In our day, there is a lot of talk about spirituality as a solo journey of seeking individuals on a pathway toward God. And, we are told, there are a variety of techniques that help along the way. From chanting to meditation, techniques abound that promise the solitary individual everything from attaining peace to transcendental bliss.
Turn to the New Testament, and it quickly becomes appairent that the “spiritual practices” of the early church were not individual, but communal.
“Those who believed were baptized and added to the church—about three thousand in all. They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.” (Acts 2:41-42)
In this snapshot of the early church we see vital connections though shared learning (“the apostles teaching”), shared relationships (“fellowship”), shared meals (“breaking of bread”) and shared spirituality (“the prayers”).
In all this sharing, the loving connection shared within the Trinity and brought into the world by Jesus is demonstrated and experienced by disciples through community in the world.
This month at Redwood Covenant Church, we are launching mid-sized Community Groups for fellowship and mission. In doing so, we are doing what was obvious to the early church, namely, that our growth as individuals is inextricably connected to a community of disciples in relationship to one another because of their relationship to God through Jesus.
Life in Christ is life together. And that communial dynamic is important not only for our growth, but also for our witness.
Each Community Groups at Redwood has a defined mission focus that works in two ways. On one hand, each Community Group will plan and do mission adventures together. On the other hand, each Community Group will invite people into their Community Group to give them an experience of Christian Community.
We introduced Community Groups three weeks ago at Redwood. Since then, over 500 people are signed up for one of the 14 Community Groups at Redwood. This is very exciting, and it’s just the beginning of a new thing, that is really an old thing that goes back to the earliest church. By tapping the DNA of the early church we are reclaiming a simplicity of discipleship that sometimes gets lost. Fellowship – sharing life together, and mission – sharing God’s love with others, are vitally important ways our faith is formed in and through community.