Five Celebrations of a Missional Community: Part One
A Missional Community exists to celebrate Christ in our community as a family.
Did you know that? Maybe this answer doesn't surprise or overwhelm you, or it may be that it is the definition you have long been waiting for! Why do we focus so much energy and effort into Missional Communities? What is the essential intent of a group?
This is a question I had as our family came for the first time in the summer of 2010. And I know that guests and visitors struggle to fully grasp this focus. If this is a vehicle for discipleship, a means to an end, what does the vehicle bring? What is the end?
The lessons we have learned as a church have helped us to further hone in on a clear and definitive explanation of life together in community. It boils down to one word: celebration. We hope that as people gather together to celebrate Christ, they find deep and meaningful relationships, they use their gifts and resources to further God's kingdom, they see people come to faith in Christ, and become more and more like Christ.
These are what we celebrate together as a community, and in this series of posts we will pick this all apart. The intent here is to help us as a church better understand not just the priorities, but the things that get us excited as we gather in our groups. Defining group intent and priority as celebration flows from Israel's feasts and festivals, meant to remember and find joy in God's faithfulness. And, as those indwelt by the Spirit, joy in Christ is ours despite our circumstances and struggles.
Lord willing, this will inform how we invite people into our groups, how we welcome them as they show up, and how we do life together.
We will study five celebrations, starting with celebrating Christ. We will also look at celebration connections, cultivation, conversion, and change. A Missional Community celebrates, and celebrating these things is where we will find meaning, identity, purpose while we worship our Lord.
Missional Communities Celebrate Christ
God has made us to be celebratory people. In creation, God saw that everything he had made was very good, and having finished his work he rested. As he made Adam, and made Eve, Adam celebrated in song: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." - Genesis 3:23
But the party was soon over as Adam failed to lead Eve and Eve was deceived by the serpent. Sin had entered the world, and our worshipful, celebratory tendencies were not turned off but redirected. Rather than worshiping and enjoying God, we have now turned to worshiping and celebrating ourselves and this world.
As God's redemptive purposes continued to work in and through Israel, they would participate in a series of feasts and festivals, strewn throughout the year and lasting for days on end. The overarching purpose was to celebrate the faithfulness of God. They remembered the celebrations, then they forgot, then they remembered again. As the people of God were exiled into Assyria and Babylon, the celebrations ceased.
This present domain of darkness in which we live loves to party, but the objects of the celebration are anything but Christ. This is what we are used to, enjoying that which our God hates, exalting ourselves over others and above God, finding meaning, purpose, and identity on our own.
But. Despite our distorted affections, despite our sinful idolatry, Christ has died for us (Romans 5:8). He took the penalty of our false worship and self-exaltation upon himself. The Creator and Sustainer of all things went to the cross, reconciling all things to himself, bringing peace by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20).
As those delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the beloved Son, we now find endurance, patience, joy, and thankfulness (Colossians 1:11-14). As the Spirit awakens us to new life, we find love and joy and peace now marking our disposition, among other wonderful traits (Galatians 5:22-23).
Life together in Missional Community, then, is celebratory. We celebrate Christ in his supremacy, the Word made flesh dwelling among us (John 1:1-18). The image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation, the One through whom all things were created, and for whom all things were created (Colossians 1:15-16).
And he is before all thigns, and in him all things hold together. - Colossians 1:17
We celebrate his sufficiency, the One who was born of a virgin, lived a perfect and sinless life, always doing that which was pleasing to his Father (John 8:29). He died a violent death, though he did not deserve it. By his wounds we are healed. He took the full cup of God's wrath for his people, saying, "It is finished" in John 19:30.
But death could not hold him, the grave could not restrain him! He rose again, defeating death and giving new life to his people (Romans 6:4)! He ascended to the right hand of the Father, and continues to intercede for us as we await his return (Hebrews 7:25).
The celebration of Christ means that as we gather together, the words we use with one another come back to his supremacy as God, and his sufficiency as Savior. We talk about him, both informally as we have opportunity and formally as we study the Scriptures.
As you are sitting around the dinner table at your next Missional Community gathering, consider how those around you are celebrating Christ. Seek to know their lives in such a way where you can see the degree to which the supremacy of Christ is present, that the sufficiency of his life, death, and resurrection are enough, or where they find these wonderful truths lacking.
Breaking into discussion is a chance to see how God has revealed his Son to us through the word, whereby together you can have a shared experience of joy in Christ. How does the passage we are studying tonight help us to celebrate Jesus, to see his supremacy as God, to study his sufficiency as Savior?
All passages we study together point us to Christ (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39). Therefore, discussion is about celebrating Christ as he has been revealed in whatever passage we are diving into! When we are struggling with the brokenness of our hearts and the brokenness of the world, we point to Christ as the rock upon which we have built our lives, where we find the strength to endure (Matthew 7:24-27). As we behold the glory of the Lord together in discussion, we will be transformed by the Spirit into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Colossians 3:10).
As you participate in discussion, consider the following questions.
How do the things I share about him contribute to his worship and praise in myself and others? How am I struggling to celebrate Christ, and how can I invite others in my group to pray for and help me? How can I draw out of people in discussion the ways in which I can help them celebrate Christ? What follow-up questions can I ask of people when they are sharing?
When someone shares a new way in which they are seeing Christ, do you stop and point out how amazing that is?
We can boil it down to this: are you celebrating Christ? And are you helping others around you to celebrate Christ?
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and yoru life is hidden with Christ in God. - Colossians 3:1-3
To seek here entails going after something you desire, and setting your minds is to give serious thought and consideration to something. Missional Communities are places where together we set our affection and attention upon Jesus Christ. He is victorious, seated at the right hand of the Father, continuing to intercede for us, to transform us, and to comfort us. We need one another to help remind us of this wonderful reality for us as those raised with Christ.
If he is the basis of our faith, the foundation of our lives, the joy of our hearts, then your worshipful posture will weave its way into your relationships with others.
A Missional Community celebrates Christ, in our community, as a family.
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