Four Simple Steps.
Tim Beck, New Church Start Team Chair, East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church
Youth Pastor, Christ United Methodist Church, Louisville, Ohio
Everybody needs somebody. Everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to be wanted. It’s plain and simple, isn’t it? We all know that. We’ve all felt that. At the end of the day acceptance is what mankind desires most. People want to be a part of something but more importantly, people want to be a part of something greater than themselves. People want and need community.
That begs the question: what is community? In short, community (among other things) is a group of people with common characteristics or “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
If we want to live up to the expectation to ‘build up the church’ and advance the Kingdom, then we have to start with community. We have to enable people to be a part of something. We have to be the connection, the glue, that binds us all together, with Christ at the center. Creating an environment for people to interact with each other and with God might be the single most important building block of the church.
We must not forget what Christ did best: He built community and established relationships with ‘the least of these’; He discipled the disciples, loved the unlovable and reached the unreachable. How can we do the same? I propose an ethos of four simple steps that each of us can take - with hopes of building genuine community that compels people to follow the way of Jesus.
Love God and people (Matthew 22:28-40). No exceptions. It’s the greatest commandment, after all.
Create and inspire others to connect with God. Made in the image of God, man can use creativity to inspire and help others connect with God through interactive, out-of-the-box methods. Because of creativity, we are made new (Ephesians 4:24).
Share your story and God's story. The Good news should be shared through words and actions. St. Francis said 'Preach often, if necessary, use words.' Whatever the method, share your stories with others and along the way share God's story of love and redemption. Help others see the connection between their story and God’s story. May our stories inspire generosity and genuine community as we share the truth of the cross.
Respond to the needs of others and to the call of Christ. Ecclesiastes 4:9-1o says 'pity a man who falls and has no one to help him up.' Strive to become aware of the needs of others. Remember that Jesus said 'whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me and whatever you have not done to the least of these, you have not done to me.' Aim for selfless, not selfish community.
This is what I hope the Spirit of any community will be. Now comes the challenge to 'live it out.' Take the steps. Build community. Grow the church.