Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Importance of Community

This blog was originally released 11.19.07 on the Frontline Internet Campus Website.

What’s your “sin of choice”? What are you doing to keep it in check? I can guarantee that victory over your sin nature will be short lived without brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage you and hold you accountable. This is one of the most significant functions of biblical community.

Though I consider Virginia my home, my job currently requires me to spend the majority of my time in London. London is a wonderful place and I’ve met many brilliant people. Though I have many strong, believing girlfriends in DC, it’s been much harder for me to find biblical community in London. Oh, believe me, I’ve tried… but it just hasn’t happened.

It puts me in a precarious situation at times. Sin can be tricky and sneak up on me. I’ve been tempted in ways I’ve never been tempted before while in London and alcohol is just one of these ways. Everyone I know in the UK drinks and many quite heavily. My freedom allows me to spend time with them, even have a glass of wine or a beer with them. God has allowed me to have MANY amazing conversations about him and share with many of my coworkers, opportunities I would never have had, had I only seen them in the office. Yet I have to be constantly on my guard, to be certain that I know my limits and am staying within biblical bounds. I want my life to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not by some chemical I consume. The second I stumble, the second I fall into excess, my witness is blown. I need biblical community to keep me on track, keep me accountable, and continue to teach and encourage me in ways of righteousness.

When I was in Kenya many years ago, we observed how closely the water buffalo stick together in herds. There’s safety in numbers. They watch out for one another. It was actually quite amazing to watch how, as we moved, so did they, the stronger ones maneuvering to stay between us and the weaker. Though they didn’t need to fear us, they knew there were predators all around. Should one, especially a smaller or weaker one, get separated from the herd, the outcome would be dire. It’s just dangerous to be cut off from herd. And frankly, the predators know this. We’ve all seen on various animal specials how wild cats (lions, leopards, tigers, etc.), will pluck off that lone gazelle, or try to get one separated from the herd, so its easier to attack and devour. What we don’t realize, is that Satan operates the same way.

Biblical community is living life with other believers. You are together trying to live your life in line with the Bible and you function in each other’s lives to care for one and protect one another. In the most ideal state, your biblical community is geographically close to you. In Virginia, my three best girlfriends are within 10-15 minutes of my house. Obviously, when I’m in London, they’re a bit farther, but we’re in regular email and phone contact and I’m normally with at least one of them within hours of getting off the plane. They’re my friends, yes. But they serve a far greater function. They are my sisters in Christ and they help keep me on track and moving forward.

When we aren’t living in biblical community, it’s as if we’re separated from the herd. We’re easy pickings for the enemy. And believe me… he will come after you. He’ll attack your thought life. He’ll tempt you in all sorts of ways. A friend once gave me a great acronym… H.A.L.T.. He told me that you need to be really careful any time you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Well heck, when I’m in London, the lonely and tired describes about 90% of the time. When I’m in London, I’m separated from the herd and it’s a dangerous place to be.

Many of you attending the Internet campus are attending because you have either moved away from DC and have not yet found a church near your new home… or you’re checking in from abroad, where it’s been difficult to plug into biblical community. Can you relate?

I am so excited about the Internet Campus. I’m so enthusiastic about it, at times I think I’m making staff nuts! It’s because I know how badly it’s needed, especially for those that are currently otherwise cut off from the herd. Yes, the worship is great, as are the sermons. But we all have access to Christian music and online sermons. It’s the fact that is that it’s live and we can talk to one another. That’s the difference; we’re connecting and this refreshes me. I’ve found a
WONDERFUL church in London from a worship and teaching perspective. But I haven’t found community. Internet Campus is functioning as part of my biblical community while abroad.

So what in the world does this have to do with Todd’s sermon on alcohol? EVERYTHING. You may be offered unique opportunities to share with non-believers by engaging in the local culture. Don’t shy away (assuming it doesn’t cause you to stumble). But watch yourself too. Don’t cause others to stumble. And whether alcohol tempts you or you have some other “sin of choice”, if you’re separated from the herd, realize you’re vulnerable and take some steps to change some things. How do you, how will you, handle when you’re tempted?

I challenge you this week…

Can you identify your biblical community? Is it tangible, virtual, or non-existent?

If you have great godly friends, if you’re in a small group, have a mentor, if you share your Christian walk with roommates/housemates or neighbors, I praise Jesus for what you’ve found! Enjoy it and make sure you’re continually building up one another and challenging one another. Don’t be just playmates; God has you in each other’s lives for greater purposes in your walk!

But if you do not yet have a tangible community (near where you physically live), please, please make all the more effort to keep joining us at the Internet Campus. You need us and we’re so thrilled to be in community with you. However, be thinking too… what ways you might find or create biblically community right where you live. Do you know any other believers? Are there ways, churches, groups, clubs, you might meet some? Take these opportunities. Take chances. We will chat with you online and pray for you if you ask, but we can’t be WITH you when the rug pulls out or when you’re staring big temptations in the eye. You need more.

However, until then… In an effort to create greater community through the Internet Campus, we want to let you know that we’re launching a Facebook Group this week, specifically for Internet Campus (IC) attendees. This will be a place where you can put a face to a name. Who knows, you might stumble over someone in your same area! It will also be a place where you can post thoughts or prayer requests. And it will be a place where you can continue to discuss the sermon of the week, much like we do online in The Service chat room. You all have been so great in your discussions so far, why restrict it to Sundays?! We hope you’ll enjoy this way to connect further, as we take the IC to a deeper level.

See you online! www.frontlinedc/internetcampus

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