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    Entries in community (7)


    Community Begins with Christ

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ." He further states, "It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God's Word and sacrament." If that isn't enough, Bonhoeffer reminds us, "The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer."

    One of the greatest longings of our time, it seems to me, is for community. And one of our greatest fears, both expressed and unexpressed, is that of being alone. For many, our longing remains unfulfilled, even among those who claim to take part in Christian community, try as we might to connect with others either publicly or online.

    Which leads me back to Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer identifies two ways community is realized for the Christian: in and through Jesus Christ.

    While commentators quibble over the exact meaning of the phrase in Christ, all seem to agree that it is a reality entered into mystically by faith. I think of the words of Paul in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." There has been a crossing over, a transformation, a change of status. Those trusting Jesus are no longer apart from him, but now stand in him.

    What does this mean for community? It means, first, that Christian community is not first achieved by some action on one's own part, but rather is enacted by the person and work of Jesus Christ. We have been incorporated into the Christian fellowship. We do not create it.

    But to enter into the community, we must come through Jesus Christ. And it is through him that we encounter our brothers and sisters. Jesus has made such a community possible through his body and blood. He is our mediator, and the one in whom we receive peace, not only between God and human beings, but between brother and sister. Bonhoeffer says it simply: "Christ opened up the way to God and to our brother."

    Lastly, Bonhoeffer claims that the goal of all Christian community is this: "they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation." It is within the fellowship that we are reminded of what Jesus has done not only for you and me, but for all of creation.

    Bonhoeffer incisively reminds his readers that not every Christian experiences the visible fellowship of other believers. The sick, infirm, the scattered, the solitary missionary worker, they remain part of the fellowship in and through Christ, but lack the daily experience of a common fellowship. For most of my readers, face to face interaction with other Christians is not only possible, it is routine. And, dare I say for some, it is taken for granted.

    So, the next time you interact with others in Christian community, remember how the fellowship has been made possible: in and through Christ. Remember that the presence of other Christians is a gift, graciously given because of God's recognition that it is not good for human beings to be alone (Gen. 2:18).

    Recall that your interactions with other Christians are made possible through Christ, who has removed the barrier of our own egos and united us to one another (it is difficult to feel superior to anyone when one begins to realize the depth of one's own sin). It is difficult not to feel love for others whom Christ has redeemed.

    Then, lastly, remember that you are present with your brothers and sisters as a herald, a bringer of the message of salvation. Spread the Word. Perhaps in doing so, Christians who experience aloneness and lack of community will begin to realize the richness of Christian fellowship, and the true joy of being united to one another, and to God, together.


    Those Amish Sure Can Raise a Barn

    The things communities can do.

    HT: Digg


    Keller on the Millennials

    Photo by Jeff Kubina

    Jefferson Bethke sat down with Tim Keller and asked what encourages and discourages him about the millennial generation. Keller's answer: community.

    Listen to his explanation, and take a look:


    What Type of Community Is This? What Will It Be?

    Community.  There are all types of communities, centered on all kinds of topics, hobbies, and interests.  There is the hand-craft community, the DIY community, and the everything Apple community.  There is the Reformed community and Emergent Village and the Evangelical Arminians

    I’m part of numerous communities.  I play softball and pick up hoops.  I volunteer in our youth ministry.  My most important community is my family.  I am part of a church.

    But what type of community is this?  What type of community will it become?

    I want to be clear. 

    • I want there to be people here who are both young and old.  May those of us who are younger learn from those who are older, and vice-versa.  
    • I want this community to consist of people who are willing to intellectually engage theology and culture.  This community will make space for those that question and doubt.  While there will be room for strong proclamation, there will also be room for inquiry and investigation.  
    • This community will engage both popular and more technical concerns.  I am an academic who loves people enough to try to communicate in plain language.  This can be a challenge for me, but I will strive to write in an accessible way, while also challenging the collective to elevate our discourse to higher levels of critical thinking.  
    • This community will be a space where people can laugh, joke, and clown around.  While we will be serious, we will not take ourselves too seriously.  
    • This space will foster connection.  I want commenters to interact and dialogue with one another in a respectful tone.  We can challenge one another, question one another, and even say we strongly disagree, but when we do so, we will speak the truth in love.  
    • This space will be ecumenical.  I am a Baptist who is a member of a United Methodist Church.  I still represent the Baptist tradition, while being an admirer of John Wesley and the greater Wesleyan tradition.  People from all traditions or no-tradition are welcome to come and contribute in the discourse, whether they be liberal or conservative, Reformed, Catholic, Emergent (whatever that might mean), Presbyterian, Pentecostal, etc.  
    • This community will consult and wrestle with the Bible.  I love the Scriptures.  The text should not be dismissed too quickly in light of modern concerns or set aside in an attempt to establish a lowest common denominator faith.  We should pursue the logic of our interpretations to their conclusions, and, when we have reasoned well together and still disagree, maintain fellowship in love.  
    • This community will not serve as a substitute for involvement in our neighborhoods.  Hopefully, it will inspire us to be more engaged in our cities and towns.  In addition, it is hoped that the relationships that begin here might eventually result in a handshake, a cup of coffee, a meal, or some other occasion where we might be “face to face.” 

    For this to be a community, I will need your help.  I will need you to step out of the shadows, leave a comment, ask a question, send an email.  I will need you to share discussions found here with your friends and networks, and invite others to take part.  I will need you to bring my attention to interesting articles around the web, books that are of note, and scholarly works that should not be ignored.  I will need you to help me track culture and think harder and work more diligently to communicate clearly.  I will need you to carve out a presence.

     All are welcome.  All are accepted.  Those are words I learned at the Lord’s Table.  They are true here as well.

    I’m glad you are part of this community.  Now, let us live the dream.


    Longevity and Communtiy

    We all long for a place called home.

    But we seldom stay in one place long enough to let any such place become the reality for which we long.

    This past week I finished reading Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture.  It is a fascinating meditation, full of wisdom from the monastic tradition, solid biblical reflection, and vivid storytelling.  Pursued throughout is the idea of community in a world that fosters rootlessness.

    Wilson-Hartgrove relays this story, illustrating both the longing for community, and the investment required to find it:

    We find the stability we were made for as we come home to life with God in community with other people.  This is our true home.  But settling in isn't easy.

    Will told me the story of relocating his family to be part of a church that takes community seriously.  After a year in a new location, he met with one of his pastors to talk about how things were going.  Life was good, Will reflected, and he was grateful for the welcome that he and his family had received at the new church.  But he wasn't sure that he was experiencing the community he had expected.  Frankly, Will had hoped for more.

    The pastor listened to his misgivings, then asked how long Will and his family had been there.  "About a year," he replied.

    "Then I guess you've got a year's worth of community," his pastor said matter-of-factly.  "Stay another year and you'll have two years' worth.  Stay thirty and you might find some of what you're looking for."

    This story has a great deal of power.  There is a great deal of longing for community.  This seems to be a common cry from my generation.  But there seems to be little desire to invest oneself in the work that is community.  The patience required to cultivate such a life together is notably absent.  And community is perceived as something one exclusively receives, rather than something one participates in over time.  Community is equal part gift that one gives as well as gift that one receives.

    I've lived now for over five years in Kansas.  I am not a native.  It has taken time to establish friends.  It has taken time to adjust to the ecclesial and theological communities of which I am part.  The seasons, the land, the pace, and the ethos of this area has taken time to seep into my pores.  But the longer I am here, the stronger my ties become to church, to people, to geography.

    Community takes time, and patience.