Off The Cuff

COMMUNITY LIFE THAT IS AUTHENTIC MAY BE DIFFERENT THAN COMMONLY PERCEIVED

It may not be an exaggeration to say that we have accepted considerable “fake facts” when it comes to “community life”, “fellowship” within the local church.  Talk of “authentic community”,  “real family” and “pseudo fellowship” have long plagued the church.  It is not just the church that has struggled in this realm, but so have all other organizations.  It is a human problem caused by sin.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the local church, this is a trademark, an essential, a DNA marker for us.  But we need to get this “fellowship” thing right.  Frank Honeycutt’s book, PREACHING FOR ADULT CONVERSION (pp. 140-145) contains a number of choice statement on “community”.  They are simply quoted below and provide a balancing perspective on the “koinonia” that is to be a signature characteristic of Christ’s church.  Ponder the statements.

In an individualized and “free” society such as our own, a much more common threat to healthy communities is not the warped expressions of false community, but a common perception that individual submission to corporate wisdom is something akin to slavery. 

We don’t like anyone showing us how we should structure our days, even Jesus.  The widely accepted national assumption is this:  I know what’s best for my own life.  This can easily become a subtle creed, even for a Christian.  I love Richard Rohr’s response to such a creed:  “The forgiveness inherent in our faith teaches that all of us are much larger than the good or bad stories we tell about ourselves.  Please don’t get caught in just ‘my’ story, my hurts, my agenda.  It’s too small ….  It’s not where life is really going to happen.  No wonder the Spirit is described as “flowing water’ and “as a spring inside of you’ (John 4:10-14)….  Strangely, your life is not about ‘you.’  It’s part of a much large stream called God.”

It ‘s going to be hard for a United States citizen to follow Jesus because  I’ve been taught to cherish and guard my personal freedoms at all costs.  In contrast, Christians do indeed relinquish personal freedoms and embrace the corporate spiritual wisdom of a community that has been forged through centuries of experience, loyalty , suffering and obedience.  … In short, we do not like to be told what to do with our lives.

In close to twenty years as a pastor, I have yet to meet an individual who is growing in Christ apart from a congregation.

The truth of the matter is that authentic community, though immensely powerful and satisfying, is also difficult and draining.

Says one, “the concept that a community can set standards, adopt values, capture conscience, and become authoritative in the life of human beings is not obvious in our culture, and it falls apart without it.”

Quoting Gordon Cosby –  If a community is going to have a life which is an alternative life to the dominant culture and the dominant consciousness, then it must clearly defined what its corporate life is and is not about.  It must clearly prepare people who want to explore that life and are making the transition from non-community to community life. A fundamental difference exists between what the new person has lived through within the dominant society and what they aspire to in this alternative community which is the church.