Headlines from First Thoughts

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Created for Each Other

We were made for each other. This place we called First Baptist is the
fulfillment locally of the dream announced in Genesis 1, a community
living out God's creative work together. Our church completes the
mission announced to the Israelites: to be a light for the nations. The
folks at 1B demonstrate through our lives what Jesus commissioned: "Go
ye therefore and disciple." According to 1 John, by the way we conduct
ourselves with each other, we show what Christ's sacrifice looks like.

As Stanley Hauerwas suggests, the most important thing the world needs
from us right now politically, socially, spiritually, economically,
and relationally is to be this kind of church. In modern terms, that
means more than becoming a member of a church. Culturally, the word
"member" sounds more like a fraternity rush or a civic obligation
renewable because the group provides a service to us or is a good
cause to join. The Christian notion of membership, however, suggests a
lifestyle change. I am using this term as Wendell Berry does when
referring to the Port William community's membership. We are the kind
of people who "member (as a verb) one another, that when we're
together or apart, we take a piece of each other with us. The
difference is not between who is a member who and who isn't but who
knows it and who doesn't."

This month, through the lens of 1 John, I'm asking us to renew our
membership vows we made to God and to one another. Community life in
Christ is so different than the paths we were on that we need the
review occasionally. Baptists are good at backsliding into the old
habits of life before joining a community. We fall back into the
patterns of individualism, family life, club membership, self-help
books, friendliness, and random acts of kindness. All of these are
important, but none of them represent the church.

First Baptist Church is a Christ-formed community of shepherds who
move from saved individuals into a community of the forgiven. We take
all of our family ties and learn to grandparent one another in the
faith. We shirk off the self-help advice of bestsellers and engage the
culture with the mind of Christ. We move past friendliness into a
radical hospitality that shapes us as apprentices in love. We allow
the spirit to take our random acts of kindness and form us into a
vibrant community together.

None of this sounds very easy to do, but that's precisely why these
times ask us to thing differently about the commitments we have made
to each other. We were made for such a time as this.

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