Happy New Year! It’s awesome that 2019 is starting on a Tuesday and I get to join the spirit of new/renewed plans and goals with you! I hope you’ve carefully and prayerfully planned on some healthy life-changes. I want to throw my hat in the ring with a suggestion. Well, it’s actually more like an urging, maybe even a pleading (and definitely a constant prayer). It’s coming to you with that kind of force because this healthy thing can positively affect and inform all others. I’d like to invite you to elevate the importance of regular Christ-centered community in this new year. You might call this weekly gathering by another “C” word, but that word has become so distorted, I’m steering clear of it. The original language term meant “assembly”, but even that can be dulled down to mean only a gathering of people. I’m using “community” because it most closely captures the intent of the coming together of God’s people as revealed in the pages of scripture from beginning to end. People in true community are engaged with one another, committed, involved, contributing to the common good, accountable, learning from, and challenging each other to bigger and better things! It is to this spirit of togetherness that Jesus called his disciples (and us) in this powerful exchange recorded in the New Testament book written by Matthew (brackets mine), “Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied…upon this rock I will build my [community], and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” Matthew 16:15–18 (NLT). Here we find the A-B-C’s, the rock-solid foundation of our relationship to God. Jesus is the center of it all (A), and as we gather around him together in community (B), we overcome the enemy and his domain (C). Just in case you didn’t notice, the only part that is a variable is our community. It is that variable (as Jesus put it) that determines my overcoming. But in spite of this triad of power (and implied warning of weakness), the latest statistics show that people consider regular community involvement (that Sunday “C” word) a once every 6-week touch. I have no idea how you feel about that, but it is alarming to me, and I can’t just shrug and say, “oh well, that’s just the way it is.” With this in mind, please allow me to comment on the “big three” community crashers of family (think marriage, kids, grandkids), rest, and recreation (I feel your hackles raising, but read on please). Each of the these are given great value by God which can be found in the Bible (recreation being a facet of rest). Each of these is also given its exact purpose and definition from the same volume and achieve their highest form and greatest good through the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you want the best family (time, harmony, relationship)? Bring them to weekly community, even when it seems to cut into your perception of family time and receive all God had in mind when he created family. The world wears us down and Sunday may be your only day to sleep in or get that boat in the water (or one of many other relaxing activities). Remember what Jesus said about the source of true rest, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV84). The danger (as I see it) lies in replacing the Creator’s wise and perfect gifts with our limited human understanding of what those things could be, and so missing the spiritual power, peace, and joy that comes from community with him! This is not about filling a certain space every week of the year or getting a perfect attendance award (I’m away from community a few times a year too). It’s about coming together with other Jesus-followers as often as possible to share in all aspects of his presence among us! What keeps you away? Consider elevating the importance and privilege of coming together weekly, and step into this powerful fellowship this year.