Developing Community & Kingdom Culture in the Local Church
I shared last week an article and sermon titled, Created for God’s Family. Today I want to build on this theme, focusing on the role Jesus plays, as the head of His body (the church) and our response to His love and grace so freely given to us.
To build authentic Christian community and culture in our churches, it starts with passionate love for Jesus and love toward others. Our relationship with Christ is personal and unique, but God never intended it to be private or separated from others in the Church.
We come to Jesus individually, but the Holy Spirit places us into the body of Christ, the family of God. Following Christ means more than just believing, it means belonging.
You are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian. Eph. 2:19b (LB)
To develop church life that represents kingdom culture, we need to learn how to become less independent and self-centered and more interdependent.
To be the Church Jesus desires, interdependence must take priority over independence.
In order to build real interdependent relationships, you must spend time with people often, even when you don’t feel like it. Through worship and prayer, bible study, fellowship, service, and outreach, relationships are built, strengthened, and unity is realized.
The NT assumes participation with other believers in a local congregation. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, individualism has created many spiritual orphans and disconnected believers without identity, accountability, or commitment. Your destiny unfolds through relationships.
The difference between being a church attender and a church member is commitment. Attenders are spectators from the sidelines; members get involved in the ministry. Attenders are consumers; members are contributors. Just like a healthy natural family, each member should be involved in family life and activities, household chores, and other responsibilities.
Attenders want the benefits of a church without sharing the responsibility. They want covenant without commitment. How can one be part of a family without participation?
Christ is the Head of the Church, His Body
To develop authentic kingdom culture and community in the local church, the church must passionately love and worship Jesus. Jesus is both the substance and supremacy of the Church:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Col. 1:15-20 NIV
Jesus is supreme! He is the living portrait, the living image of God. It’s all about Jesus!
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Heb. 1:3 NIV
Jesus is the very radiance of the Father’s glory—the image of the eternal God! Jesus isn’t merely an archangel, prophet, or teacher as some believe. No, no! He is the eternal son of God, in the beginning with the Father, and the exact representation of God. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father!”
The word radiance is from the Greek apaugasma and means “a radiance of light beaming from a luminous body.”Jesus, who is one with Father God, is shining forth the radiance of His glory. Even in His humanity, the glory of the Father still shone through Him.
Jesus manifested an exact representation of Who God is and what He does. The word exact comes from charaktēr and means, “a mark engraved or impressed, the impress or stamp on coins and seals;” as a metaphor, it means, “the mark impressed (as it were) on a person or thing, a distinctive mark, characteristic, character.” 
The mark or impress Jesus made on earth conformed in every detail to the Father’s nature! So, when they looked at Jesus, and when we gaze on Jesus through the eyes of our heart, we are looking at the exact representation of the Father’s nature shining through every facet of His life and ministry.
Jesus is the Fullness of God
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Eph. 1:22-23 NIV
Remember, Paul said in Col. 1:19 NIV that the fullness of God dwells in Jesus, who is the head of the Church, His body. Therefore, the Church, His body, has the fullness (completeness) of God dwelling within. Yes, the Church, full of its faults and blemishes!
So, if Jesus is representing the Father’s nature, then the Church, since she is the body of Christ, is also representing the Father’s nature, and is filled with God’s glory. Perhaps we should start believing this?!
Remember, I’m discussing how to build authentic Christian community and Kingdom culture in the local church.
But it begins with loving Jesus above all else.
Jesus must be our passion, our desire, the motivation for who we are and what we do. Love is more than dutiful obedience, although Jesus plainly said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Love is foremost relationship, born of desire.
In responding to the religious leaders asking about the greatest commandment, Jesus
… replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Matt. 22:37-39 CEB
But God loved us first, therefore our love response to Him is an awakening to the love freely given through Christ. God’s love leads us to willful worship and desire of Him.
Trying to love God apart from a surrendered heart to Him is impossible!
Further, we can’t even fully love ourselves apart from complete abandonment to God through Jesus. And if we can’t love ourselves fully, how can we love and honor others in our world or the body of Christ?
If we neglect our first love, we won’t value the love expressed by God in and through His body—the Church. In fact, we can even begin to view others with “disdain” in the Church. Why?
Because we aren’t completely transformed by His love. An orphan mindset predominates, counterfeit affections creep in, and others get in the way of our carnal desires and motivations. Christian community becomes affected. Left unchanged, the bond of peace and unity are hindered or broken in a local church.
His Unity and His Glory
I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.” John 17:20-23 CEB
The phrase, “made perfectly one” essentially means “to be made perfect in one;” however, it is not a passive oneness. The word also conveys the idea of carrying through to completion, to accomplish, or to finish the process. Unity is a relational position, but it is primarily a “process in pursuit of a goal.” But there is a supernatural component!
Jesus prayed that the same glory that the Father gave the Son, would be given to us. His glory at work in us produces powerful unity when we embrace each other and learn to walk in unity.
Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” Rom. 15:7 NASB
Unity begins with acceptance of each other. The very act of accepting and honoring one another is glorious. Honor releases life and God’s glory!
Accepting one another is a glory issue. Just as Christ’s acceptance of each of us is to the glory of God, so is our acceptance of others.
Acceptance is more than trying to get along. Acceptance is from the Greek proslambanō and means “to take in addition.”  Acceptance means to make room for another person and add them into our relationships.
Jesus accepted us when we were undeserving of His gift of grace. When we extend His love and acceptance to others, His glory intensifies in our lives, the church, and in the world! Authentic community and church culture develop!
When we, the church, radiate His glory, through love, unity and His power—the world notices. The world is irresistibly attracted to the church.
We are “already glorious” and “not yet glorious.” We are, but we are also becoming glorious and more like Jesus. Yet, Jesus speaks to our identity in Him, calling us up higher. To be the glorious church, we must be family first and cooperate with the Holy Spirit as we become all that God intends.
We ask for His glory, but perhaps we haven’t understood that glory looks a lot like unity. The more glory, the more unity.
Unity requires Commitment—to Christ and to Each Other
In John 17:20-23, Jesus states that His presence, or glory, is given to us to produce a unity that will impact the world. As we yield to Spirit, this is possible.
Heaven’s unity is not based on agreement upon the lowest common denominator. Rather, upon the person of Jesus. When we intentionally make the commitment to represent Him and His nature through love, acceptance, and honor. Acceptance is a primary ingredient to unity, but it takes work too.
…being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Eph. 4:3 NASB
Unity is to be preserved. The bond of unity can be fragile. Though unity is a work of the Holy Spirit, it also requires effort on our part. Diligence translates from the Greek spoudazō; meaning “to make haste or hurry.”  In order to remain unified, there is no time for delay; issues must be dealt with immediately.
Preserve comes from the Greek tēros, “to watch over, to guard. To attend to carefully, to keep in view and to apply one’s self. To guard from loss or injury or to prevent escape.” 
Unity of the Spirit and in Christian community is not found when we can come to agreement on every point of doctrine, but in Jesus and fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.” Rom 12:10 NLT
In a family, acceptance isn’t based on how smart, talented or charming you are. No, it occurs because you belong to each other. Remember, we belong to and need each other.
In every church family, there are going to be people that we may have difficulty in relating to or working with. Everyone has quirks or oddities about them—we’re people! Embrace our differences; we need each other! This is where grace for each other comes in, by the Spirit in the bond of peace.
To be in perfect unity, or developing into maturity, requires that we are committed to growth and adding to our lives that which is lacking. True spiritual maturity is impossible outside of corporate body life. Maturity develops individually as we surrender to the demands of relationships in the body life of the local church.
Relationship skills must be cultivated and developed. For some, this is easy: perhaps growing up your family was healthy; perhaps your personality and gift mix are such that relating to others is easier. However, each of us can learn and grow in relationship skills and working with others in community and the local church. The Holy Spirit desires this, we just need to cooperate with the process!
It takes humility to admit that I have areas I need to grow in, to improve upon. Humility gives the Holy Spirit an avenue to empower us to become who Jesus says we already are. Pride blocks grace in our lives—we need grace to grow.
When we relate to each other in humility, we create bridges to deeper relationships and community growth.
It’s been said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; humility is thinking of yourself less.”
We want more of God’s power—more miracles, more healings. It begins with loving God and loving each other in community. Then God’s Love and Power can flow through us to impact others.
Grow in your relationship with the Lord and with your local church family. Attend regularly, give faithfully, find a place to serve, reach out to others, get involved in small groups, and lastly, carry His love to those outside of the church—let them have a reason to come into God’s family!
Developing Christian community and authentic Kingdom culture in the local church takes effort on our part as we yield to the working of the Holy Spirit.
However, Jesus is the pearl of great price, our cities and nations need His love and power to sweep across the globe once again. Let’s cooperate with Him and working of Holy Spirit to realize another global move of God!
For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Developing Community and Kingdom Culture in the Local Church”
Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 181.
H.G. Liddell, A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon(Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996), 882.
Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition(Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).
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