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Gospel-revealing Communitiesby Duane Mabee on February 24, 2021
What kind of church community glorifies God the most, one where we all get along well because we have so much in common, or one where we all get along well even though we have almost nothing in common but Christ? According to Ephesians it is the second type. So why do churches spend almost all their efforts developing the first kind? Because the first type is more comfortable and pleasing to us.
Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop talk about “Gospel-revealing” church communities in their book The Compelling Community. They define gospel-revealing communities as those that are characterized by sincere loving relationships between people who have almost nothing in common other than Jesus. These relationships glorify Christ because the world cannot successfully replicate them.
Most churches develop their programs around what are known as “affinity groups”. Separate ministries are developed for singles, youth and senior adults. Groups are built around life stages and specific interests. There are separate groups for young married couples with kids and for those without. The sports enthusiasts go to certain ministries while the musicians are shuttled to others. Those struggling with addictions meet on a different night from those who don’t. There is nothing wrong with any of these types of groups. In fact, they can serve useful purposes. They don’t, however, display the gospel well because the world can and does easily create these same types of groups without the gospel.
Ephesians 2:14-15 teaches that the glory of Christ is displayed when through the gospel He makes one unified body (it literally says one person) out of people who hated each other because they had nothing in common. They had nothing in common racially, politically, culturally or religiously. They shared “nothing in common except for a centuries-old loathing for one another”. The authors go on to say that for a less extreme, modern-day parallel, we could think of the liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans in their own Washington, D.C. neighborhood. The truth and magnificence of the gospel is displayed best when Christ brings people that divergent together in sincere loving relationships.
Affinity groups are fine, but if all our relationships and ministries are built around them, we are not really showing the power of the gospel to those around us. All the world sees is a group that looks just like one the world can create.
I want to challenge you to look at your close relationships. Are they all with believers who look, talk, and vote just like you? If you don’t have any sincere loving friendships with Christians who have nothing in common with you outside of being saved by grace, through faith in Christ, you might be missing a significant opportunity to both experience and display the power of the gospel.