What holds your community together? What makes it tick? What forces you to get together and fosters conversations throughout the week? What is the dominant topic of conversation? Why do you exist? We all know the answer is supposed to be Jesus, but what is real? By center I mean the thing that causes your community to exist, gather, and share life. The center is the thing that forms and binds your community. What is the center of yours:
- Is the neighborhood or your geography in the center?
- Is the “model” central? What about a leader? Spiritual gifts?
- Is it rules you believe in?
- Is it the rules you collectively reject?
- Is the Bible the center?
- Is sin the center?
- Is social justice the center?
- Is a common interest, or stage of life holding you together?
- Is it a meal that you plan?
- Is it a time each week?
- Is the gospel central?
It is easy for your center to shift away from Jesus. It is easy for your community to be held together by the gospel one week only to shift toward a weekly dinner party and meal planning group the next. It is deceitful, too. You can be doing wonderful things without Jesus and not realize it, until you are exhausted and disenchanted. Which is why the New Testament writers seem so keen to write so much about who Jesus is and what he has done. They seem to think the beginning point of any interaction with believers is to remind them of the gospel and call them to place it at the center.
Many of the issues of community and mission are clarified and solved when Jesus is the center. When a group exists because Jesus died and rose again for it. When a group proclaims that to each other in the normal flow of life. When a community sees Christ’s humility and service in the gospel. When these things happen, the meals tend to take care of themselves. Motivation for mission becomes simple. Communities with Jesus at the center, confess sin and repent. Geography becomes less of an issue. Being with people who aren’t like you, your age, or in your stage of life, is a joy.