At CityLight we are determined to create a culture of Gospel-centrality within our Communities. This was a major focus of the first church. We believe that it is in the community that we are able to show the true outcome of a Gospel-centered life; a passion to reach people for the hope found only in Jesus Christ. In this article, we will dive into what these types of communities are devoted to.
Gospel-Centered Community of Believers
In Acts 2, the first church explodes onto the scene when the Spirit fills the Apostles at the Feast of Pentecost. Three thousand people come to know the love of Christ through Peter’s sermon. The Spirit’s work of redemption was accomplished through Peter’s words, but the people’s journey was just beginning. The new believers knew very little about what it meant to follow Christ, much less, about the community created through it. How did the early church fill this void? They developed the exact thing we are trying to create at CityLight; a Gospel-centered community of believers as described in Acts 2:42.
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
Devoted to Doctrine
The desire for knowledge and transformation through Christ was imperative for these men, women, and families. They spent their days pouring over the teachings of the Apostles. They knew that growth could only come from learning and knowing Christ. Correct doctrine and true understanding of God’s word will always be the cornerstone of a Gospel-centered community. Without it, there is no clear standard on how to live generously, love one another, or grow in wisdom. It has to be what the community continually comes back for, “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Without this devotion, the body of believers will fall into disunity.
True fellowship is essential in the first church’s community. These new believers truly represented the modern phrase “doing life together.” Not only did they share meals together daily, but they were also in the temple regularly worshiping and praising God. These two acts of fellowship combined with their constant focus on God created an environment where authentic relationships were created. These relationships transcended the normal niceties found in most modern churches and found themselves at a place of intimacy. It’s this kind of relationship that David had with Jonathan. When David discovered that Jonathan had died he said,
“I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women (2 Samuel 1:16).” David here is saying that his relationship with Jonathan was personal and it reached a level of intimacy that well surpassed anything physical. Jonathan was someone David trusted. He was someone he would have laid his own life down for. He was someone that David knew could carry the weight of his burdens. There is the kind of relationships that were embodied by the first church and it has to be the kind of relationships that CityLight strives for.
They were dedicated to prayer. When people begin to pray together and seek God’s wisdom and guidance, something changes in their hearts and minds. Our prayers begin to become less about selfish desires and more about the Kingdom of God. That is the purpose of prayer. Prayer allows us time, not to align God with our desires, but to align our desires with God’s. This is key for continuing the growth and success of a gospel-centered community. Each person that walks into a community walks in with their own baggage and their own backgrounds and opinions. Those feelings left in the wrong context are capable of disrupting fellowship by creating factions and division. However, those backgrounds cultivated by the unity and vision of God can add a much-needed element to the work that is already in progress. Prayer that allows us to do that. When the whole body of believers is praying for God’s will, it stops being about us. Prayer is what gives us vision and unity. It is how we can accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God.
In conclusion, I want to focus on the word “devoted.” It’s in this word that reality sets in. If these things were easy to accomplish this phrase would be unnecessary. If a community coming together and life change were easy, then there would be nothing to be devoted to. This phrase shows that this process can be extremely difficult. Creating a Gospel-centered community comes with all kinds of bumps and bruises along the way, but the leaders of these communities must continually be devoted to the work. It is our job to see that discipleship happens and those people are growing daily in their understanding of the word of God.
Fellowship is hard because relationships are hard. People don’t naturally see eye to eye and there will be innumerable amounts of conflict that will have to be resolved. People also come with sin issues and immaturities that will need to be worked out. That means that you will regularly need to work with people to help them outgrow character traits that are deeply woven into who they are. If you are not devoted to loving people well and getting in the “spiritual muck” with them, then the community will not survive. Prayer is hard because as wicked people, we don’t want to seek God’s face. We don’t want to change our views and emotions. We don’t want to forgive. We don’t want to pray for good things for those who have hurt us. It has to be something we are devoted to because if not, it will become something that we only do piously over dinner or before a church service. If our gospel communities are not dedicated to these three things, then we will never obtain the end of chapter 2. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” It is that goal that is central in a Gospel-centered community. This goal is what CityLight strives for, and God will receive all the glory and the honor for the increase.