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Transforming the world through community

September 21, 2011

When Paul writes to the minority group in Ephesus, he is more than aware that they are under resourced, out numbered, working against the cultural norms and customs of the day. But he writes to this small group of people with absolute confidence that they can live lives that will change the community, a change so profound that people will say “you turn our world upside down” with their radical ideas.

What was in his instruction manual for making this revolution happen? Surprisingly, there are no techniques, no five easy steps for gaining influence in your community, nothing! Yet he expects that this little church plant will be able to anything – he tells them that they have access to a power that can achieve “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine”. So what was the secret of Paul’s confidence? It was simply this – these were a people who are connected. Connected to each other and connected to the love of God.

Both are important. We have grown used to living in a society that values the individual above the shared nature of society. For those old enough to remember we cite Mrs Thatcher as saying “there is no such thing as society”. But the roots go back much further than that to the enlightenment. This means that we hold our assumptions about the importance of me, my rights, my feelings, my possessions, my actions – to be much stronger than our assumptions and values about society, our value, my responsibilities towards all of us, your feelings, our shared spaces and possessions, what we do together. We have a need to relearn our basic outlook on life!

 

Paul writes in Ephesians http://bit.ly/opvXXC with the assumption that all his listeners were connected into family (or household) units, which is why he describes God as the `Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name`. He also talks about a shared faith, knowledge and experience `together with all the Lord’s holy people`. This is not written to me as an individual, so that I can do my best to understand the depths of God’s love. It is something we hold and do in common with other people. In fact it cannot make sense unless we understand this – how can I know love, unless I love others, how can I know acceptance despite all my failures unless someone else in the “body” the church expresses that to me. I can experience something at an emotional level but that is all – and that is woefully inadequate to know the fullness of “love”.

But, if I am connected into community, if I am able to share my life, my time, my stories, my possessions with a family to whom I truly belong – and will always be connected (rather than dipping into a congregation once a week, or belonging to a community for a few months) then I am able to know and be known, to love and be loved, to accept others and to be accepted – and the really cool bit is that the more I know who I am, and can be comfortable with myself, then the more I can relax and open up to others. The church plant in Ephesus could grow simply because it had committed and intentional relationships at the centre, that commitment allowed people freedom to bring others in from `outside`.

By knowing that they are loved by God, and by living this out in community, they had a power to change the world. I’d like some of that please Lord!

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