Culture Words: Friendship

Culture Words:

  1. Belonging

  2. Humility

  3. Friendship

  4. Honesty

  5. Beauty

3. Friendship

What does a Culture of Friendship look like? Consider these words from Proverbs:

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 17:17; 18:24; 27:6, 9, 17 ESV)

These are beautiful encouragements. In a world where we’ll feel the difficulty of work and family and relationships, of poverty, depression, anxiety and and frustration…. a world in which we’ll struggle to walk faithfully with our savior… it’s into this difficulty that God gives friends. Someone who loves us at all times and is born for adversity. Someone who sticks with us when life is hard. Someone who has the courage to tell us hard things in a loving way. Someone who sharpens us and points us to Jesus. What a blessing is friendship.

A culture of friendship, then, enables good togetherness to be found. It promotes honest and loving relationships. it’s characterized by people walking side by side together (if you haven’t read the book “Side by Side,” by Ed Welch, I highly recommend it).

Here are a few ideas to chew on regarding friendship:

  1. True Christian friendship is oriented toward a common goal. The side-by-side walking is heading a particular direction and each person is concerned with leading the other in that way.

  2. True Christian friendship is genuine. it’s not just lived on the surface. It seeks pathways toward deeper relationship.

  3. Because of this, true Christian friendship is risky. It takes vulnerability and that takes risk.

  4. True Christian friendship is sacrificial. It will take much more giving that taking.

  5. True Christian friendship is motivated by the friendship of Christ given to us. the Gospel is the fuel for a culture of friendship.

Question to Ponder: How can our church cultivate a culture of friendship? How can we provide opportunities and pathways for walking side by side?

Culture Words: Humility

Humility—it’s a word that gets thrown around a lot in our culture. Most parents want their children to be humble, and nearly everyone would agree that humility is a virtuous practice. But what does a culture of humility look like?

In Ephesians 4:1-2, the Apostle Paul begins a great shift in his epistle. The first three chapters have been filled with the “what is true” of the Gospel—Christians have been chosen in love, adopted by grace, forgiven, lavished with rich mercy, raised from death to life, made members of God’s household—the list goes on and on. And in chapter 4, we get the first “what to do.” In light of all of this amazing love and mercy, how are we to live? Here’s how Paul writes it:

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The big “THEREFORE” in Ephesians and what’s the first thing he writes? Humility. I love the way Sinclair Ferguson puts it: “The Quality of our fellowship together depends on the exercise of humility, gentleness, and forbearance.”

So what does a culture of humility look like in the church? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. It looks like a group of people who have a bigger view of Jesus than they do of their understanding of Jesus.

  2. It looks like a group of people who know they don’t have everything in perfect order and are depending on God’s Grace rather than their own abilities.

  3. It looks like a group of people who are quicker to listen than they are to speak.

  4. It looks like a group of people who repent often to one another.

  5. It looks like people who, as Paul writes in Philippians 2, consider others more significant than themselves.

As we each (motivated by the grace of God shown to us, and with Jesus as our model of humility) pursue humility in our thoughts, actions and relationships, our church will begin to embody a culture of humility. And it will become a place that looks more and more like it’s Savior and King.

Culture Words: Welcome and Belonging

Let’s talk about culture. Last week we defined culture (in the way we’re talking about it, at least), as the way a community looks, sounds, acts… you could says it’s the way a community feels when you’re a part of it (or when you’re just getting to know it). And we introduced some words that describe how we want our community to feel. A couple of really important words in that list are WELCOME and BELONGING. At Hope, we want to build a culture of welcome and belonging.

To belong is to feel at home. To be welcomed is to be brought in. A culture of welcome and belonging is one that feels as though the people around you genuinely like the fact that you’re there. As Christians, however, we’ve often gotten this a little backward. Here’s what I mean.

Our paradigm for belonging has often been: believe—> then behave —> then you belong. The belonging only happens after you’ve accomplished the other two.

Our goal at Hope is to work the equation the other way around. We want people to belong before they behave or believe. We want folks to feel at home whether they are convinced or unconvinced of the Truth we proclaim. We want them to feel like we genuinely want them around whether or not they act exactly like we do. The primary reason for this, of course, is because Jesus welcomed people like that. He called to himself the sick and needy. He welcomed the sinner and the outcast. He brought us into his family before we cleaned ourselves up. We’re called to do the same.

But this emphasis (and this reversal of the cultural norm) has another goal as well: we think it changes people. We believe that welcome and belonging often lead to belief, and belief to behavior. It’s the way the Gospel goes to work on us.

Here’s the challenge for this week—do something to make another feel like they belong. It’s these small steps that build the culture we (and the Lord) desire at Hope.

See you Sunday,


Community and Culture (Part Two: Culture)

Community and Culture have more in common that the same beginning constant—they actually are part and parcel with one another. Last week we focused on the communal nature of God’s restored creation, and we highlighted one area (Community Groups) where Hope is focused on building that redeemed community. But individual communities—both those inside and out of the church—have particular “flavors.” What does a community value? What are the marks of that community? If you cut it, does it “bleed” something particular?

At Hope, we use “culture words” to describe how we want our particular community to look, feel, sound, and act. We want a similar “culture” to permeate all that we do, be that a worship service, a party, a community group, or a mission opportunity. To put it another way, if someone were to experience the community life of Hope Presbyterian, what would they say it was like?

Here are a few words to chew on for the next week. We’ll go through these in more detail in the future, but for now, ask yourself, “how do I see these elements of our culture at work in our community (whether that’s the whole of the church body or your community group)? Which of these is strongest? Which is weakest? How can we see this kind of culture take deeper root?

Culture Words:

  1. Belonging

  2. Humility

  3. Friendship

  4. Honesty

  5. Beauty

Community and Culture (Part One: Community)

When we talk of “community” and of “culture,” we’re doing more than just throwing out buzzwords. We’re reminding ourselves of the truth of how God is bringing his Cosmic Redemption to bear in us and in Hope Presbyterian. Here’s what I mean…

COMMUNITY. God himself is a community, a Trinity, existing in perfect unity and diversity, in love and in harmony. And God created mankind to be a part of that community. To commune with himself and with one another. Unfortunately, sin shattered that community. Where there should be closeness, there is distance. Where there should be love, there is hatred. Where there should be union with our creator, sin brings division, even judgment.

Jesus, however, has come to change that. He’s lived, died and risen to renew mankind to the way God meant things to be. He’s restoring community. The Bible says that by faith in Christ, we might be relationally restored to God. That’s the word of the Gospel IN US. Jesus removing division and uniting us to God

And by virtue of God’s work in us, our earthly community can be restored as well. God works AMONG US. When God’s people get together in ways that are redemptive, honest, and missional, we see a glimpse of the Heavenly Kingdom and evidence of that Kingdom expanding on earth. When people get together to eat, talk, pray, celebrate, mourn, and gather around God’s Word, we’re seeing the restoration of community happening in our midst.

But there’s more too. Because not only does God work IN and AMONG us to restore community, He also works THROUGH us. He uses the honest, redemptive community of His Church to accomplish his Mission in the world. To change hearts, lives, and places.

HOPE COMMUNITY GROUPS. In a desire to see God work his communal restoration in, among, and through us, we’ve organized into what we call Community Groups. Community Groups are groups of 10-20 people meeting in homes throughout New Braunfels for fellowship, encouragement, Bible discussion, and service. They are pathways toward deepening friendships, Spiritual growth, and service involvement. IN, AMONG, and THROUGH. It’s our hope and prayer that by belonging to a community group, you’ll be able to connect in all of these ways. If you haven't already, I encourage you to sign up for a community group. I think you’ll be happy you did.

And check back next week as we take a closer look at that second word… “culture.”

Until then,