Looking Outward, Building God’s Community

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that God seems to be “on the move” throughout The Crossing community here in Columbia? From a handful of people meeting in a basement twelve years ago, to over 3,000 souls attending one of the Sunday services this past year, God is so obviously drawing people to Himself.

Certainly the idea of God calling people to Himself is not new. Jesus built up his ministry by doing just that. He walked around the Judean countryside and, as far as I can tell, was very intentional about putting together a strange band of people with little in common except what would become their deep love for the person of Jesus, and their belief that He was the Christ of prophecy.

More and more, I look around with delight on any given Sunday morning to see that He is continuing to draw disparate people from all ages and backgrounds together for corporate worship. Doctors, techies and construction workers; executives, stay-at-home moms, and plumbers; the single, the divorced, the married and the widowed; college students (by the hundreds!) and their university professors. Our own strange little band of believers here in Columbia is not so little anymore.

In fact, I’ve heard it said several times over that new people have walked through the doors of our church and, for months, have not had a single person speak to them. Given that I’ve known Dale Wilcox to hunt people down in the foyer if they enter the building with that “I’m new here” look in their eyes, I really do find that hard to believe – but it’s apparently true. We’ve become such a large community that it’s hard for me to know everyone who calls themselves a member of my own church. It’s hard for me to even distinguish between a newcomer and someone who’s been attending for well over a year!

That’s not at all what church was like when I was a kid. My grandmother spoke to nearly everyone in the building before we ever sat down, and we were ensconced in our pews within a few minutes of entering. Today, if you don’t faithfully attend the same service and sit within the same few rows where I sit with my family, I may or may not have any idea that you are a part of my church community.

I don’t know about you, but I feel convicted by that. I hesitate to make many statements about what God has in mind when He does anything – my mind going quickly to the numerous questions He fires off at Job (Job 38:1-42:6), but I truly don’t think God intended that a body of believers would worship alongside one another without knowing who those people are. He is forever calling us to community in a much deeper way.

We all have that tendency to “build our own community” and then decide when it’s “big enough” that we can stop building. We develop a circle of several close friends and we fill our time with them. While we may be more open to occasionally letting others into the circle than we were back in high school – praise God! – we still have that tendency to stop looking outward when we think we know enough people.

Can you even begin to imagine Jesus, after very deliberately gathering a dozen or so fisherman, businessmen and loafers – Nathaniel was just “standing there” under the tree! – to Himself, turn to these men and say, “Okay, guys, this is a solid group. Let’s head off into the mountains to pray and really get to know each other. To heck with everyone else.”

Of course not. He continued to draw people into His community, always looking outward and seeking to enlarge the community of those who belong to Him.

But He enlarged His community by sending His disciples out to make more disciples – to preach the gospel and increase the body of believers (Matthew 10:1-7, Luke 9:1-6). One of the last things He said to His original community of disciples before He ascended to heaven was an exhortation to preach the good news to Samaria and Judea and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:1-8).

And His community – those who had “done life” right by His side for three years or so – ultimately did so. Far from keeping the doors locked and huddling up inside with each other, they became passionate about looking outward and sharing the good news with others.

Too often, I think, we forget that the call on our lives is no different today.

Having been called by God to believe in His Son, each one of us became children of God and heirs of His kingdom (Galatians 4:7). What we should be doing as part of life in our community, then, is looking outward and seeking to share that good news with others.

Many of us probably think we need to head out the doors of The Crossing and into the community of Columbia to do this. Certainly, it’s a good thing to be salt and light within your city and the places where you “do life.” But God is doing mighty things in and through The Crossing, and people are being brought through those doors in throngs. Those folks are in need of a friendly face and an outstretched hand, welcoming them to consider the Word of God and what it means for their lives.

In other words, to look outward and share God’s great love with another person may not require you to go outside of your church at all, if you’re a part of a growing community like ours. Your best opportunity for sharing your faith with another might just be sitting in the row right behind you during this week’s service.

Look around you when you go to church these next few weeks. Do you see someone you’ve never “seen” at The Crossing before? What would it hurt to introduce yourself and ask them how long they’ve been coming? You may meet someone who’s been attending for years. Or, you may find a newcomer who wants to know how to get plugged in and learn more about Jesus.

As God’s people, we need to be outward looking. Having been drawn into God’s circle of friends, we really ought to be facing out, looking for those who desperately need to experience the love of God through the warm welcome of a flesh-and-blood human being.

As the construction continues at The Crossing and new buildings go up, it’s going to get harder and harder to recognize everyone who attends church alongside you. As you read this, you may even be protesting that you can’t possibly meet everyone. I agree. But what if you try a little harder to meet just one more?

You never know when God might use that one faithful interaction to begin to draw yet another person to Himself.

How did your own walk with Christ begin, anyway?

Matthew 25:34-40
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

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