There’s a terrible cycle that occurs in our world. Brokenness leads to poverty leads to brokenness. Poverty and brokenness are inextricably intertwined. The only way to interrupt thecycle is through relationships. It has never been more important than in our current cultural climate of extreme brokenness to be connected in community.
King David speaks to the issue of poverty, brokenness, and community. As he reflected back over the years of his life, he said, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). To fully understand this, we have to know what the word “righteous” means. Righteous means being in right relationship with God, myself, and others. When I come to God through faith in Jesus Christ, my relationship with Him gets set right. That relationship begins to transform me, and I start to get in good relationship with myself. But in order for this to come full circle, in order for my poverty and brokenness to be addressed satisfactorily, I have to get in right relationship and community with others. Right relationship is more than Sunday morning worship. No one knows me there. There is no way for my heart and needs to become visible, or the needs of others to become visible to me. That happens in small groups. When I am in right relationship with God’s people, they become aware of my needs and want to help me.
The early church was distinguished from the culture in their world because this was the pattern they followed. There were large meetings, and the large crowds attracted people. But that’s not what grew the church and changed lives. It was the way their relationships worked that won the world. Acts 4:32-35 records it: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.“
All through the New Testament this incredible dynamic shows up over and over. Widows were cared for with love and grace. How? Because they were part of a community where other people knew them,understood their needs, and reached out to help. The early Christians distinguished themselves by being the first to care for children who were abused and abandoned. Why? Because people who knew about the needs were part of a caring and loving community who took action together. Acts 9 tells about a woman in the early church named Dorcas. She was a seamstress, and used her tremendous skills to provide clothing for those in the church community who had need. She became suddenly ill and died. The mourners from the community were many, and they were all devastated. They sent for Peter who was in another town, and he came immediately, prayed over Dorcas, and she was restored to life.
One of the most profound comments made regarding the early church came from the lips of a man named Aristides, sent by the Emperor Hadrian to spy out those strange creatures knownas "Christians." Having seen them in action, Aristides returned with a mixed report. But his immortal words to the emperor have echoed down through history: "Behold! How they love one another."
Their love was amazing, astounding, and transformative. “There were no needy persons among them,” no one overwhelmed by poverty and unable to handle life. WHY? Because they lived in community.
The way to ensure that our needs are met today is by living in community. That is why we say at NewPointe that it is dangerous to do life alone. You need to engage with a Small Group. Circles are better than rows. Small Groups are where faces become real people, where lives intersect. Our needs are met, and we get to meet the needs of others. We know and are known. The grip of poverty of all kinds (spiritual, relational, emotional, and material) is broken, because we have someone to do life with us.
That’s what community does.