Acts 2:46,47 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 8:1-3 And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

Acts 11:22 The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.

One of the things I stress to us is this fact: the New Testament church was a community. Christians depended on each other, formed deep relationships with each other, identified through Christ with each other, rejoiced together, and supported each other in times of pain and suffering. They were not perfect or ideal. Yet, because of Christ, they had an incredible bond that was (1) real and (2) sustained by the resurrected Jesus Christ. Because they were devoted to God, they were devoted to each other.

I want personally to thank all of you for continuing to move us in the direction of a personal community of believers rather than an impersonal institution. Are we perfect? No. Do we have lots of flaws? Yes. Are we growing in the ability to care and bond? Yes--in so many ways!

Thank you, ladies, for your example as you often lead the way in closeness and caring! I frequently am amazed at the outreach and closeness in WINGS classes. The spirit of unselfish caring is obvious among the quilting ladies. So many ladies are unselfishly active in the education program. Ladies do so much to make Care Groups and Life Groups possible.

When I hear young ladies affirm in troubling moments that help "is there for them"; when I see how responsive our ladies are to special needs; when I know how much studying ladies do on a weekly basis; when I hear about how much praying ladies do for specific needs and situations, I am deeply encouraged. Why? These are expressions of community! They exist because the concern and bonding are genuine!

I am encouraged by many of the men as well. So much happens to express caring, to address needs, to extend helpfulness to people, and to encourage those with struggles.

We live in an evil world and an uncertain society. Common values seem to stress money, pleasure, success, exploiting the dependent, and selfishness. May it be increasingly obvious that we are a people guided by God, and God's influence centers us on people. Faith in God results in caring about people! "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 28 March 2004

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