To be mature, we need the church. We need each other. We need leaders and we need members. If you are not intimately involved in community, your growth will be incomplete.

To sum it all up. Three reasons why we need to be in community: 1. We are a family. 2. The church needs you! 3. Maturity without community is impossible.

This is why we have CG’s, LG’s, and our weekly gathering. 

To those who are not Christians. . .

As we close, let me just first say, If you're not a member of God's family, you can be. And we want to welcome you as our brother or sister. You don't have to go through life aloneThis family is not a group of perfect people but broken people saved by a perfect savior. 

And you can have Jesus and his family, if you repent of your sins and put your trust in Jesus. Call upon him and you will be saved. And God will adopt you as a child. Amazing! 

To those who are not members of Cities Church. . .

May I encourage you to consider being a member.

The Foyer is coming up. It’s a great opportunity for those who are not part of the Cities family to take a good look at what we are about. 

Membership, LG’s, and CG’s is how the leaders and members at Cities church ensure that we can serve you. There is no perfect model, but its our best attempt to ensure we can care for you. It’s a great avenue to make sure you are constantly being truthed. 

But also, let me remind you, “We need you!” You are a gift. And you have gifts. And we need them in order for us to be all that God has called us to be. 

Allow me to address those who have been wounded by the church. Our most painful wounds are undoubtedly caused by people, yet paradoxically, the only way we can fully heal is within the context of community.

Churches should feel more like the waiting room for a doctor and less like a waiting room for a job interview. In the latter we all try to look as competent and impressive as we can. Weaknesses are buried and hidden. But in a doctor’s waiting room we assume everyone there is sick and needs help. And this scene is much closer to the reality of what is going on in church.
— Tim Keller

We want to be like that at Cities church. Let us be part of the healing process. 

To the Members of Cities Church. . .

The fact that 100% of our members are a part of a CG and LG is incredible! That's amazing that you would commit to that.

But how can we continue to grow? 

For those who are intimately involved in community and I was preaching to the choir. As Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not be weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap.”It’s worth it. Thank you for pouring into people and sharing your lives. It's painful but so worth it. 

Allow me to ask our church a tough question: Are we as committed to the maturity of those in our life as we are ourselves? Let me exhort you to be as committed to the maturity of the members of your life group as you are to yourself.

If you're tired and feel overwhelmed, don't take this as legalism or one more thing to add to your plate. We want you to be helped. Allow me to suggest a way of looking at community that may be different for some of us. 

I’m gonna paraphrase a story from the book Total Church.

Bob and Mary, who are involved in a church. Mary gives birth to twins. Bob and Mary are now dealing with babies who constantly need feeding and changing. In a program model of church, juggling the church ball alongside the new family responsibilities becomes impossible. Bob and Mary decide they will have to forget being involved in church activities on anything more than a minimal level for quite some time. So they make a unilateral decision to absent themselves from much of church life. 

In a community model, it is not only Bob and Mary’s issue when the babies are born. It is an issue for the whole church. So perhaps a couple of people go around early each morning to bathe the babies so Bob and Mary can have time together over breakfast. Or someone offers to take Bob to work for a few months so that on the way Bob can sleep or read his Bible, or they can pray together because Bob is not getting much chance to do these things at home. Bob and Mary may not be as involved in the church meetings, but they are more involved than ever in the life of the community

Isn’t that beautiful!? If you are overwhelmed, we want to be that for you. If you are feeling busier than ever, don’t cut community from your list. Press in. You need us and we need you more than ever. We are a family. We won’t do it perfectly so please hold on to Ephesians 4:2. 

Ephesians 4:2 

2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

What’s the ultimate goal of why we live in community? Ephesians 4:10 gives us the answer. 

“He (Jesus) who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.”

The church is the visible representation of Jesus’ reign. We are a taste of heaven on earth. When the world sees us, they should see a picture (imperfect as it may be) of Jesus. 

So let’s continue pressing on to fully know, fully become, and fully display Jesus for God’s glory and our good.