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Ep. 21 My Church Doesn’t Do Community Well – I’m Struggling

Shows Main Idea – A church that is doing community well is one where the pastor(s) asks the congregation to imitate him and wife, which begins with what the pastor and his wife are behind closed doors–the truest reality check for who they really are.

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Show Notes

If the gospel is modeled in their private lives, the church can have a gospel-centered-koinonia-culture. If they are not this in their private lives, the church cannot be what the leadership is not–except for a few exceptional outliers with that local body.

The Reason Behind this Podcast: I produced this podcast because I received another long email yesterday from a person who is struggling with the lack of community in her local church. She is one in a long list of emailers about this problem. While there may be hundreds of angles to the “lack of community” problem in a local church, I only dealt with one in this podcast: the leaders of the church. The reasons I did this are because…

  • It’s important. Probably the most important angle of all.
  • We live in a preaching-centered world, which has been popularized by the plethora of social media opportunities to listen to the “best” preachers.
  • Too many of these “best” preachers have been disqualified from ministry for character related issues that preexisted long before they were caught publicly.

Doing community well in a local church is every person’s challenge. The beginning of that challenge starts with the leadership. Your leaders are the pace-setters, the examples, the modelers of what the church should be. Ephesians 5:1, 1 Corinthians 11:1, and Philippians 4:9 are essential “imitating” verses that all pastors should be practicing.

Though they (or us) will never perfect this practice of imitating Jesus, the presence of the practice is non-negotiable if they are going to lead well. And the most important place for this kind of Christ-modeling to be happening is in their private lives.

Essential Reading

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires. – Ephesians 4:22

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. – Genesis 3:7

All churches are the same in that we all struggle with Adamic tendencies: shame, guilt, fear, and self-reliance. (There are many more.)

What sets a church apart starts with the pastor (or pastors) of the church. This means the pastor and his wife (one flesh) because they represent the community the church will most closely imitate.

Community (koinonia) assessment is not about these things:

  • Do they understand the gospel?
  • Are the feeding all of Africa?
  • Are they crushing missional initiatives in the community?
  • Are they the best preachers in town?
  • Are they the most popular preachers?

Modeling of the gospel must precede the teaching of the gospel or the gospel will be marginalized.

Community assessment begins with the character of the pastor in 1 Timothy 3:1-7

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer

  1. must be above reproach,
  2. the husband of one wife,
  3. sober-minded,
  4. self-controlled,
  5. respectable,
  6. hospitable,
  7. able to teach,
  8. not a drunkard,
  9. not violent but gentle,
  10. not quarrelsome,
  11. not a lover of money.
  12. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
  13. He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
  14. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Unfortunately, we put the big data point on his ability to preach

A vital key when doing leadership assessment

  • Begins with his wife
  • Next, are his children (if he has any)
  • Then you assess the husband (pastor)

A husband is from husbandman, which is a tiller of the soil, or what we say today is a gardener. The most objective data point in a pastor’s life, as far as his community skill set is concerned, is how he relates to his wife. She has received more of his relational care, communication skill, restorative help, and Christian experience than any other human in the world.

A short list of reciprocal community qualities of a good pastor and wife

  • Do they like each other? Not the public side you see, but do you know that you know that you know that they have cuddling (optional for sincere non-cuddlers), warm, kind, gentle, always repenting, affectionate gospel love for each other when they are alone?
  • Do they want to be with each other? If they could pick one person to go off with, both of them would pick the other as their first choice.
  • When they look at each other, a warm affection is perceived between them.
  • They are quick to repent after they offend each other because it grieves them more than any other person that they offend.
  • They think of their spouse at random times during the day.

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do;

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Average, but exceptional

  • The preaching may be average.
  • But they (pastor and wife) are exceptional at a private, personal community.
  • If so, the culture of the church may not be at the “community level” of the pastor and his wife, but there is a strong chance that local church will enjoy true, authentic, repenting community unity. The only way it will get there is if the leadership is modeling the gospel.

Exceptional, but average

  • He can teach perfectly.
  • He can exegete a text like nobody’s business.
  • He can be dynamic, winsome, charismatic, theologically precise, and well-followed.
  • But if his marriage is not a resemble, maturing version of what I have described, your church cannot have an overall koinonia culture…or even a trajectory that leads to that kind of gospel-centered living.

There will outliers in your church who get it and model it, but it will not and cannot be the majority report. The congregation will not rise above what is modeled behind the closed doors of the leadership.

You Have Four Options:

  1. Accept the community culture of your church while modeling the gospel as outlined here, while accepting the fact that you may always be an outlier.
  2. Ask God to lead you to a pastor and wife who get the gospel in more than “word” only, which can be examined and determined by being with them over a period of time.
  3. You cannot sin against your church.
  4. If you just can’t find community, we are not a replacement for the church, but you are welcome to be part of our community.
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