EXPLORING THE IDEA OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL LIVING PART 1
Most Christian men and women, though distinct from the world around them in terms of their theological beliefs, in many other ways mirror the culture that they were raised in. We have followed the paths laid out for us by others who came before and we don’t naturally think outside of the boxes that we were raised to think and live in. However, every once in a while someone comes along who is willing to overturn all of the tables, re-write the rules and upend the whole system, or at least in terms of how they choose to live. They are non-conformists. They are on a quest for greater Christian experience and greater liberty. They are willing to take a large leap of faith and live another way.
This article will explore such a life, specifically in relation to the idea of Christian communal living, also called living in a Christian intentional community. Has this been done before? Oh yes. Does this have a Biblical basis? It does. Are there benefits to such a life? Most definitely. Are there challenges to creating such a lifestyle? Uh-uh, large ones.
Why don’t we start by considering the Biblical basis and ideal. In the early part of Jesus’ ministry He selected 12 disciples and called them to follow him. These disciples left their fishing nets and other occupations and did follow Jesus. How did they live? They traveled throughout the region, ministered to others and lived together. After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension His followers continued sharing the Gospel. The book of Acts tells us this about the early Christians;
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ [n]doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and [o]sold their possessions and goods, and divided[p] them among all, as anyone had need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added [q]to the church daily those who were being saved.
What a beautiful picture of unity and living together. Has anyone tried to emulate this? Yes, there have been many, many examples of different forms of Christian communal living throughout the centuries from early desert fathers, who lived communally to pursue a more monastic lifestyle, to the Christian hippies of the 1960’s and 1970’s. And there have been many others. There are some who live this way today. Whether from past or present, they have a story to tell and an example to show us. Some of these we will zero in on and look at more closely.
The Bruderhof is an Anabaptist movement that was started in Germany in 1920 by Mr. Eberhard Arnold. They had an early association with the Hutterites, who are known for their traditional communal living. The term “ Bruderhof” had been used by the Hutterites to refer to their communities in Moravia. The difficult years leading up to World War II saw much of the Bruderhofs, who were conscientious objectors to war, relocate outside of Germany. Many moved to other parts of Europe, Paraguay and eventually in 1954, came to America and set up. Many of those communities continue to this day.
The Bruderhofs live a rural life, operate communal farms and other communal businesses. They live together, worship together and share at least one communal meal each day. They dress traditionally. Each community shares a common purse and each member does not earn a personal income. They differ from Hutterite communities somewhat, in that they are very welcoming of outsiders and they are involved in social and political activism. They say; “We do not want to wait for peace and justice until the day of Christ’s return. We wish to demonstrate a shared life of work and worship in which the harmony of his coming kingdom can be seen and touched today, in our daily lives.” (Foundations of Our Faith and Calling
Life in Community)
The Bruderhofs highly esteem manual work. They consider it to be a form of worship to God. They say;
Work must be indivisible from prayer, prayer indivisible from work. Our work is thus a form of worship, since our faith and daily life are inseparable, forming a single whole. Even the most mundane task, if done as for Christ in a spirit of love and dedication, can be consecrated to God as an act of prayer. To pray in words but not in deeds is hypocrisy.Work is a command of God and has intrinsic worth. He gave the earth to humankind to enjoy, cultivate, and care for in reverence as good stewards in his stead. Therefore, we honor work on the land. We honor physical work – the exertion of muscle and hand – and the craftsman’s creativity and precision. We honor the activity of the mind and soul too: the inspired work of the artist, the scholar’s exploration of nature and history, the enterprise of the inventor, the skill of the professional. Whatever form our work takes, we are called to do it to the best of our ability in service to the kingdom of God.
Foundations of Our Faith and CallingLife in Community
As well as valuing work, they greatly value the sacredness of human life. They say “Christ’s Golden Rule – to do to others as we would have done to ourselves – requires solidarity with all people and respect for their dignity as fellow human beings made in the image of God. To treat others merely as the means to an economic end is a sin.” (Foundations of Our Faith and CallingLife in Community) And; “Our life together gives us opportunities to show love to one another at every stage of life, from welcoming a newborn baby to attending older brothers and sisters in their last years. Deeds of love are not routine but personal – a matter of following Christ’s command to “wash one another’s feet.” We want to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”In doing this, we seek to remember especially those with burdens to carry: widows and widowers, orphans, the disabled and sick, those with mental and emotional ailments, and those who are lonely.”(Foundations of Our Faith and CallingLife in Community)
Because most Hutterite communities are known for requiring conformity to a very strict set of laid out expectations, it must be noted that the Bruderhofs value a great deal of diversity and free expression. They say of “The Individual in Community”;
Just as in a prism we can see the different colors of the spectrum, so in a fellowship of brothers and sisters we will find diverse reflections of God’s image. We rejoice in each of these, and reject all attempts to make people uniform. Since all are of equal worth, all must be free to be themselves. The more originality there is among us, the more vibrant our fellowship will be.At the same time, we must distinguish between healthy self-determination – being true to one’s conscience – and the self-centered individualism that sees everything from its own perspective and seeks its own advantage. While the former is vital in a living community, the latter will destroy it.
(Foundations of Our Faith and CallingLife in Community)
There are approximately 2900 Bruderhofs members worldwide. They have produced many interesting utube videos telling of their values and their way of life.
The “Jesus Movement”, “Jesus Revolution” of the 1960’s and the 1970’s is another example of Christian communal living. That whole era (1960s to early 1970s) was known for the secular Hippie movement which was an expression of anti-establishment, anti-war, non-conformity sentiments. Secular hippie culture was known for drug experimentation, rock music and for dropping out of mainstream society. Many hippies practiced communal living.
In the later 1960s and early 1970’s a Christian revival broke out among the hippies and became known as The “Jesus Movement” or the “Jesus Revolution.” thousands of hippies came to Christ. Christian hippies dropped their drugs and pre-marital sex and adopted a Christian ethic. However, they still kept many aspects of hippie culture such as dress, rock and folk music (now Christian rock and folk) and communal living.
The Christian hippie was a whole new breed of hippie. How did the surrounding secular culture view these Christian hippies? They called them by a new name, “Jesus Freaks.” This term, though originally meant as a put-down, was embraced by Christian hippies as a badge of honor. After all, Jesus did say; “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11) Christian hippies were now proud Jesus freaks, who were even more counter-culture than secular hippies.
What did Jesus freaks do? They spoke openly of their faith, they ran coffee-houses where they preformed their music and engaged in ministry and many of them lived communally.
“The Shiloh Youth Revival Centers” opened up, founded in 1968 in Costa Mesa California. Over 100,000 people became involved in these revival centers and 175 communal houses were set up during its lifespan.
A fascinating documentary called “LIVING IN COMMUNITY-THE MOVIE” can be viewed on utube. It contains 2013 and 2014 interviews with leaders and participants from modern intentional Christian communities operating in Europe and England. They tell their vision and why they have chosen this way of life. Some of these communities are made up of 35 people, like “Gemeinschaftshaus Moosrain” in Switzerland and others are larger like “Jesus Army” in England which consists of over 600 members.
In the documentary they convey their beliefs that Christians are to live sacrificial lives and truly love one another. It is their deep conviction that this love of one another should be more than once-a-week contact, Sunday service attendance, but rather, is better seen in daily living. They contend that every Christian should participate in community in some way and at some level. They point out Jesus’ teaching; “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) and say that this can be experienced living in community. They are also realistic expressing that people living under one roof does not guarantee community. Participants in this kind of life must open up to each other, be real, extend trust and maintain a relationship with God and then with others. Then community begins to occur. They are enthusiastic because they have found this. They also stress the importance of being missional and reaching out to others, to people on the margins who have lost their way. They have found a deep satisfaction in sharing with others.
So far we have looked at some intentional Christian communities and I have highlighted some on the advantages of living in community. Are there challenges as well? Without a doubt there must be. Anytime multiple people share a small space, there is going to be times when they get on each other’s nerves. If your way of overcoming conflict is to retract from people, then you will be less able to do that, living in community. Living together successfully means striving for harmony, showing patience, having an open mind, being tolerant of certain differences, communicating effectively and showing respect to others. This system of living is only as good as the people involved in it. The mental health, or lack-there-of, of one member will potentially affect the mental health of others. It is important that each member maintains a healthy relationship firstly, with God and then with the others in the group.
All of the above mentioned groups that I have discussed here, are in some ways similar and in some ways different. They are all deeply devoted to Christ and seeking to follow Him. Some like the Bruderhofs, are very rural, where others like the Jesus People and the Jesus Army run urban communities. The Jesus hippies of the 60s and 70s were a combination of both rural and urban. Some groups operate by sharing a common purse while other Christian communities (not necessarily mentioned here) allow a greater degree of private property and assets. In every case there is a great deal of sharing. They share belongings. They share in their work and they share life and faith together.
In their following of Jesus and conforming to Jesus, they have become non-conformists towards the world and culture and system around them. They have become Jesus freaks instead of becoming worldlings.
They receive the blessing and look forward to the heavenly reward, of being reviled and persecuted for Jesus Christ. They have love for God and love for their fellow man, those on the margins, those who have lost their way and reach out to them. Life is sacred; community is necessary and good.
This is a look at Christian Communal living. The respected Christian ministry Focus on the Family has weighed in on this topic in their on-line article “Perspectives on Christian Community and Communal Living”
I would like to quote a section;
From a contemporary American perspective, this is a rather strange and unusual idea. Nowadays most of us tend to associate the word “commune” with left-wing political extremism or abusive and theologically misguided cultic groups. This perspective isn’t unreasonable. We all know that it has a pretty firm basis in fact. Nevertheless, the connection isn’t necessarily valid. We’d suggest that you won’t be able to think this question through clearly until you realize this. As a matter of fact, experiments in communal Christian living can be positive, beneficial, and God-honoring if they’re carried out in the right way. Everything depends on the people involved and their reasons for doing what they’re doing.
If you study history, you’ll discover that there has always been a strong impetus toward communal expressions of the Christian life within the orthodox church. This tradition has solid biblical roots. It goes all the way back to the early Christian community in Jerusalem (Acts 4:32-37). It has manifested itself again and again over the past twenty centuries in an almost endless variety of forms. It has found expression in everything from the primitive monastic communities of the ancient Desert Fathers to the early American Shakers to the present-day Hutterian Brethren. Catholic monks and nuns live in community. So do certain groups who are heavily involved in inner-city ministry, such as Sojourners and Harambee House, or outreach to the rural poor, such as Rev. John Perkins’s Mendenhall Ministries. In and of itself, the desire to create a strong, vital, and visible communal demonstration of what it means to live as brothers and sisters in Christ is a worthy goal.
In the full article they also give warning that it is hard to make Christian communities work. They warn that sometimes these turn ugly when strong leaders become controlling and repressive.
There is something beautiful and pristine about the Christian Community in the pages of scripture. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ [n]doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) They didn’t have to worry. Their needs were met; “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and [o]sold their possessions and goods, and divided[p] them among all, as anyone had need.”(vs 44, 45) They were simple, were glad and grew in number; “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added [q]to the church daily those who were being saved.” This is how it was in the beginning.
We live in a high-stress culture where Canadians are frantically chasing the American dream. Liberal governments, through uncontrolled spending, have driven inflation and the cost of living through the ceiling. That high cost of living is most acutely felt over the cost of accommodation and housing. As our nation is being run off the cliff, many feel that it is becoming necessary for us to re-asses, to re-evaluate, to think outside of the box. The established way doesn’t work anymore. Is there a better way? Its right there in our Bibles.
So far we have looked at the benefit of community that Christian communal living offers. What about the practical benefits of this kind of living? In a world where the cost of living, cost of housing, burden of taxation, burden of regulation, and burden of government is sky rocketing, it is not hard to see the benefits of communal living. Expenses are shared. Bills are shared. Costs are shared. Shared means divided and the more you divide your costs the smaller and smaller they become.
Consider the testimony of a one woman living in community, interviewed by Front Porch Republic, who said;”“I think I made $22,000 last year and it was perfect, and I never lack.” She continued, “I just wish people [could] have all that I have, I’m so rich, I’m so rich. I tell people all the time, ‘I’m the richest person in the world.’”(https://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2020/08/finding-joy-in-intentional-community/)
Could this be the answer to many of the economic crisis that plagues our land? Could it be that together we could share and divide our expenses down so that we can be more free? Could this kind of living arrangement allow us to let go of that toxic, high-pressure, job that is sucking us dry and instead, work part time or even seasonal or perhaps even retire early? Could such a change free us up for more prayer, devotions, ministry outreach or even just health living?
Could it be that we can escape the chaos around us and fulfill a more satisfying and more community orientated way of life, whose example is right before us in the Bible? Could it be that we could be free from the rat race and freed up for service at the same time? Could it be that the answer is in sharing?
From the humble Bruderhofs we learn That human life is sacred and to be respected, cherished, protected and celebrated. They welcome all come and see another way of life. They respect and value individuals as “diverse reflections of God’s image.” and they “reject all attempts to make people uniform. Since all are of equal worth, all must be free to be themselves. The more originality there is among us, the more vibrant our fellowship will be.” they teach us that “everyone deserves the liberation of being known and loved. By living together in intentional community, we seek to deepen relationships with God and each other as we grow, serve, and live out the gospel.”
(Foundations of Our Faith and Calling Life in Community)
From the generous Christian communities of Europe and England we learn that loving one another is easier displayed in day-to-day, sacrificial, communal living than it is alone. We learn that missional, Christian community that exists for a purpose, can succeed. It can reach out to those on the margins and give them love and assistance. Christian communal living becomes like 24-7 church and can deepen us in our faith experience.
From the noble Jesus freaks we learn that we don’t have to conform to this world but rather, can walk a higher road. It is possible to go against the current of this world’s systems and survive and thrive. It is possible to live lives of peace, love and sharing. It is possible to live more like Jesus.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
EXPLORING THE IDEA OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL LIVING PART 2
There are many different kinds of Christian communal living communities, also called Christian intentional communities, also called Christian co-housing. Different types have different emphasis. For example there are Christian intentional communities that are also schools offering education Kindergarten to grade 12. These have a huge emphasis on Christian education. There are Christian intentional communities that are also eco-communities and practice environmental conservatism. Then there are Christian intentional communities that are prayer houses and greatly emphasize and practice communal prayer. Then there are Christian intentional communities that exist for outreach purposes and are very missional. I even came across a Christian intentional community of writers that emphasized studying and carrying on the teachings of the well-known Christian philosopher the late Francis Schaeffer.
Each one of these is fascinating in its own way. Christian intentional communities are a sub-culture in themselves. Even within this sub-culture are variations, varieties and diversity of thought.
One thing needs to be discussed before we go too deep into a study of Christian intentional communities. Some would ask; Are not Communal living organizations a form of Communism? This question is followed up by asking; has not communism done so much evil and exerted so much control over people’s lives? The root word “commune” is a part of the expanded word “communism.” However, it must be acknowledged that there is a huge difference between government-run communism and church-led communes. There is actually a massive difference. Government-run communism is tyranny. Wherever they exist they set up police states and strip people of their rights and freedoms. There is no process to remove them or challenge them and they always come to abuse the authority that they have. There is also no process in place to get away from them. It is almost an inevitability that they will abuse their power, because they are government and they inherently hold a lot of power over the individual.
Christian intentional communities are another thing altogether. Firstly they are not government. This means that they do not have inherent controlling power over people. They only have as much control over a person as those who create their system of organization set it up to have. There are intentional communities that are controlling, even requiring their members to give up all of their personal finances. I personally am not comfortable with human leadership placing this kind of requirement on members. However, some Christian intentional communities do not require members giving up their personal finances and are more relaxed in terms of rules than others. There is no reason that a Christian intentional community couldn’t be set up that is very relaxed, very free and non-controlling and where members all participate in decision-making. In my opinion, this is the most ideal.
How relaxed or how strict, a community becomes is likely dependent on the maturity of all the people involved. If certain members are assertive, manipulative or difficult to live with, then the need for more rules and more control is apparent. However, if mature, humble, meek, loving and Christ-like people are living together, then it should be relatively easy to set up a community that is very free. This is to everyone’s benefit.
A Christian intentional community is not pattered after Bolsheviks. It is patterned after the early Christians of whom we read; “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and [o]sold their possessions and goods, and divided[p] them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added [q]to the church daily those who were being saved.”
Here we read that the early Christians shared everything. It must be noted that the Bible does not command this kind of communal lifestyle of anyone. Rather, it records how the early Christians chose to live. There is no reason why Christians today could not experiment with a similar way of living, with varying degrees of sharing of ones resources, based on what the the group members are comfortable with. There is great flexibility here.
Succeeding generations of believers also practiced communal living. Early Christian writer Tertullian commented on third century Christian communities. Small tightly-knit, Christian economic communities were set up. These were called “parishes,” taken from the word “paroikia” which meant “neighbour” or “sojourner” or pilgrim.” (56)Pachomius (292 to 348 AD), a Christian monk living in the Egypt desert(and the father of monasticism), organized large colonies of monks together in communal houses. They ate together, prayed together, laboured together and followed a “cenobitic” meaning “common life.” Three thousand early Christians chose to live this way in his communities. (58) Alden Bass commenting on this says “At the time, most of the monks who left the city for the desert were uneducated laymen dissatisfied with the worldliness of the church.”(Alden Bass, “The Way” quoted in Called To Community. Plough Publishing House, 2016. New York, 58)
A similar commitment to communal living can be seen in the lives of the early Puritan settlers who first colonized the new world. The Plymouth Colony in 1620 and the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, set up cohesive Christian communities that were characterized by and known for, their devotion to God, their piety, their hard work and their determination to succeed.
What are the benefits of living in a Christian Intentional community? One of our greatest needs as human beings is become close with others and to love and to be loved. Such a community provides a special opportunity for this to occur, perhaps in a greater way than would be experienced living without community. Some would say Can’t my church involvement provide this sense of community? I wouldn’t say that it couldn’t but it does so in a more limited way. Your church life might involve two hours on a Sunday morning plus two hours on a Wednesday night plus whatever other programs you choose to take in. However, Christian intentional communities are more like 24/7 church, 24/7 church for 24/7 believers. The potential for deeper relationships is definitely there.
Writer Charles E. More writes;
“Superficiality and rootlessness are diseases of our time. Shallow friendships and fragile relationships mark not only our society but also the church. By contrast, we read that the early Christians did not just occasionally fellowship (verb) they were a fellowship (noun). They didn’t go to church; they were the church.Few of us today experience life together as the early Christians did – a common, daily, material life of unity and sharing.”(Charles E. More, “It Takes Work” quoted in Called To Community. Plough Publishing House, 2016. New York 86)
Christian intentional communities are a place where early Christian common life can be re-discovered. They are both a safe and challenging place for a Christian’s faith to grow. It is a stretching experience that makes us stronger. It requires openness. Ideally it is a safe place for a believer’s gifts and talents to be exercised.
The New Testament uses the word “Koinonia “ to mean “Fellowship.” Wikipedia sums up its meaning as “community, communion, joint participation, sharing and intimacy.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koinonia) Koinonia is the word for fellowship used in Acts 2:42; “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” It would seem that this needs to be re-discovered today. Perhaps, Christian intentional communities are an excellent place for this level of fellowship to occur.
Christian intentional communities are kind of like house-churches — but more. Both Christian intentional communities and house-churches are often small and this makes it easier for them to work smoothly. By contrast, most regular, street-corner churches require large membership in order to cover the bills of a building and staff. The more people that are involved, the greater the challenge it is to achieve unity, cohesion and peace. The pressures of this dynamic and of the costs often wear down a pastor in a few years time. However, small intentional communities, or house-churches for that matter, are smaller and more connected. Small is good. Leaders are not stretched too thin. Remember Jesus had His “…little flock,…” (Luke 12:32)
Operating out of houses seems to be the way of the early church. Remember Paul saying concerning Priscilla and Aquila; “ Likewise greet the church that is in their house.” (Romans 16:5) Joseph H. Hellerman refers to early Christian communities as “strong-group entities”. ( Joseph H. Hellerman “Brothers, Sisters” quoted in Plough Publishing House, 2016. New York 27) What if instead of a small group or a house group, we were a strong group entity.
Members in Christian communities fellowship together, worship together, pray together, celebrate life together and share meals together. It is not hard to see how this could be an enriching, growing experience. They also help each other in many ways. Together they; “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.’ (Galatians 6:2)
This kind of closeness is also well said in these words by the late Dietrich Bonhoffer; “Everything the disciple does is part of the common life of the church of which he is a member.” (Dietrich Bonhoffer, “A Visible Reality” quoted in Called To Community.Plough Publishing House, 2016. New York, 45)
One Believer in such a community, interviewed by Front Porch Republic, describes it this way; “We are in each other’s lives on a daily basis and … you can see into people’s lives; and it is not an invasion because they are sharing a part with you.” (https://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2020/08/finding-joy-in-intentional-community/) also; “Commitment, proximity, and stability comprise the soil where deep and enduring relationships take root, allowing members to give and receive in ways that are uncommon in the typical church congregation.”(https://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2020/08/finding-joy-in-intentional-community/)
The word “commune” is the root word for “communion.” Jean Vanier says; “To be in communion with someone also means to walk with them.” (Jean Vanier “Communion”quoted in Called To Community.Plough Publishing House, 2016. New York,93) Communal living can accommodate communion with others, walking with others, in a greater way than can our current western-cultural forms of living. Yet to embrace communal living means becoming disillusioned, at least to some degree or at some level, with our present, more shallow ways of life.
Consider Psalm 133 which says;
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
This is a short psalm focused entirely on Christian unity. Here “dwelling together” and “unity” go together like a hand in a glove.
Would you consider living in a strong-group entity?
One that was relaxed, very free and non-controlling and where members all participate in decision-making? One where Koinonia fellowship was involved and where we continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers, eating food with gladness and simplicity of heart? Could we today have a cohesive Christian community that is characterized by our devotion to God, our piety, our hard work and our determination to succeed? Can we route out the routlessness and re-discover an early Christian way of life? Can our common life involve the communion of walking together?
Alden Bass, “The Way” quoted in Called To Community. Plough Publishing House, 2016. New York
Charles E. More, “It Takes Work” quoted in Called To Community. Plough Publishing House, 2016. New York .
Joseph H. Hellerman “Brothers, Sisters” quoted in Called To Community.Plough Publishing House, 2016. New York.
Dietrich Bonhoffer, “A Visible Reality” quoted in Called To Community.Plough Publishing House, 2016. New York.
Jean Vanier “Communion”quoted in Called To Community.Plough Publishing House, 2016. New York,93
EXPLORING THE IDEA OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL LIVING PART 3
The North American norm is a dispersed life. We commute half an hour to our place of employment. We buy food that was grown thousands of miles away from us. We drive 45 minutes to begin a recreation excursion and we travel 35 minutes to a church where we worship with others. We maintain farther away connections by using computer internet. Much of our lives are gobbled up by commuting and traffic. What if our lives were lived together in a closer space that gave us more time?
Many believers are yearning for a deeper sense of community. Without trying to be divisive or overly critical of all of it, many yearning ones have found some big modern churches to be impersonal, consumer orientated and with too much emphasis placed on money (meant to be taken in the spirit of constructive criticism). Is the answer to go from big-church to small-church? Many have gained something by making this change but sometimes small churches are simply a microcosm of big churches. We commute to church and it is almost like we clock-in and clock-out of church like we might clock in and out of a job. While some have stayed and found the good in them, others move on in search of a deeper experience.
Perhaps that deeper experience can be found in Christian communal living. Living is something you do 24/7. Christian communal living is like 24/7 church, 24/7 church for the 24/7 Christian.
This yearning for a deeper sense of community can also be called an awareness of “rootlessness.” As sincere followers of Jesus, we want to be well rooted. That is, we want to be rooted in the Word of God, but also rooted in community with other believers. Christian communal living can potentially deliver a greater experience of Christian community.
How can Christian communal living potentially deliver a greater experience of Christian community? Because living with others eliminates the distance. We are more likely to be real with people that live in our shared space, than we might otherwise be, with others who we know are here for a moment and then are going away.
That “realness” is also an important ingredient to discipleship and living in community is more conducive to discipleship. It is a better environment for discipleship to occur.
One author has described how the concept of Christian communal living does not make sense to many around us because; “It is an ethic that makes no sense to people who assume the church is a collection of individuals saved for heaven while individually also trying to get ahead in the world.” (David Janzen, 72) Yet for the Christian who, yes is individually saved, but also yearns for fellowship, unity, discipleship and community, Christian communal living does makes sense.
Living in community is a shift from independence to inter-dependance. It is a group of believers that regard each other as family and work together on sharing, resolving conflicts, corporate worship, corporate prayer, financial support, decision-making, duties and leadership. The challenges of this way of life stretch us and cause growth.
Living in Christian community embraces the concept of “one another.” In scripture we read:
“… be submissive to one another, …” (1 Peter 5:5)
The Christian communal way of life is a “one another” way of life where we are serving each other and doing life together. In Christian community believers pray together, worship together and eat together. There is something beautiful about each of these three. Communal prayer combines the faith of more than one believer. Communal Worship combines the praises of more than one believer. Communal eating deepens a sense of “togetherness.” One writer has said; “One kind of poverty is ‘no food’; another is eating alone.” (David Janzen, 219) Believers living in community don’t have to eat alone.
Have you considered trading-in your dispersed life for community. Would you trade in rootlessness for roots? Do you want to make the journey over to some church and clock-in for a couple of hours? Or do you want a whole-life, 24/7 church, way of life experience that encompasses your daily living? Goodby distance and hello realness. The yearning ones are seeking a life of “one another.”
David Janzen, The Intentional Christian Community Handbook. Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2013.
Charles E. More “It Takes Work”, in Called to Community, Charles E. More. Plough Publishing House Walden, New York, 2016.
Unless otherwise mentioned; Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture also taken from King James Bible. Public Domain.