“The Christ in their own hearts is weaker than the Christ in the word of other Christians. Their own hearts are uncertain; those of their brothers and sisters are sure. At the same time, this also clarifies that the goal of all Christian community is to encounter one another as bringers of the message of salvation.” -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Life Together" This quote was the centerpiece of my sermon on Sunday. Bonhoeffer is describing the desperate need we all have for community... at least the desperate need of those of us who hunger and thirst for a firsthand knowledge and experience of God.
As I have reflected on this quote, it has reminded me of something I believe and yet have rarely put words too. As important as it is to have our own 1-1 relationship with God (and it is), and as important as it is to cultivate that 1-1 relationship through spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, and Scripture reading (and it is), a 1-1 relationship with God still has limitations.
God has designed us in such a way where we can only go so far alone.
To use Bonhoeffer's words, the Christ is our own hearts is often weaker than the Christ that is in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in faith. Of course the flip side is true too - the Christ in our own hearts is often stronger than the Christ in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in faith as well.
That is precisely why we need each other so bad.
There will be times where I am weak in my faith, or struggling with doubt, or badly in need of encouragement. There will be times where I desperately need wisdom or help seeing my problem from a different vantage point. And when those moments come, I need the Christ in you to strengthen the Christ in me. That is at the heart of the vision of community as expressed in the Bible.
At River City we believe this is true -- that we need each other, and that furthermore, that need for each other extends to every part of the body. We long to become a community where men and women, married and single, young and old come together to strengthen and be strengthened. We long to become a community where the different racial-cultural groups of our city come together, and where we unite across different socioeconomic strata around a common vision and mission. We believe that each of us carries Christ in our heart, and therefore have something incredibly valuable to contribute. We believe that each one of us also comes into community needing the Christ in us to be strengthened by our brothers and sisters.
We believe in the vision of community so strongly that we placed it in the middle of our River City vision statement. We say it like this: “We are on the quest to become a multiethnic community of Jesus followers that transform the city of Chicago through worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development.”
That's one of the important things to remember about community -- it doesn't work if it's an end to itself. Community is a means by which we grow into deeper Christlikeness... where we interlock and become something different... something we could not have been otherwise. To use the text from this weekend, community is what allows us to be "joined together" and to "rise up" into something new... something powerful.
On Sunday, November 24th, we are going to have a special service where we come together and celebrate the largest, riskiest, highest stakes endeavor that we've ever taken on as a community. We are in the process of renovating a 12,500 square foot warehouse at 3709 W Grand that will become the future home for our community. It will also become the launching pad into the next evolution of our mission and vision as a community.
As important as the building is to our vision, it too is simply a tool, a means, a vehicle for more deeply expressing our community's mission.
That is why we are going to spend the next two weeks publishing a series of blog posts about our mission and vision, and how it is that our building will help facilitate that vision. You'll hear a lot from me, and you'll hear from a number of our staff and elders as well. So check back daily between now and November 24th, and please prayerfully join us as we embark on this incredible important faith journey... as a community.