As humans we desire community. We want to know people and be known. We Tweet to tell others about ourselves and follow others on Twitter to know them. Everywhere in our culture we are creating communities. From social media to coffee shops we have a desire as humans to be living in community with others. We want to have meaningful and lasting relationships with other humans. It is not different in the Christian community. We desire to be in community with one another. There is a lot of talk on what it means to have gospel-centered community. The concept is rooted in Scripture. As pastors, community group leaders, and church members, we need to understand gospel-centered community.
The Example of the Early Church
One of the best places to go to understand gospel-centered community is the book of Acts. Acts has been called the “the Church's missional hand-book.” Acts is the story of what a gospel-centered church looks like. It highlights the Holy Spirit’s empowerment in believers, proclamation of the gospel, conversion stories, persecution of the church, leaders being developed, churches being planted, and missionary journeys of the leaders of the church.
The book of Acts defines gospel-centered community as a community of believers who foster biblical teaching, prayer, worship, equality, generosity, shared experience, and mission. The fountain verses read:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. - Acts 2:42-47
1. Gospel-Centered Communities Devote Themselves to Biblical Teaching
The passage begins, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.”
A gospel-centered community is one where the inspired writings of the Scriptures are taught clearly, accurately, and continually. The driving force of community is the gospel that is revealed in the Scriptures. Gospel-centered communities continue to grow in their understanding of the Scriptures together.
2. Gospel-Centered Communities Pray Together
As the passage continues, we see the members of early church devoted themselves to “the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Gospel-centered communities pray with, and for, one another. They understand that God has the power to change situations and change peoples hearts. They understand that communion with God and one another is a special thing. Prayer doesn’t get the back burner in gospel-centered community. Rather, prayer becomes pivotal for gospel-centered communities.
3. Gospel-centered communities experience the power and awe of God
“And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.”
Those who are living in gospel-centered community start to experience the power of God and his miracles among them. This might make some people feel skeptical. You might ask “does God still do miracles today?” Answer: YES.
Numerous times in my community group at Vintage 21, we have seen God do awesome things. From saving a family member, to providing a job, and seeing bold prayers answered by our God. Gospel-centered communities become awed by the power of God among his people. They see things happen that only the Holy Spirit can do and in response are in awe of God's power.
4. Gospel-centered communities have everything in common
“And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”
Gospel-centered communities start to have the same God given interests. When a community of people become saturated by God’s gospel and God’s Spirit, they start to have the same common values. This doesn’t mean that everybody in the community group likes a certain food or sport. It means that they have Jesus in common. Jesus is their everything.
5. Gospel-centered communities are generous and sacrificial to one another
“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
This is a beautiful picture of a gospel-centered community. They understand that they have freely been given God’s grace, that they are stewards of his gifts. In response, they are generous to their brothers and sisters in need. They’re not selfish toward one another. Rather, ANY need became met.
6. Gospel-centered communities live life with one another
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their home.”
Communities that are saturated by the gospel actually live life together. They love one another, and meet with one another regularly. They eat meals, watch sports events, go on trips, attend church, get coffee, work out, and do other life activities with one another. They enjoy one anothers fellowship and friendship.
7. Gospel-centered communities are missional and reproduce
Finally, we find the early church “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Gospel-centered communities are not only inward but outward. They meet the needs of the city. They live on mission in their pocket of the city. They proclaim the gospel to there neighbors, co-workers, and friends. They live out the gospel among the city.
The amazing news is that God actually saves people! He starts to add more people to our communities. More people start to meet Jesus as we live on mission together as a community. What a gift that in Christ we receive all the community we desire. Now, ask God how your community can present the image of heavenly fellowship to your city.
Garrett Ventry is a church planting intern at Vintage 21 Church in Raleigh. He serves under the regional director of the Acts 29 Network's southeast region. He is also a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Megan live in Raleigh. Twitter: @GarrettVentry