Community vs. Affinity (part 1)

The following is a guest post by Tyler Recker.

[26] for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. [27] For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. [28] There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:26-28 ESV)

The context of Galatians 3 is the correction of the Judaizers who would seek to make the Greeks become Jews in order to become Christians. Paul then turns to these verses to discuss our unity as those who have been saved by faith in Jesus, have been baptized into Jesus, and have put on Jesus. Jews, Greeks, slaves, free, males, females that are in Jesus are all united IN JESUS.

We are chiefly united in Jesus. Not lesser things that we may potentially hold in common. Further, since we are united in Jesus and He is our greatest treasure then lesser things should not prevent us from fellowship.

Our vision for NewBranch is to reflect the racial, socioeconomic, generational and ethnic diversity of our community so that someone could look at our body and say “What brings that crowd together?” and the answer is simply “Jesus.”

Is there any question that we’re not exactly there? It would be tempting to say that we don’t live in a very diverse community. But have you seen the diversity of Mill Creek High School or Dacula High School? Surely, you can tell that your neighborhood is a lot more diverse racially and ethnically than our church is.

I think Jesus gets greater glory from diversity. People can look at the diverse church and say “Look, there’s rich and poor brought together by Jesus.” or “Look there’s all different races and nationalities brought together by Jesus, and worshipping Him together.”

Jesus gets greater glory when the world’s categories of seperating people are broken down because this defines with greater clarity that the rallying point for our community is Christ Jesus.

Furthermore, we want to reflect that diversity in our BASE groups because we want our BASE groups to be united in Jesus and not some other affinity. We’re striving for community over affinity, because Jesus gets greater glory and because the body is better served when we all come together.

Our BASE groups are not and will not be pulled together based on life stage, marital status, affinity group, schooling choice, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. We will not have groups segregated by Prime Timers (a common euphemism for “Senior Citizens”), Young Marrieds, Old Marrieds, Singles, homeschooling, public schooling, private schooling, no schooling, and so on. Furthermore, when our fallen nature seeks to make the Christian community about something other than Christ we will be militant to fight this subtle sin and disperse groups as necessary.

Think about it. Isn’t it silly to take all the newlyweds who don’t know anything about marriage and put them together in a pool of marital ignorance? Isn’t that kind of like Rehoboam asking his dumb buddies for advice on how to run the nation of Israel (1 Kings 12)? Isn’t it much better for a young married couple to be in a group with a couple who has been married for 20-30 years so they can gleam priceless wisdom?

And when you have a 19 year old guy entering the workforce isn’t it better for him to have relationships with older, wiser men who can help him navigate it?

Further, isn’t it true that older, wiser believers benefit from the passion and energy of younger, dumber believers (like myself)? Isn’t it true that sometimes we fall into cynical thought patterns from everything we’ve seen in life? Wouldn’t we are blessed from a relationship with some idealistic young person who challenges us to biblical faithfulness regardless of how tough it is? I’m only 23, but there’s areas I’ve developed cynicism from just 5 years in ministry (and 10 years in church life) that are challenged on a heart level when I get to interact with new believers and new ministers…

Next week, I’ll delve deeper into issues of affinity and diverse community…(the subtle affinities we may be tempted towards, the fact that there’s a time and place for affinity (but not BASE groups), the truth that diversity can be tough, etc.)

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