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Gospel Community: What makes it different?

Gospel Community: What makes it different?

Here at Southwood we toss around the term “gospel community” quite a bit. But do we truly understand the differences the gospel makes to our community?

In our American culture, we long for community, though in reality our lives seldom intersect. We exist primarily in isolation. We hunger for connection, but we don’t seem to know how to get there, and the price often seems too high. Yet, we are still drawn towards community.

Community can happen on different levels. We define groups of families who live in proximity to others as a community. They share a general “space” with others. This is community on the broadest level. Narrowing the scope, we also find community centered around shared interests. I belong to a cyclist community that likes to ride bikes together. We might converse, yet we don’t know each other deeply. Our primary connection is cycling.

Moving deeper we find support groups, gatherings of folks who not only share common interests but also might share common struggles or addictions. They come together for mutual help and encouragement. They find community to a certain level with others who are like them. At an even deeper level we have family. As close as we might be with our family, this level can also be very difficult. We are known too well and we carry a lot of relational baggage. Most of these levels of community are not satisfying. We long to be known, and we long to know others, but instead we might experience a lack of real acceptance or outright rejection. We want acceptance. We need support. We feel the emptiness of life alone.

Gospel community has the potential to satisfy our longings for real heart-level connection. One example is Dave (not his real name), who came to a church I was serving. He and his wife had a checkered past and a life that was not squeaky clean. They had never felt comfortable around church people. At this church they found a place where they could belong because our folks were just like them. They were not as clean as what the surface might say, and they were honest about being sinners who needed a Savior. So, as they all came to Jesus, they also came to each other, to walk with and support one another in demonstration of the grace of the gospel. What makes gospel community different from other communities?

“We hold up those who struggle. We challenge those who stray. We give hope to the despairing and support the weary…”

It is the gospel. We come together because we are equally dependent on the gospel, and we equally struggle to maintain our focus on the gospel. In gospel community, we encourage each other in the truth of the gospel. We hold up those who struggle. We challenge those who stray. We give hope to the despairing and support to the weary, all in and through the gospel.

This is why we have developed Connect Communities here at Southwood. While they are not the final word on community, they are one expression of what gospel community might be. They are gathering places for believers who need other believers, that they might enable each other to prosper in their pursuit of Jesus. I hope they have provided a good place to find that essential connection. If not, I hope you will soon taste what gospel community can be for you.