By Zach Simons
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” - 1 Peter 2:9-10
Of all the places in scripture that speak to the nature of the church, this is perhaps one of the most potent. Packed into these couple of verses is a treasure trove of phrases to help us understand our relationship to God and to one another as Christians. Because of this, we could spend hours talking through them, but today I’d like to highlight one that is particularly emphasized; and that is “a people.”
What does Peter mean when he calls the church “A” people? Is there any difference between a people and a collection of individuals? This may be a terrible analogy, but when I think about this question, flash mobs keep coming to mind. For those of you who spend little time on Facebook or on YouTube, a flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place like a mall or a busy courtyard, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless dance or choreographed act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, acting as if nothing just happened. They are usually planned in secret via social media and take a ton of coordination, all for the purpose of shocking and entertaining complete strangers. I’ll be honest, flash mobs do not appeal to me. But the difference between an otherwise normal afternoon at the mall, and an afternoon at the mall in which you encounter a flash mob is immense. On a normal day, the mall contains simply a collection of individuals. But at a flash mob, the mall contains a group of rehearsed and intentional people, all acting in sync with one another.
When Peter calls us “a people” for God’s own possession, he means much more than a collection of individuals. He is saying that we are a people who not only understand their identity in Christ, but who also have a corporate or communal understanding of that identity. This means that we are committed to one another and to our collective growth in Christ. We live in sync with one another, and for the great purpose of proclaiming the excellencies of God. It’s as if God is saying, “I’ve set you apart as my kids!” We are, by necessity, brothers and sisters; members of one family. We share a heritage, a reputation, a future, a bloodline. And the most prestigious and precious bloodline of all - that of Jesus Christ.
Peter’s picture of community is one in which people consider one another, prefer one another, and sacrifice for one another. This will require a paradigm shift from the thinking that one’s walk with Jesus is solely personal. It requires us to see ourselves as a people and not just a gathering of people.
In fostering this understanding of the Christian life at Four Oaks, we emphasize what are called Community Groups, or neighborhood gatherings of individuals and families throughout the week. Community Groups create space for study and application of God’s word, care through relationship, and missional living in local pockets of our city. While each typically has a night of the week where they meet as a routine, group members also seek to consciously consider one another in the every day moments of life. This means Community Groups are meant to be more of a lifestyle than an event. A simple way to live into our corporate and communal identity as “a people” for God’s own possession and for his glory.
Community Groups officially start back up for 2018 in February, and I’d love to personally connect you to one if you’ve not yet had that opportunity. Four Oaks has 14 groups that meet around the midtown area, all with trained lay-leaders and hosts who’d love to welcome you in. Please let us know if you have any questions or would like to try one out by following this link.