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Pastor’s Note: The Summer of “One Another”

I was talking recently with a young man who has a good job in a good city with a good family. But he admitted to me, “I just don’t have any really good friends. There’s no one I really connect with that’s passionate about the things I believe really matter and really gets me.” It’s an ache that makes him long for something different. And he’s not alone.

To be more specific, I was talking with a young man who has attended Southwood for quite some time. He loves the church, but he’s struggling, too. And he’s not alone.

God answers our loneliness with relationships, with a community of people designed to be bound together by the work of Jesus, transformed together by the grace of Jesus, and sent out together on the mission of Jesus. He calls that the Church. And never has the world been more in need of the Church to be the Gospel Community God designed her to be than right now. In a world of loneliness, broken relationships, isolation, and division, the Church is God’s answer.

In fact, if you read through the New Testament, you’ll notice quickly how often the instructions given by Jesus and the apostles focus on the nature of this unique new community. Almost 60 passages talk directly about how those of us following Jesus are to treat “one another,” and countless more address the topic without those exact words. What kind of community is to be created among those committed to King Jesus? What kind of relationships develop by those transformed by his grace? Those are the questions these passages answer in beautiful detail.

So, this summer we are diving into a new sermon series on a few of these “One Another” passages so that we can learn together what it looks like when the Holy Spirit helps us to love one another, confess sins to one another, carry one another’s burdens, spur one another to love and good deeds, forgive one another, etc. I hope you’ll join us as often as you can on Sundays (and listen when you can’t!) because we have to be learning together about Gospel Community.

But “The Summer of One Another” is much more than a sermon series because we must do more than merely learn about this; Gospel Community is something we must increasingly live together. That’s why you’ll see on the back of this issue of Branches a list of opportunities in the next couple months to lean into this reality together, places you can show up to engage relationally with one another. That’s why you’ll hear us say repeatedly that we want every person at Southwood involved in a small group and/or a Connect Community – places designed to take us further into the real relationships God created us to enjoy. That’s why you’ll regularly find encouragement to connect with one another beyond the worship service where we can experience even more the beauty of how God’s Word calls us to relate to one another.

We have all been a part of churches that have struggled with living together in Gospel Community. If you haven’t been before, you’re in one now! And it’s vital that we lean in and lock arms together in the Southwood Family because God promises that his power will work right in our midst – in his Church – so that she will advance victoriously against the gates of Hell. Hell has left our world fractured and lonely – in dire need of the honest, safe, life-giving relationships we also need and develop with each other in Gospel Community. Hell has left our world broken and sinful – in dire need of the gracious, compassionate, forgiving Savior who unites us to one another in Gospel Community. We have the great privilege of introducing our neighbors to Jesus and inviting them into our “family” where our Father answers all of our needs by giving us himself and giving us one another.

See ya this summer!