Hebrews 12:1-17Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and [the] sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
On the back of our bulletin last Sunday morning was a little story about a man who told his pastor that he didn’t need the church any longer. The pastor took a burning ember out of the fire and set it outside the fireplace and in a few seconds it had ceased to burn. When he put it back in it started to glow again. “I get your point Pastor” the man said and started attending again.
I am convinced that most of the church in North America has a warped understanding of community and that effects the way we do community in our churches. The Scriptures neither portray the church as communal living or individualistic. It is neither pull onself up by one’s own bootstraps or get others to do it all for you. I am certain that revival in the church will not happen if it is not marked by the kind of mutual interdependence we find taught in the Scriptures. I believe that whenever we find believers who are losing the battles against their besetting sins and giving in to loneliness, despair, and defeat, that there is a problem with community in the church of which they are a part or that the one overcome by sin is not a true part of the community that exists.
The text of Scripture at the top of the page speaks very much about the need for holiness in the individual believer through the common effort of the community of God’s people – holiness through the common effort of the community of the people of God. Put more simply – We are not as holy as we ought to be because our sense of community is flawed or we have not joined in the community life of the church. If we are going to know victory, obedience, joy, in our Christian lives we need to be more of a community than we are. We speak much of Bible reading and prayer but when these are done in solitude they will not be as powerful as they can be when we do them with others. This is how God designed things to be. And even though we speak much about going to church, real fellowship is more than just meeting in the same room once a week. Fellowship is one of the crucial marks of a New Testament church and we must work hard at developing it properly.
The Christian life here in Hebrews 12 is compared to a race. It is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Consider this:
“My country did not send me 5000 miles to start a race. My country sent me 5000 miles to finish a race.” The Christian faith is not about starting with a bang and ending with fizzle. It is about running until we reach the end. Finishing is winning.
Then there is this from the 1992 Olympics:
The point of the first video is that God did not put us in this race just to start, but to finish. He who endures to the end will be saved. The point of the second video is that when we pull a hamstring it is completely within the rules of the race we are in for someone to help us and encourage us even if in an Olympic race such help is forbidden.
For the next few days I want to share a few thoughts from Hebrews 12:1-17 about the importance of community in the church. I do not completely understand how community is meant to work in the church. I know the culture we live in influences the church with its individualism in ways beyond what we realize. I hope you don’t mind working through some of this with me. I preached from the Hebrews 12:1-17 last Sunday and thought it wouldn’t be too horrible to rework the notes for the blog.