Downtown Cornerstone Blog
Jan 10
2019

Life in Community | Expectations of Community

Community

The Life in Community series highlights aspects of our life lived together in community through a mixture of theology, vision, and personal stories. Cornerstone Communities are the primary means of forming meaningful discipling relationships where we can be known, encouraged, and challenged by brothers and sisters in our body, and live out the “one another” commandments in our daily lives. 

In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes both the blessings and the challenges of a Christian community and how our own expectations have a significant role to play in our participation in and experience of community. As we enter a new year and a new season with our communities, let’s consider what community is and what we can and should expect, as well as what we cannot and should not expect.

Christian community, in the broader sense, happens throughout the life of the church: in Sunday gatherings as well as in our Cornerstone Communities, Discipleship Groups, and interpersonal interactions. It is a gift for believers in the present church age used to strengthen, equip, build-up, encourage, exhort, and care for one another. In DCC, we speak about our Cornerstone Communities as the place where we can get to know others and be known by others; where we primarily live out the “one another” commands to love our brothers and sisters in Christ; and where we form meaningful, mutually-edifying, discipling relationships. And it is our sincere desire that everyone who calls DCChome would have such a community.

BLESSINGS OF A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

Bonhoeffer describes the nature and very tangible good of the Christian community, which suggests some healthy expectations for community:

  • First, the desire for Christian community – the companionship and presence of other believers in our lives – is natural and reflects God’s own trinitarian nature in us as his image bearers. Moreover, God works through various means to achieve his purposes, and by his grace, we get to be part of those means in our care for each other such that when we visit, comfort, or exhort another we are a tangible sign of God’s grace to our brother or sister. So we should expect that we would show the love of Christ to others, and be shown the love of Christ by others (Gal 5:13)
  • Secondly, the Christian community is a gift and a privilege and not a guarantee or an entitlement. Like any of God’s gifts, God distributes according to his varied grace (1 Cor 12:18). Realizing it is a gift should lead us to thankfulness for what we have received. It should also lead us to understand the purpose of a Christian community, like the other gifts, is to build up the church and should be motivated by love for others (1 Cor 12:7, 13:1-13).
  • Thirdly, we have only one foundation for this community: Jesus Christ, who is our peace with God and with each other. Christ’s work on our behalf enables us to be in relationship with God and with other adopted sons and daughters in his family (Eph. 2:13-14). We should expect that we have this common ground that brings us together, and that our community is not rooted in anything else. Of course, it is great to find shared interests with those in our community, but those shared interests are secondary and are not required for a Christian community.

CHALLENGES OF A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

Bonhoeffer also speaks some cautions about community, particularly on our desires for and expectations of the community. He writes this:

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it has sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams…. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

  • We can often import our desires to be loved, or expectations of others to be more to us than they ought, into our communities. And so we must be aware of whether or not we’re seeking community in and through Christ alone, or if we’re seeking something else. It is possible that we would make an idol out of the community (along with any other good thing) if we allow it to become the ultimate thing. (Phil 3:8)
  • We must realize that our Christian community is one that serves to point each other to Christ, and not to be Christ himself. We are not saved through a community, but we are encouraged and pointed to Christ in a community. (1 Cor 3:5-9) Realizing too that we’re not perfect, we should expect that there will be times when we sin against and are sinned against by others in our community. That does not mean we should seek to sin against each other, but rather that we should be in the practice of confession and forgiveness when we do sin (James 5:16, Col 3:13).
  • We must also be careful not to seek out simply the relational connection of human affection or emotional experience. Surely, we can hope to experience affection and positive emotions in our connection with one another, but this is a byproduct, not the end in itself, of the spiritual reality of being united in Christ and therefore must not be the driver for our expectations. In Romans 12:10 Paul actually instructs us to have brotherly affection – which is to say, we are to shape our affections for others in the body, not to base our participation in the body on our existing affections.

OUR ROLE IN A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

Taken together, these encouragements can help us calibrate our desires and expectations for our communities. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, they call us to participate in building these healthy communities. So, for those already in a Cornerstone Community, I’d encourage you in these ways:

  • Start with thanksgiving to God for the gift of community that you already have, rather than to lament the community you don’t yet have. Pray for those in your community – by name, and often. Reach out to others with prayers and encouragements for them.
  • Use your gifts to serve and encourage others in love, for God’s glory and their good. Ask “How might God use me to bless those in my community?” rather than asking “What will I get from this community?”
  • Commit to being an active part of your community. You can only grow in knowing others and being known by showing up. Invite those who are new to your community to grab a coffee and start to get to know each other.

If you’re not yet in a Cornerstone Community, get started with the Foundations class, which lays the groundwork for our life together in DCC. The next class starts this Sunday, 1/13, at 9a. You can read more details and register here.

Jan 7
2019

Stories of Grace | Weakening My Walls

Stories of Grace

“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.” 

I am a great builder, I can set up walls without even trying. During the “Greet your Neighbor” time on a Sunday morning, it’s easy for me to put on my best smile and keep conversations at the surface level. With community it’s trickier for me to just pass by, but I often opt to keep quiet during discussions, consuming from others but never contributing myself. 

Recently I’ve had thoughts of how did I become this way? Have I always been this quiet? Was this a part of my personality or have I conditioned myself to be this way? Why do I feel so isolated? Why do I feel like no one knows the real me? Why do I keep myself hidden?

I remember I wasn’t always this way — when I was a little girl, I would smile and be friendly to everyone. I was bold, honest, and carefree, always rushing off to help those in need. But then the painful realities of our broken and sinful world soon set in. It started with finding out that girls who I thought were my friends weren’t really close with me at all and continued with enemies in disguise who caused my peers to turn their backs on me to the point where I was all alone. My mother would often permit me to skip school so I wouldn’t have to face the immense isolation.

From there, self-hatred seeped in whenever someone would leave or abandon me and I would always find faults within myself. Eventually, I learned to protect myself, building up walls around my heart so that the rejection wouldn’t be so painful. Unfortunately, this allowed me to become comfortable with isolation; I had to learn to survive all by myself. I lived this way for years, keeping others at a distance, hiding my true self, keeping quiet. Even though I feared lonely circumstances, I discovered that numbing my heart and feelings was an even more dangerous place to be.

I gave my life to Christ in high school but my relationship with God and others didn’t change drastically until college. I was in a connection group with some girls who really challenged me to be vulnerable and authentic in community and I finally found the friendships I had always dreamed of. This group of women showed me how wonderful it is to know and be known by others. I was in a great time of knowing God as well, and had such an overwhelming sense of joy in the Lord.

At the time, I couldn’t imagine the horrible trial I had to go through my Senior year of college, suffering through a very long season of overwhelming depression. I felt empty inside and as if nothing mattered, this hopelessness again isolated me from my loved ones. My friends couldn’t understand what I was going through and with the best intentions would suggest reading my bible and prayer to help me. I know they meant well, but their suggestions made it seem as if my relationship with God wasn’t good enough and was the cause for my sudden despair. Experiencing apathy and emptiness, I was at my lowest point and I felt my hands slip from clinging to God. 

Amidst this internal turmoil, I re-learned some important truths about God. 

  • We don’t need to desperately cling to God because he has always clung to us.
  • God’s love is steadfast and his faithfulness is awesome.
  • Our feelings muddy the truth that God never leaves us (Psalm 139:7-12).
  • God allows trials so that we can grow in endurance which leads to hope (Romans 5:3-5).

Recently, God has once again been challenging me to be more authentic in my community by confessing my sin, seeking accountability with others, and sharing my testimony. I still catch myself fighting my natural impulse to hide away and protect myself, but God, with his grace and mercy is shattering my carefully constructed walls and inviting me to build something far more beautiful – an authentic biblical community with Himself and others. 

Deleah Pettie, DCC Member

If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email info@downtowncornerstone.org

Dec 15
2018

Until The World Knows

Discipleship, Missions | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

The prophet Habakkuk prophesied of a coming day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). God’s millennia-spanning rescue project is global in nature.

Jesus re-emphasized this globe-sized vision, and how it would be brought about, in his Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). In other words, God’s glory fills the earth as disciples are made in every nation and will culminate with his triumphant return. The scope and significance of this mission are staggering—and we play an integral part in it.

How? By supporting the planting of Jesus-centered, gospel-preaching, bible-teaching churches that then, in turn, plant churches here and abroad. That is why we belong to Acts 29.

Last week, I went to Brazil to teach and get a sense of how our partnership with Acts 29 Brazil and Restore Brazil is progressing. Honestly, I couldn’t be more excited to see what Jesus is doing there and the impact we are having through our financial, relational, and spiritual support.

We were one of the first two churches to support Acts 29 Brazil. When we began this partnership there were no Acts 29 churches. Today, there are 28 churches, along with 30 more candidate-planters in the pipeline.

Integral to the development of these planters is a Residency program that our financial support, in large part, makes happen. The Residency consists of two cohorts of ten pastors (i.e. 20 total) who meet every month over the course of two years for training. Here is a photo of the current Residents:

One of those Residents is Eduardo Faria. He is at the very beginning of planting a church in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Yes, that Ipanema. Like every other major city, including our own, Rio is divided into distinct neighborhoods. There are 40,000 people in Ipanema and not a single gospel-centered evangelical church. This is the first and we are playing a key role in role in making it happen.

Here is a personal note from Eduardo:

As a church, we have directly helped plant over 100 churches through financial support, training, and ongoing coaching—and that’s just in our short seven and a half years of life. It is so kind of the Lord to allow us to participate in such valuable and concrete ways. This is not, in any way, to draw attention to ourselves but to highlight the ways he is using us to point to him (Ps. 115:1).

So, let’s stay faithful, prayerful, and generous. Who knows what he may do next? But, what we do know is that he will get the glory, and we will get the joy—until the world knows.

Christ is all, 
Pastor Adam