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ERICKSON: Building communities

Below is an excerpt of the sermon I delivered last weekend in Chicago. The experience was very intimidating until I got in the pulpit. The scripture on which I based the sermon was Acts 6:8 -- 7:1. This excerpt below was at the end of the sermon.

“Back in the sixties and seventies, American churches looked on with horror as the sexual revolution broke out. The communes started and hippies descended into free love. The overreaction by the church was to start talking about our individual walks with God. The sermons of the churches that did not drift into accord with the world began focusing on the individual acts of salvation.

“In doing so, they over time downplayed the actual communal, corporate acts of worship. We are relational beings. God created Eve because man should not be alone. In the 21st century we have sacrificed community for individuality. In my own family, we are so focused on Little League and after-school and weekends with family we neglect our church family. We fail to break bread with our friends who encourage us.

“Throughout the book of Acts, we find the early Christians in communion with each other. They pray together. They break bread together. They share their testimonies. It serves as an encouragement. It serves as a reinforcement. It serves to make them bold. They derived strength even from their corporate prayers for boldness. How often do we pray for boldness in our faith?

“Think about that for just a second. Acts tells us that the apostles shared their testimony of Jesus’ resurrection. The eyewitnesses shared what they had seen. And still they prayed for boldness.

“The first martyr, Stephen, had come from that. He left his church community, encouraged and emboldened and re-energized to share the gospel. When Stephen answered the high priest’s “is this so” by recounting the narrative of history and God’s impact, he did it reassured in Christ and knowing he had a community of believers behind him.

“The movie ‘The Village’ is one of those post-‘Sixth Sense’ M. Night Shyamalan movies where he tries in vain and fails to capture the originality of the ‘Sixth Sense.’ In it, a village in the woods in the 19th century is surrounded by a forest with terrible creatures that require that no one ever leave the village.

The plot twist, and considering the movie was released in 2004 I don’t feel bad about spoiling it for you, is that there are no creatures and it is not the 19th century. A group of people move themselves into a village in the middle of a forest preserve then convince their children they are all that exists. No one is allowed to discover the outside world. When anyone works up the courage to enter the woods, the adults dress up as monsters and scare the kids back to the village.

“I’ve got a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. I am really, really tempted by that concept. But that is not Christianity. We can retreat temporarily to the safe haven of our church community. We can and should hear the stories of the martyrs and the stories of our friends and their struggles with faith, their testimony, and their walk with the Lord. They should embolden us and encourage us in our faith. We have a corporate responsibility to worship together, pray together, then go. Your walk in the woods alone may be great for you mentally, but that is not church. It is not community.”

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor.