It seems like every book you read or that you come across talks about longing for community. Even Hollywood has jumped on this bandwagon (see NBC’s TV show “Community”). I have heard many folks, including pastors and church leaders even use communal lingo…“We long for community”, “how do we become a true community of believers”, and so forth. Interestingly, many local churches are identified by the word community: “Community Baptist Church”, “Christ Community”, etc.
Now, it is without argument that many Christians long for relationships and a sense of belonging, however, when we use the word community, do we understand what we are seeking after?
Do we realize that with true community comes authenticity, truth-telling, confession, discipline, obedience, self-less giving, and so forth?
Henri Nouwen states that:
“The Christian community is a community which not only creates a sense of belonging but also a sense of estrangement. In the Christian community we say to each other, ‘We are together, but we cannot fulfill each other…we help each other, but we also have to remind each other that our destiny is beyond our togetherness…
The basis of the Christian community is not the family tie, or social or economic equality, or share oppressions or complaint, or mutual attraction, but the divine call…Therefore, as the people of God, we are called ekklesia (Greek–kaleo=call and ek=out), the community called out of the old world into the new…
Wherever true community presents itself, discipline is crucial…Thus, community is obedience practiced together…
So, where does God lead us as a people? This question requires that we pay careful attention to God’s guidance in our life together, and that together we search for a creative response.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoes Henri Nouwen, and even suggests that:
“Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ…The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us.”
So, what do you think?
1. Do you agree with Nouwen’s and Bonhoeffer’s assessment of “community”?
2. How does their assessment of community impact your philosophy of ministry?
3. In what ways might this impact how we view discipleship?
4. How might we be living in relationship with others, and yet, not in Christian community?