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Vision for Community

On the day of Pentecost, Jesus displayed his Lordship as the ascended King by pouring out his promised Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter proclaims that this means the resurrected Jesus is the promised Son of David who is now ruling over all things from God’s throne in heaven. The good news is that God’s kingdom has come to earth in a new way and the ascended King Jesus is making all things new.

This good news includes the promise of a new relationship with God by his Spirit to all who repent and believe in Christ. And it includes the promise of a new world that has already come on earth and will one day come in its fullness when Jesus returns.

This good news also includes the promise of a new humanity on earth through which God will carry out his mission to make all things new. Jesus calls this new humanity the church. He refers to it as a new society on earth that is like a great city on a hill. It’s a new and better society that stands in stark contrast to all the oppression, injustice, and brokenness on earth today.

Augustine refers to it as the City of God that is replacing the City of Man. It breaks down all barriers between people of every tribe, tongue, and nation. This new community is meant to be a foretaste of God’s kingdom to come when Jesus returns, as well as the instrument through which God’s kingdom comes on earth today.

The Apostles’ Creed calls this new community the communion of saints. This phrase means that when you are united to God in Christ by faith, God also unites you to all the members of his mystical body, the church, from all generations, with Christ as the head. And since all followers of Christ are members of his invisible body, each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all.

So what did this new community look like when it first appeared on the day of Pentecost after the preaching of the gospel and the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit? Luke records it for us in the book of Acts. In Acts 2:42-47 we find an amazing picture of this new community:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The Greek word used for the fellowship in Acts 2:42 is the koinonia (Τῇ κοινωνίᾳ). There is a definite article before the word in the Greek New
Testament so it translates as the fellowship not just fellowship. It can also be translated as the communion or the community.

The use of this word in the New Testament conveys a deep level of community and participation with others. The first century Christians’ devotion to the fellowship was on the same level as their devotion to the Apostles teaching and to the breaking of bread (probably the Lord’s supper) and the prayers.

As we look closer at Luke’s record of this new community, we see two interesting patterns emerge regarding their meetings.

First, they continually met together for public worship in the temple. In Acts 2:46 we read, “And day by day, [they were] attending the temple together.” They were also regularly meeting together in smaller gatherings in their homes. Acts 2:46 continues, “and breaking bread in their homes.”

The temple was where they came together for public worship. But they also met together more informally in their homes.

Later in Scripture we find references to their meetings as “house churches.” In 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul writes, “The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.” And in Romans 16:5 Paul writes, “Greet also the church in their house.”

In Acts 20:20 Paul refers to both their public and private meetings: “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house.”

But it wasn’t just their meeting together that transformed their lives and world. It was their love for each other. One tangible display of their love was their sacrificial generosity to the poor among them:

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:44-45)

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:34-35)

As a result, the non-believing world could not dismiss the Christian message. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Francis Schaeffer called the love Christians have for each other “the final apologetic.”

We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians.

This experience of deep community cannot happen by merely meeting together for public worship. We must also meet together for informal gatherings, often in our homes. It’s not possible to have significant relationships and love people we don’t know. And we cannot know people with whom we do not regularly meet.

Devotion to the fellowship requires a group of people who know each other well by regularly spending time together.

Although the Bible doesn’t command us to structure the local church in groups, it presents us with a call to community that requires groups of people in meaningful relationships.

Granted, the organic nature of the first century church was significantly shaped by its highly communal Jewish culture. Some cultures today are still very communal. However, many cultures are not communal, but individualistic, especially in the Western world.

So when community life doesn’t happen organically, a devotion to the fellowship requires intentional organization of churches into smaller, nurturing communities.


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Pathway Learning 

During this time of year we’re often asked to consider giving financially to many worthy organizations and ministries. I realize that Pathway Learning is just one of many. It can be easy to hold on to our money tightly or give dutifully and not with joy.

Giving can be difficult and sometimes scary because it means that we are choosing to have less. But it’s important for us to give. Here are five reasons why we should give that I hope you’ll find encouraging:

FIRST, our giving helps others.

Our giving can be a huge blessing to others in need. God blesses us not merely for our sake but also for the sake of those in spiritual darkness and all forms of poverty (2 Cor 8:13-14).

SECOND, our giving shows our gratitude.

Our giving shows that we are thankful to God for all that he has given us. Our generosity is a display of our genuine gratitude (2 Cor 9:11-12).

THIRD, our giving blesses us.

Our giving helps break the idolatrous lure of money over us and give us new affections for who and what we support. It’s in giving that we receive (Phil 4:17-18).

FOURTH, our giving increases our faith.

Our giving increases our need to trust more in God to provide for us in the future. As we give, God invites us to rest more deeply in his provision for us (Matt 5:25-34).

FIFTH, our giving honors God.

Our giving is a display of our obedience to God that honors and glorifies him. God is honored not only through us by our giving but also through the many others who receive our gifts (2 Cor 9:13).

Our giving reminds us who really owns all that we have. We’re not the owners, God is. We’re his stewards for a brief time called to be faithful. As you do your end-of-year giving, please prayerfully consider giving to Pathway Learning as one you will support. 

Gratefully in Christ,

Steve Childers

PS: Your gift, given by midnight on December 31, will help us end this year strong, ready for 2020 and the future. Please use this convenient link to give online now. To give by check, our mailing address is Pathway Learning, P.O. Box 2062, Winter Park, FL 32790. Thank you!

We help under-served church leaders
develop churches that transform lives and communities.
 
Pathway Learning

As Pathway Learning prepares for 2020, we’re reaffirming four core commitments that I would like to share with you. All four commitments are centered on glorifying God and advancing his kingdom on earth, through his church, by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These commitments can truly make a lasting difference in the lives of people, communities, and entire nations into the next generation.

FIRST, we are committed to What we do

We help underserved church leaders develop churches that transform lives and communities worldwide. Despite the remarkable spread of Christianity worldwide, spiritual darkness, cultural and societal decay are reaching unprecedented levels. In Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where the church is growing most rapidly, the result is often a form of Christianity, such as the prosperity gospel, with little or no true, lasting transformation of individuals, families, and cultures.

SECOND, we are committed to Who we serve

There are millions of gifted and called church leaders, especially in the developing world, who are underserved. They don’t have access to the practical, high-quality, seminary-level education they need to develop healthy churches with effective ministries of evangelism, discipleship, and mercy.

In 2019 Pathway Learning equipped our global ministry partners in five strategic locations worldwide, including the persecuted in China, the rural poor in Muslim West Africa, the unreached in Japan, the secular in Eastern Europe (Italy), and the urban poor in North America. Our goal is to expand these partnerships to more locations.

THIRD, we are committed to How we serve

We provide an innovative online and onsite learning platform that brings underserved church leaders the practical training and tools they need where they live, in their language, and adapted to their culture.

To date, Pathway Learning has helped church leaders on 6 continents in 43 countries, and in 5 languages. As of December 2019, we’ve developed and provided more than 30 courses in which 49,662 Lesson steps were completed with 20,223 discussions. And we’ve just begun.

FOURTH, we are committed to Why we serve

We want to see the world become a better place by being saturated with healthy, gospel-centered churches through which people and communities flourish. We believe this is the heart of God’s plan to “make disciples of all nations.”

And we believe there is no greater honor and privilege than making a lasting difference in this world by participating in the greatest work in human history, the work of the Great Commission.

But here’s what I must tell you:

There’s no way Pathway Learning can keep these commitments without you—without your prayers and your financial support. So I’m asking you to help Pathway Learning with a year-end gift right now, as we end 2019 with these four commitments ahead.

Your gift, given by midnight on December 31, will help us end this year strong, ready for 2020 and the future. Please use this convenient link to give now to help keep these commitments.

Gratefully in Christ,

Steve

P.S. As you do your end-of-year giving, please prayerfully consider our ministry as one you will support. Thanks so much!

Steve Childers
President & CEO
Pathway Learning

Help underserved church leaders develop
churches that transform lives and communities.