The Church Is a Flourishing Community John 15:1-7

BestWe begin a series of sermons on the theme The Church Is at Its Best When.  I will name seven of the ways the church shines it brightest.  By church,I mean the church with the capitalC’; including churches of all flavors.  While we like some better than others, we refrain from finding fault in others, lest we don’t see our own shortcomings.  

It gets fuzzy only talking about the capital ‘C’ church if we don’t talk about the smallC’ church, the one we know best.  We cant control what other churches say or do, but we can live in covenant with one another in such a way, we offer the world a picture of what the church can be when we are at our best.  I lift up one of these seven ways on this day, and over the next six Sundays convinced that when FUMC, Irving is at our best in these ways we influence for good by being good at being our best.  

I speak positive words about the church in a time when people are lamenting what’s wrong with the church.  I hope to speak a word to those giving up on God because of they have been hurt by church.  I will do this by recapturing the idea of the church being a community of faith.  Perhaps describing who we’re and what are meant to be can help people who are stuck because of past hurts they experienced in a church.  Community of Faith

We’re community of faith, not defined by geography or demographics; making us only a reflection of who attends the church or our neighbors who live nearby.  A community of faith is a group of people living out their faith together; modeling the best behaviors to both those inside these walls and to our neighbors outside these walls.  We live our faith for the sake of each other, because we care about each other. 

For example, we want our church to be a hospitable place; not an enclave that only protects itself.  Thus, if we’ve a playground for our children at the church, our neighbors have a playground for their children.  If we’ve a Fellowship Hal lf or church events, our neighbors have a hall for community nonprofit events.  If we have benches for prayer, our neighbors dont have to worry if we will check their credentials before sitting on them

FUMC IrivingOur church buildings have walls and our property has boundaries, but we’ve lots of doors and driveways.  We don’t hide from the outside; protecting ourselves because we feel threatened.  This is not only a fortress for the faithful who are holding on in a survival mode.  We won’t let our fears choke us until we die.  We’re building a hospitable community; trusting God with our lives and fortunes.  So, we engage the world with love;driving out fear; turning strangers into friends

A community of faith models the best of what God intends.  We the people of FUMC, Irving are a community faith; living our life together for the sake of each other and all our neighbors.  These seven qualities can serve as our biblical criteria for what it looks like to be at our best.  Let’s turn to the first one.

First, a community of faith is at its best when it is flourishing.  John 15 says, I am the vine,you are the branches.Those who abide in me bear much fruit. Abide in my love.  These verses speak of a spiritual community of faith rooted in Christ Jesus that grows by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus draws on along tradition of Israel as God’s vineyard.  He builds on this organic metaphor to talk about his relationship to his own disciples and to those of us who would be the disciples who make up the Body of Christ.  Vine and Branches

Flourishing community of faith is rooted in eternity. We’re built to last, founded on one who didnt last three days in the grave.  We’re not preoccupied with the shortterm.  We don’t worry about squirming children in our pews; knowing seeds of faith are being planted.  We ask our youth to listen to calling of the voice of God; assuring them they can discern their vocation and avocation in this place.  We pay careful attention to what is taught week by week; trusting what goes in the head shapes our hearts.  

EternityThe shelf life ofFortune500 companies is short.  They grow fast and fade within a generation.  They think quarterly time frame, not 50-yearincrements.  A community of faith thinks generationally; keeping in mind we’re at working to flourishing community of faith for the sake of building up an eternal kingdom.

A flourishing community of faith will grow. We are dynamic, not static; we’re to be about increase, not preservation.  If we are rooted in Christ and drawn outward by the Spirit,we will grow as a community of faith.  Growing doesnt mean just numbers.  There are churches in declining communities that can’t grow numerically, yet they thrive because they do what they can,where they are.  A genuine measure for a flourishing community of faith is that we will grow in numbers too.

Our church is in the 13th largest city in Texas.  We’re the 94th largest city in the United States.  We live in town where we don’t have to go far to find many people because of the density of Irving Texas.  We have few excuses for not growing both spiritually and numerically as new people find their faith and place among us at FUMC, Irving.Mustangs Irving

Flourishing community of faith can feel out of our control.  A community of faith can change in ways we might not have expected.  We don’t change for change sake, but all growth involves change that begins deep within and eventually shows all about.  Spiritual changes grow out of our inward life Christ as we root ourselves to the Vine, so the Spirit can stimulate outward growth.  We flourish in ways to be more like Christ.  IT will be like the Vine as we change to what we are meant to be.  Yet, when the changes happen and we see the growth, we will look back and know we were not in control. 

We have some flourishing trumpet vines at home that are a bit untamable.  Terri gives it her best to keep them tied to the trellises, but they usually manage to break free.  When it comes time to prune them, it’s hard to judge which branch is more vital than the other branches because they are all flourishing; which makes it difficult to control them. 

Trmpet vineWe are to encourage growth and cooperate with change.  People are not trumpet vines, so we have to fight our protective urge to control growth and change of God’s children.  Something flourishes because it’s connected to the Vine, Jesus, who gave himself away in a wild and untamable ways so others might flourish.  Flourishing means growth, growth means change, and change has wildness about it.

A flourishing community of faith is patient.  We don’t all grow in the same way or at the same pace.  If you knew me at age 22,you might think how I did I get to be your pastor.  Many parishioners were patient with me, allowing me to grow at the pace that was right for me because it was the pace Christ had for me.  What about you at 22?

An agave plant is cactus with a strange growth pattern.  It shows few signs of being anything more than a small leafy bush for 15to 20years.  Suddenly,a mast shoots up, like a flowering pole and reaches up to 15feetin a three-week span.  It’s full of seeds that fall and reproduce.  When the seeds have been spread it dies; having done its job.  If we give up on an agave plant too soon, well miss its flourishing moment.  Agave

Flourishing communities are patient communities; allowing everyone and everything to grow at its own pace.  Those who have grown more quickly have a spiritual responsibility to help them name the growth that flourishes within and without.  We are to allow the Spirit to work on others who are growing in a gentle way without our alienating them for not being on pace, that takes patience.  

A flourishing community is powerful.  Our power isn’t like the familiar ways of power we employ at the expense of others.  We don’t use power to hinder those who differ with us or because they are different.  We don’t make enemies to justify a means for an end.  The power of a faith community is sourced in God, who is love.  Because we connect to God through Jesus love, we heed his words.  He says we no longer have enemies; they’re the same people we are to love.  Our power comes from being rooted in Jesus love for all of us.  As we grow by the power of his Spirit; we grow in that love that’s so powerful it has a powerfully invasive effect on our faith community and neighbors.  Take down the wall

A neighbor puts up a wood fence between the other neighbors.  The neighbor did not think things through when she planted the vines on her side of the fence.  The vines grew onto and over the fence and pulled the fence over.  A flourishing community of faith has the same effect.  All the fences and walls that come between people and God can come toppling down by a church when it’s at its best as a flourishing community.

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Published in: on September 9, 2013 at 7:47 am  Leave a Comment  

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