You are invited in!

I met my wife when I was 16 years old in the same youth group I went to camp with in Colorado. Before I truly started to follow Jesus, I had stepped out of that world for a couple of years, but I started back after Jesus picked me out. 

A group of kids invited me into their community, and they would trek out to my wife’s parent’s house week after week. Her family lived on 80 acres about 30 miles south of the KC metro area. It was mostly young men who made up this group, and we all pretended to be there for the clean, country living.

But my wife is pretty good looking, so I’ll let you do the math. Somehow, I outlasted those guys, she chose me, and thirty years later, we’re married with 4 awesome kids.

The point of sharing this story for you isn’t to brag about winning my wife (but since we’re on the subject…), but to bring back the topic I raised in my last post. 

Jesus picked you.

It is a pattern Jesus repeats throughout the gospels. He picked men and women out. Then Jesus invited them into community – just like that group of kids invited into the community where I met my wife. Finally, Jesus called those people up to greater things.

In the Gospel of Luke (5:1-11), Jesus picked Peter out from a community of fisherman. Jesus initially asked to borrow Peter’s boat to teach a large crowd gathered around the lakeshore. When Jesus is done teaching, he instructs Peter to push the boat out a little further and drop his nets for a catch. 

Peter, a life-long fisherman, is reluctant. This wasn’t the ideal time of day to fish, but he obeys Jesus’ persistence. To Peter’s surprise (and shame), Jesus performs the miracle of bringing in a two-boat-full haul of fish. 

Jesus invites us in.

Jesus picked Peter out from among the crowd, but he didn’t end there. He went on to invite him into a community. Jesus starts by using the guys already with Peter. In the midst or trying to haul in the massive catch, Luke records there was “a shout for help [that] brought their partners in the other boat…”  (Luke 5:7).

Following Jesus’ famous words to Peter (”From now on you’ll be fishing for people!”  -Luke 5:10), he doesn’t follow Jesus alone. Peter leaves with his friends and business partners, James and John. Luke tells us, 

“His partners…were also amazed…And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.”  -Luke 5:10-11

Jesus hasn’t just picked you out. He is inviting you into community. Again, this is the pattern of Jesus. He picks us out, but then Jesus invites us into relationship. Of course, the relationship is with himself and the Father and the Spirit, but it also is the community of Jesus’ followers locally and around the world. 

Invited in. Invited into community.

So if Jesus has invited us into this community, it’s important to know both what community is and why community matters.

What is community?

Community is the Church. That is Church with a capital ‘C’ – the global church. The church is global, but community takes place in the local church. It is not uncommon to hear someone say something like, “I love Jesus, but I’m not really into church.” They may go onto say, “The church is just too hypocritical.”

I won’t try to argue those statements, but I will share two points why those aren’t reason enough to abandon the local church.

1. We are told to meet.

“Let us not stay away from church meetings. Some people are doing this all the time. Comfort each other as you see the day of His return coming near.”  -Hebrews 10:25

Scholars aren’t sure who wrote the book of Hebrews, but whoever wrote it couldn’t have made this point any more clear. Keep meeting. Church matters.

There are lots of reasons to meet with other believers on a regular basis, but the writer of Hebrews lists one here – comfort. We need community when times are tough. This pandemic season has been really hard, but those who have a strong community (both in-person and virtual) are the ones both making it through and thriving in the midst of difficult times.

2. The church equips us and builds us up.

“Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”  -Ephesians‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Apostle Paul wrote the book of Ephesians, and in chapter four Paul talks a lot about the church. He calls for unity because we need one another. We need one another because all of us have different gifts and talents from God. 

He begins to wrap this passage up with the above verse. The church (specifically the different people with their unique gifts who make up the church) equip us and build us up. Paul goes on to say when we are equipped and built up, we are mature and strong in our faith.

Church is more than a Sunday morning meeting. In the modern American church, it is hard to find community in a weekly gathering of several hundred or thousand people. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to find community in that setting. More than likely, if you attend a large church, you will find true community in separate gatherings of smaller groups (10-15) of people. If you want to really grow as a follower of Jesus, you will find spiritual life in a small community group.

Why does community matter?

As a believer in Jesus, you are invited into this type of community. If I haven’t already convinced you of it’s importance, let me give you three more reasons why community matters.

1. Community comes to your aid.

In the Hebrews passage, we saw that one purpose of the church is to comfort one another. In the story of Jesus and Peter, we see Peter’s community coming to his aid when the catch of fish overwhelmed him and his boat.

I experienced this first hand when Kia required major surgery earlier this year. My church community came around us to provide meals, help with kids, and be with her when I couldn’t. Our community came to our aid.

Who will come to your aid

2. Community walks with you.

When Peter walked away from his life as a fisherman, he didn’t need physical help, he needed the comfort of someone walking with him. We saw how his friends James and John also left their work as fisherman to walk with Peter.

During this last two years of stress, I’ve needed people to simply walk alongside me and listen to my frustrations. They’ve needed me to do the same with them. I needed people to be with me; nothing more could be done.

Who is walking with you?

3. Community knows you. 

I recently listened to a podcast with rapper, poet, speaker, Jackie Hill Perry, and her husband (also a poet), Preston. In the podcast, they spoke about handling fame. 

Fame, of course, is very subjective. What I experience as fame may be different than what you would experience. Both of our experiences will never match what Kanye knows as fame. Within this context, fame simply means being known for a gift or talent outside of who I really am as a person.

More than likely, you are famous at your work. In other words, you are known for the gift you have to do your job, but it is completely separate from who you truly are. In this podcast, Jackie Hill Perry said this, 

“My gifting always outshines my character.”

It was so powerful that I stopped the podcast, paused the walk I was on, and I made a note of it in my phone. Seen only through the eyes of my abilities, you will believe I am a better person than I really am. My gifting always outshines my character.

Because of this, I need a community of people around me who know me…truly know me. I need them to bring me back to reality. I need them to point out my short comings, and encourage me to be better.

Who truly knows you?

Picked out. Invited in. Called up.

Jesus picked you out. Jesus also invited you into this type of community. I admit, it’s not always easy. Sometimes the humanity of Christians interferes with their Christ-likeness. I implore you not to keep you from finding community.

Jesus has invited you in, so you can be built up. Even more important, Jesus has invited you in, so you can be called up to greater things. 

This is what Jesus does.

He picks us out. He invites us in. He calls us up.

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