The grand narrative of Scripture features community. In the beginning, our triune God graciously gave community to Adam and Eve. But sin distorted and messed up the perfect community they shared. They lost the beauty of their nativity, and tension existed between them the rest of their days. Yet in His mercy, God pursued and established a new community—Israel. And through Christ, He pursued and established His Church. The end of the story has yet to be realized, but the promise of eternal and everlasting community will be fulfilled.
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3–4 ESV)
The community that believers will enjoy forever will be perfect. The community we experience now is a reflection of this ultimate and everlasting community; therefore, it must even now be savored, nurtured, fed, invested in. Churches that merely put on Sunday shows and don’t preach and practice community grounded in the gospel are a poor reflection of the eternal community promised for believers. Churches that fail to embrace the connection between the gospel and community merely stuff people into rooms around commonalities that can never stand the test of time. Churches that forget the essence of the gospel unintentionally allow false levels of righteousness to prohibit the liberating openness and authenticity that people need.
There is nothing stronger, nothing deeper, than the gospel on which to build community. Is the gospel what your church proclaims and practices as the foundation for community? It must be. Because community is only as strong as what it’s built upon.
Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and I are posting questions each month for church leaders to discuss with their teams. The content and questions are based on our book Creature of the Word. You can get the book here and access the monthly audit here.