Tag Archives: fellowship

Bringing Neighbor Back to the Hood

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I live in a great neighborhood. It’s relatively peaceful. Sure, from time to time there is excitement and I may need to call the police on someone causing mischief, but I rarely ever feel like this neighborhood is dangerous. It’s a great neighborhood for raising my kids.

The church building where I preach on Sundays and Wednesdays is in this neighborhood. I find this to be super convenient, but as I look at the demographics of our church membership I see very few people who come from within our neighborhood.

I know my next door neighbors. I know the family across the street and a few doors down from them too. I know a few of the neighbors behind the church building by name. Yet, I don’t have a real, meaningful relationship with any of them.

I feel pretty convicted about this.

You see, this church has functioned from this location for many many years. I’m not sure how many preachers were here before me, but our congregation is mostly made up of people who live outside our neighborhood and even our town.

It’s time for this to change.

As Christians, we are called to live in the world around us in such a way that people know that Jesus is the messiah. We aren’t called to be people who shrink back in fear or even in routine and make excuses for why we don’t know our neighbors.

I believe that if a church has a building then the primary mission field of that church should be the neighborhood the building is located within. Each member should be missionaries within their own neighborhoods as well, but if the church doesn’t have a good relationship with its neighbors, then what kind of message does that portray?

Some of you may know people who live in the neighborhood around the church building. Some of you may even live in this same neighborhood. What can you do to enhance our ability to reach out locally? What should we do as a church to help you reach your friends and neighbors?

Cities aren’t taken for The Lord without strategy. When Jesus sent out the apostles after the resurrection, He told them they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem (where they currently were), in Judaea and Samaria (the outlying towns and regions), and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

As a church, we should follow the same pattern. We should be intentionally engaging the neighborhood where our facilities are located first. Then we should move into other neighborhoods in the town where our congregation gathers. After that, when that town is reached, we should move into other towns. When all of that is done, then we should be sending out people to far off regions.

Engaging our neighborhood doesn’t mean door-knocking either. It means living and working and functioning within that neighborhood in such a way that relationships are built and love is shown. It is not engaging in handouts; it is inviting people into community. Engaging a neighborhood means you’re loving your neighbor with no strings attached. When they see your intentional, counter-cultural way of love, they’re going to want to know why you’re like that. Then you have been invited by them to tell them of the One who loved you first, Jesus Christ.

So, here’s our situation. We are a church that isn’t truly engaging our neighborhood. That wasn’t Jesus’ plan for us. How can we make a change here? The Aztec church of Christ puts on a block party once a year, and that is gaining popularity. What else can we do to truly engage on personal levels to love our neighbors?

We are a church trying to love God, love others, and be like Jesus. So let’s start taking steps to truly do these things.

Do you have an idea on how to reach out to the neighborhood around our congregation? Maybe you’re reading this online and you have ideas for how to begin this where you live. Talk to your pastor(s). But don’t just give suggestions; volunteer to help make those suggestions a reality.

To win a city you begin with a neighbor.

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Sibling Rivalries and Outside Impressions

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“I don’t love you anymore!”

Whenever I think of these words I hear my daughter’s voice, and it makes me sad. My kids often play very well together. They are 4 and 6 years old, and when my son frustrates my daughter she spouts things like “I don’t love you anymore” and “I don’t forgive you”.

We are working diligently with her on this. She’s saying these things out of an immediate hurt, but she doesn’t really feel that way about him. We can see that in her eyes, but at the moment she doesn’t love or forgive him. Even though these feelings are difficult to process, and she doesn’t mean it permanently, it still hurts my son, and it hurts me too. I don’t want to see them fighting.

“I don’t forgive you.”

We don’t say things like my daughter says now that we are “grown-ups” (at least most of us don’t), but do we often think those very things?

Is there someone you are harboring a grudge against? Are you keeping a record of their wrongs? Do you hold it against them? Do you shun them because of your feelings toward them? Often times we act like my preschool daughter.

“The disciple whom Jesus loved” is how John describes himself in the fourth book of the New Testament. He went on to write three other books ingeniously titled 1, 2, and 3 John. In 1 John he talks about who we are called to be in Christ. He is remembering the words of Jesus from the night he was handed over to trial.

In John 13:35 Jesus tells his disciples that they will be identified in the world around them by their love for one another. This is a selfless love as described in 1 Corinthians 13. It is a defining love – the central characteristic that should describe Christ-followers.

In 1 John 3, he describes how this looks in a bit more detail. He explains that people who don’t do right aren’t children of God, and we get that. I think our world readily accepts the idea that doing right helps your journey to be connected to the Father. But then he adds a caveat that is unexpected. He said that you can’t be a child of God if you don’t love your brother or sister.

Please understand this: he didn’t say you have to say “I love you” to your fellow mankind. He said you have to actually love them. It’s an action, not an emotion. It’s a choice, not a feeling.

He then goes on to explain that if you don’t love your brothers and sisters whom you have seen you cannot love God whom you have not seen. He didn’t say you won’t; he said you can’t. It’s impossible for you.

Loving others isn’t always easy, but it is what we are called to do. If you don’t understand what love looks like then Paul gives a great definition in 1 Corinthians 13:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Now, take your name and place it in wherever you read the word “love”. Can you be described in this way? Would the world look at you and know you are a Christian because of your love?

If you can’t be described in this manner, then today is a day to seek God in prayer and ask His spirit to develop this quality of love in you. The truth is that we can never spread the message of God’s love through Jesus if we aren’t willing to sacrificially love others ourselves.

What say you? Do you find that the vast majority of the Christians professing Christ are truly loving this way, or are they more judgmental and condemning than the Savior they profess to follow? This is a dialogue that truly needs to be shared.

Feel free to let me know what you think! You can email me at jddobbs@verizon.net or comment on this article at http://www.mrdobbs.org. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

May God show you the areas in your life where you haven’t allowed His love to take over. May you. Be shown love by Christians that you know. And may you fall in love with Jesus who loves you perfectly. God bless you.


Strange Math in the Bible

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Have you ever seen the movie “Cast Away”? In the movie, the main character, Chuck, is a FedEx worker that is traveling back to the United States to be with his girlfriend for Christmas (when he plans to propose to her). On his flight back home his plane crashes into the ocean and he is the lone survivor. He is able to inflate the life raft and survives a major squall to wash ashore on a lonely island a thousand miles off course from where he should have been.

As he learns his fate of being completely alone on this island he is overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions. One day he is working on a project necessary for his survival when he cuts his hand. A volleyball is one of the items that was being transported on the FedEx plane that washed ashore with him. He grabs the ball with his hurt hand and tosses it. When he sees it again, he notices that the blood from his hand has made a face shape on the ball.

He decides to keep the ball as his new friend, and he names it Wilson (it was a Wilson volleyball).

A couple of times during the movie Chuck gets rid of, or loses Wilson. Each time the realization of this loss throws Chuck into a panic. Why? Because it is not good for man to be alone.

Even in this movie that has no injection whatsoever to God or religion we see this basic human need for community. Where do we get such a need? Well, let’s look at our Creator.

In Genesis 1, God, whom we usually refer to in the singular, announces that he wants to “make man in our image”. God is referring to himself in the plural. People across the Christian spectrum refer to this plurality of God as the Trinity. God is three in one.

In relating to our current discussion it is important to understand that God is in perfect community with himself. He is in complete love with himself, and He doesn’t need you or me to complete or add to His community. The love God has among himself is such that He is inseparable from Himself.

This all sounds a bit schizophrenic, but I am referring to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus on multiple occasions commented that he could do nothing without the Father and that he and the Father are one. This relationship is perfect example of what every marriage should strive to become. In God, one plus one plus one equals one. In marriage, one plus one equals one.

So, God is in perfect community with himself. Then He invites you into His perfect community. When Jesus gave the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 he says that the disciples are to baptize people into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Then they are to teach them to do what has been done and taught to them. This teaching still rings true today. We are connected with the Trinity in baptism; it is then that we come into community with God.

We also come into community as we fellowship with others who have joined into community with God. Ecclesiastes talks about the need for us not to work alone for we could be easily destroyed. We need each other in our walk with God. Satan is constantly out to get us. Sometimes he uses our own minds when we are alone to trip us up. Sometimes he uses people to attack us when we are alone. When we are living in that community of Christ we are strong and can live much fuller lives in Christ.

Does that mean we move into little communes where we escape from the world? No! What that does mean is that we engage the world together. We are called to be the church with the church.

When I was younger I thought I could maintain my community with God without having to participate in the community of believers called the church. So I quit going. It wasn’t long (days) before Satan came in and attacked, and I had no defenses or support group to help me stand strong.

We need the community of believers. Hebrews 10:25 encourages us to make the habit of meeting together (we call it “going to church”) a priority in our lives.

What’s more, we are given the opportunity each week to celebrate our community with the Trinity and with the believers in a time we call “Communion”. When we “eat his flesh and drink his blood” we sustain the life inside us that was given at baptism. We maintain our fellowship with the Trinity, and we celebrate all this in community with other believers. This is a very important, very significant celebration each week. Jesus said that if you don’t participate in this you you have no relationship with him.

We are called to do it often. If there’s ever a Sunday you are looking to celebrate communion, then you can always come to the Nichols St. church of Christ. We offer this every Sunday in celebration of the life that was given to us through the death of Christ. You are always welcome there.

To sum it up, God is in community with himself, and he doesn’t need you, but he wants you desperately. He wants you so badly that he came to the earth in the form of Jesus to make a way for you and me to join his community in spite of the many times we have gone against his will for our lives. He then calls us to stand strong and not fall away as we fellowship with the other believers. Let me tell you, life as a Christian is much easier when there are other people walking alongside you going the same place you’re going.

How does this relate to you? Have you joined in the community of the Trinity through baptism? No one can force you to join. It has to be your choice. God loves you, but he won’t force you to love him back and become one with him. Have you ever thought you can be a Christian without the church? It’s time to come home. Churches are made up of sinful humans saved only by the grace of God. Naturally they aren’t going to be perfect places. If you’re looking for a church where the people don’t make mistakes, you won’t find it. You can, however, find churches all over teaching the truth of God’s word, celebrating in His communion, and striving to live righteous lives as we celebrate the grace that covers over our many shortcomings.

May you come into that community with God and with his church. You are invited into this fellowship. If you’d like to know more about any of the things discussed here, feel free to email me at jddobbs@verizon.net or call the office at 245-1611. God bless you as you come into community with the love of God and the church that is His body.


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