Last night I enjoyed a great evening with some good friends whom I've known for more than 20 years. They are part of the community of believers I've been connected to in Dumaguete City (the central Visayan region of the Philippines), our home of 15 years. Food is usually found in almost every gathering of Filipino's, but it's the people gathered who are most important. It's one of the many things I love about Filipino culture and why this place (Dumaguete City) remains home to my wife, Susan, and I, along with our two daughters who spent 18 years here.
We have been part of the community at our church (Calvary Chapel Dumaguete City), the community within the ministry we founded and still oversee (Rainbow Village Ministries), and the greater community of Dumaguete City. This includes another ministry established in 1995 (CCTC) that I continue to be a part of, which extends beyond Dumaguete throughout the Philippines and into Thailand through the students I had the privilege of teaching over the years. The church, God's church, is not a building or institution, but an extended family—it's a community of believers.
I say all of this as an introduction to the following excerpt from my soon-to-be-available book (hopefully next month!). It's now at the printer, and I'll announce when it's available to the public! Thanks for reading, as always!
The practicality of Christianity is by design—God’s design—not an institution or spiritual leader. It is similar to God’s purpose for the natural world around us. The apostle Paul says all of us are able to know God, “For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God” (Rom 1:19-20 NLT).
How are people a vector? God has chosen to put His presence and power within believers, who become living declarations of Him—His agents, His personal emissaries. He began with one man, Abraham, and his descendants who became the nation of Israel. He sent His Son so all people could be included within His family. God’s purpose for His church is to be a worldwide community of believers, as expressed by the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10 GW.
The gist of what Peter says is simple—as a person is personally related to Jesus, he or she becomes part of a larger community of believers. Jesus is the core of this community. He transforms lives from darkness into rays of light within the darkness of this world. Though the world may reject God and His Son, this community of believers become a people special to God and treasured by Him.
God builds His kingdom within each believer, and within the community of believers. It is a kingdom of light. This light penetrates the surrounding darkness. The light of God shines through this community as they live to honor the One who accepts them as His own treasured people.
But howdoes this take place? The first step is to knowGod—develop a personal relationship with God by faith. If a person believes God exists, and that He responds to us as we seek Him—God will honor that faith.[i]It’s also important to learn who Jesus is—the Son of God who came into this world. The four Gospels are the best place to start—they contain the very words and works of Jesus.[ii]
The Christian faith is not to be lived alone, but in community with other believers. Community begins by connection with God and His people, the church family. Each believer needs to be part of a greater community of believers. This brings an identity and belonging with others who have the same Father. It is an interdependent relationship as demonstrated by the early believers, which is seen in Acts 2:42-47 GW.
Which church community should you join? The important thing is joining other believers who choose to live in humility and genuineness while honoring God—people with whom you can build healthy relationships. The Holy Spirit who lives in you and in them will give you an inner witness (by His Spirit) where you belong, and confirm it in your heart. Each person needs to intentionally seek this out.
Are you part of God's family, God's community? It's an extended family that reaches around the world and beyond.