Category: community


How often have you sought the Lord’s will with others?
While many of us have ways we seek God’s guidance in our personal lives, we have little experience doing this with others. I believe this is partially because most of us have grown up in churches where the emphasis is on our personal/individual relationship with Jesus. What is God saying to me? I am not really part of an US that needs to hear from God for US. I find this to be a huge lost opportunity to be the people of God as described in the Bible.
This is particularly unfortunate in cultural contexts with a strong sense of community (like South Africa where I live). Here, the paradigm by which people live – consciously or not – is that I am born into a people. Therefore, when Christianity is understood to be a personal relationship only, it is actually a foreign/western/northern/white concept. How tragic that we are not allowing the communal nature of Christianity to build on our existing understanding of life in a supernatural way. We all long to be part of something/someone – how can we possibly miss the opportunity to share this part of the Good News?
Another reason we struggle to seek God together is that many have never been part of church where the concept of the priesthood of all believers is taken seriously enough to enable (require?) active participation using one’s gifts and discernment as part of the larger congregation. I am not suggesting that we must all take part in every decision or discussion per se. And I recognize that we can all use our gifts and play our unique parts in the body. But what I am saying is that we sometimes use “we all play different roles” as an excuse for either un-Biblical passivity on the one hand or un-Christlike control on the other. IF we believe God speaks through us collectively, how are we actually attempting to hear and discern together?
Finally, in many cases we tragically separate worship/connecting with God from decision-making. When it comes time for business, we put the Bibles away. Now of course we pray to start and may even pull in some Bible verses. But too often we aren’t really even attempting to seek the mind of Christ together. We don’t expect to agree. We fight for our way. We talk to people outside the meeting to get them on our side. We don’t trust God to speak or one another to hear. And until we at least give it a go, we never will.

Do you believe you can hear/understand God? If so, how comfortable are you hearing with others what God is saying to you collectively? My experience is that many who feel they can discern God’s will really struggle to do that with others. I suppose part of the reason for this is that most of us are programmed to be individuals first and part of a community second (if at all). Also, many of us have been saturated in theologies and experiences which say that God has chosen someone else to hear on our behalf.

At The Warehouse, we’ve been looking at the way(s) we understand and practice corporate discernment. In other words, how does God speak to US? Here is our working set of principles. What do you think?

  • God speaks and we can hear. Discerning is making sense of what God is saying to us.
  • God has given his Spirit to all believers to enable us to serve as priests. We discern as a body using our many gifts together.
  • Corporate discernment is spiritual. We are seeking the mind of Christ together. Therefore, sin, unforgiveness, and the enemy can oppose this process.
  • There are a number of ways we hear God’s voice and know what is true that we weigh together when discerning. We must always test what we are saying and hearing.
  • Revelation, Interpretation, and Application all require and are part of discernment
  • In corporate discernment, we are seeking what God is saying to us together. We expect there to be a variety of applications, including personal. We distinguish between what God is saying to and for the individual from what is for all of us together.
  • We believe agreement is necessary in corporate discernment for carrying spiritual authority and requires we all take individual responsibility for carrying what is discerned.
  • We trust God speaking through all involved, particularly the God-guided voice of dissent
  • At times, we choose to delegate authority to individuals, teams, groups, etc. to discern on our behalf.

What is your understanding, experience, and hope for hearing God with others?

The grand finale in a short series of questions on what God is stirring related to our faith life with others. You will find the first question of this series here, and the second one here. Please read/think/respond to these before giving your thoughts on today’s questions.

Reminder of the one rule –  you can not use the words “church” or “community” in your response (to avoid other sets of assumptions and to make you think about what you are really wanting to say!)

Question 3:

If there is something/anything of faith life with others you are longing for (your response to Question 1), something different from all of your other friendships (your response to Question 2), why haven’t you found this with an already existing congregation/community in your city? Assuming there are good groupings of people following Jesus together around town, what are you still looking for?

Note: I am not looking for anyone’s complaints about a particular church. In fact, I believe there are lots of gatherings to allow for many different expressions of our following God together. This question is really intended for those who, for whatever reason, have NOT found what they are looking for.

Another note: I am truly asking those who aren’t simply looking for somewhere with bigger music or comfortable and accommodating versions of the Gospel. I am asking those who have a DEEP desire for God and being part of a people who are centering their lives around Jesus and is honestly SEARCHING.

Please answer in only a sentence or two, don’t worry about any sort of proper or all-encompassing definition.

This is question two of a three-question series seeking input on what you are wanting with others also journeying with God. Thanks to everyone who responded to the first post on this blob, on facebook, or via email. You will find the first/previous question of this series here, pretty much necessary to answer before taking on today’s question.

Reminder of the one rule –  you can not use the words “church” or “community” in your response (to avoid other sets of assumptions and to make you think about what you are really wanting to say!)

Question 2:

How does what you are longing for (your response to Question 1) differ from all of your other friendships that also include faith? In other words, what do you need from a specific grouping of people that is different from what you are encountering from all the people you know – Christian or otherwise? Do you need something more or different?

Please answer in only a sentence or two, don’t worry about any sort of proper or all-encompassing definition.

Doing a short three-question series seeking your input. It comes from conversations from our own fledgling little On the Way group and while I need their responses, I am hoping that others who read this blog will also have their say. I am going to post three related questions and would love your thoughts on each 🙂

There is one assumption – that as we journey with God, it is helpful to be connected to others who are also journeying with God.

There is one rule – you can not use the words “church” or “community” in your response (to avoid other sets of assumptions and to make you think about what you are really wanting to say!)

 

Question 1:

Right now, what are you longing for/wanting/needing from others in a shared faith journey?

Please answer in only a sentence or two, don’t worry about any sort of proper or all-encompassing definition.

 

Andrew Jones gives insightful commentary on what is happening in the church globally as well as being an inspiration for me personally as he and his family live faithfully to Jesus.

I recommend you give this post on the direction of the church a read. I find myself agreeing with much and glad he wrote it! I also wonder – as always – about contextualization. The Church in South Africa is not in the same place as elsewhere. But is the “elsewhere” as big as some of us think? In other words, are the trends Andrew refers to fringe, mainstream, or somewhere in between? Are YOU seeing some of these aspects of church coming about? Which ones?

In thinking of his points in our local context,

I am seeing:

10. Many of these [unchurched] believers are finding ways to connect and share life with each other. These connection points and celebration events look like house churches but they are different. Whatever they are, they are part of the postmodern church landscape.

I am most encouraged by:

2. Modernity divided church into CHURCH (the ecclesiastic) and PARACHURCH (the seminaries, missions, youth ministries, etc). What we are seeing now is intentional communities and travelling teams that not only support the church – THEY ARE CHURCH

I am not seeing:

5. The [church] stages are shrinking because believers are no longer under compulsion to perform the gospel. The community of God becomes a better apologetic for God than the stage ever was. . . . The stage also shrinks because multi-media happens in multi- spaces, on multi-walls, in multi-rooms, by multi-people. Entryways, hallways and sidewalks become stages for art and expression.

Andrew, thanks for your insightful (as always article). Everyone else, please go read what Andrew is saying about the future church coming now.

Because I have people in my life at all stages of faith journeys, I’ve been considering how we relate to one another’s walks. Now that a young man in our church has decided to follow Jesus, who is meant to help him? And that mom who is pretty busy all the time but would love to be a little more intentional about her faith, what about her? And the woman who comes around every now and again that is curious about religion – is she all on her own? Whose responsibility is discipleship? Who is supposed to help me, you, and others to follow Jesus?

Some would suggest it is the job of a trained/ordained priest or pastor. Or perhaps you know a “super discipler” who seems to single-handedly walk anyone and everyone close to Christlikeness? Maybe it’s you! Do you think of yourself as responsible for helping everyone become the person they were created to be? The problem in every one of these examples is that they rely on one person to do all the work. Scripture – and history – and logic! – say something different.

It is the COMMUNITY of God’s people that is responsible for making disciples. Why?

1.We need communities to make disciples because God does not hold me responsible for your growth. He DOES hold me responsible for bringing to your life what He wants me to bring. God calls us to help one another, encourage one another, etc. We are actually created to walk with one another in the journey toward forever with God. It could even be that in most cases, people are critical in one another’s salvation. But there is an individual responsibility we all must take on our own discipleship and can’t put on anyone else.

2. We need communities to make disciples because I am limited. I don’t know everything. I can’t do everything. In short, I am not God… and neither are you. I will help you know and follow Jesus, but I can’t and shouldn’t cover everything. There will be times that someone else needs to cry with you or advise you. You will want other people to also pray with you, teach you the Bible, tell you to stop doing that. Because I am limited, we all are. You and I need lots of people helping us along the way.

3. We need communities to make disciples because the goal is not making you a copy of me. The goal is you becoming the person God has designed you to be in Christ. I guarantee, if I am the only person helping you know Jesus, you will look more like me, or like me following Jesus, than YOU following Jesus. You will pray like me, serve like me, worship like me. Yuck! We need a community helping us be disciples so that we get the best from all, and don’t need to replicate any. Sure, we will model and share how we live. But we share that as an example.

4. We need communities to make disciples because I bring my gifts. You bring your gifts. I bring my experiences. You bring your experiences. We need them all. You want a teacher teaching you. You want a pastor shepherding you. You want an encourager encouraging you. That’s what I want anyway. And I am not all those things. You are not all those things. We get all things in a community of disciples.

I hope you can see that in all this, I/you must take my own discipleship seriously. How am I giving God more room in my life? Am I being a disciple myself? And very importantly, PART OF MY OWN DISCIPLESHIP IS DISCIPLING OTHERS. Did you know that? Part of being a disciple, part of learning to follow Jesus, is helping others do the same! Too often, we think we will be disciples, then reach some magic point, then we will disciple others. When does that day arrive? When I know everything? When I’ve done everything? NO! It’s now. We disciple from where we are now. God does not ask us to have all the answers. He asks us to share what we do know and He will do the rest. If you think back to people who have helped you along the Way, I suspect they were memorable because they were prayerful and faithful lovers of God. And we’ve all had many people help.

We need all of us to be living this way because of the points above. You see, in saying that a community is best suited to make disciples, it does not absolve me of responsibility. I can not therefore count on “the community/church” doing it. Why? Because there is no community without me(s) participating. Yes, we play different roles. But we ALL play roles. It is NOT the role of leadership to make disciples. It is the role of a leader to help US make disciples – setting the environment, connecting the right people, providing opportunities. I do believe we all are gifted in different ways and each of us will play different parts in the spiritual lives of one another. That’s ok – we have a community to help. Each of us needs to be asking what God would have us give to whom, and talk about that with one another to serve together.

I’ll save “what does a community making disciples together look like?” for another post. I think that it can actually differ dramatically depending on time, place, and situation. But the question I want to leave you with is: how do you see your community making disciples? What has been your experience? What has been your participation?

Lots of talk about community in my world – missional community, holistic community, neo-monastic community, intercultural community, church community, intentional community… all sound great. Of course, most talk about all of these without much specificity – they are often buzz words without real definition. So, this is an attempt at clarify what I mean when I talk about Christian community.

First, Jesus. Christian community, by definition, includes Jesus. Now, I think we can be at various places of journey/understanding/relationship with Jesus. May seem obvious, but we would be remiss if there wasn’t overt acknowledgment that this community takes identity from Jesus. NOTE: this can be expressed many ways, yes? Formal, informal, baptist-flavoured, pentecostal-style, whatever. Those are religious forms we put around our understanding of Jesus, and are debatable. But Jesus is a must for Christian community. Can we differ on some of our beliefs, backgrounds, and practice? I think so because we are centred around Jesus, not just our way of following him. Do you agree?

Next, we have a commitment to one another that is based on relationship, not contract. We have agreed with one another to have a shared relationship with one another around Jesus. Therefore, different people can live out their commitment to varying degrees. Perhaps I have less time and energy than you. That’s ok. The point isn’t how much I do, it’s a common relationship with Jesus. We value heat commitment, not hours or money spent. If you want to make a formal commitment, that is fine and I welcome and honour that. Community allows people to be at different places at one time. Think if this in terms of other relationships you have – do you make friends sign a contract? Are they no longer friends if they can’t make it to dinner one week? Hopefully not! There is give and take, grace, love – all those good things.

Third, I think Christian community needs some sense of purpose. Does this mean each and every person must do all the same things? No. Do we all have to carry the same burden for the same cause? I don’t think so. Many “communities” define themselves by one interest. The problem with that is they are therefore closed communities. This seems to be at odds with having Jesus at the centre. Perhaps a common purpose is something as broad as “helping one another follow Jesus” or “Seeking God’s Kingdom.” To me, these seem different than specific causes. Is there a difference between purpose and cause? I DO think that if there is no purpose, you are ultimately a bunch of people hanging around. That’s fine, but again doesn’t fit with the Jesus part, because he as always about God’s mission and has asked his people to do the same.

Also, I think that Christian community must have some amount of “in common.” The obvious (though not easy) things are shared time, money, stuff, interests. I am really glad that so many people experiment with various forms of communal life. I am saddened that our individualistic/materialistic culture wins most often and convinces us to grow up and get our own things. It appears that many of the most vibrant forms of community through the story of God’s people had things in common. Do we have to have everything in common? Not necessarily. I believe different communities can decide together what and how they are going to share – there’s not “one way.” But if that conversation is not being had, then I don’t think it’s community.

Finally, I think true forms of community are ones where we don’t get to pick just our friends to be part. We need people who are different, people we don’t know yet, even people we don’t like?! for our own sake. You can read Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” for really good thoughts on this. In short, Christian community MUST contain variation. It must to be reflective of God’s heart and creation. It must so that we have to learn to love and compromise. We NEED people who are somehow different, even if this means it is not as easy. This one may be the most difficult, but is also the most powerful for everyone involved. How different can we stand to be and still maintain relationship?

You’ may notice I haven’t said anything about what we must DO. I think that is pretty negotiable from community to community. Also, I don’t think we are defined by our practice. Rather, practices are fluid to reflect how we are wanting to share our lives with one another around Jesus. Our new community, for example, is currently meeting every-other-week for  a meal, being together, and prayer. Other things can happen in between, but they aren’t mandatory. That’s it for now. We’re young and getting to know one another. And, most of our people are involved in significant ministry, so we are inviting one another to join in what we are doing rather than creating something new. We are sharing our lives with Jesus with one another. This rhythm will grow and change as we move along, but it works for now. And it seems that God is at work, so we keep listening to God together and will see what’s next.

Christian community can be found in a traditional church. Or it can not. I don’t mean any of this in opposition to any particular church expression. Rather, I would hope that regardless of your church/faith community/missional community/holistic community/intercultural community/intentional community, if you are wanting it to be CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY, you find these things to be true.

Are they true of your community? If not, do you want them to be present and how can you help?

So, our little group has begun gathering to explore following Jesus together 🙂 As we talk about what we want to do when we are together (generally a meal plus something else), I’ve been thinking about this life of togetherness that is not defined exclusively when we are together.

I suppose most of us agree that there is an amount of our spiritual life that is lived out daily. It includes our personal times with God, loving neighbours, etc. And we know that there are the aspects of our journey that we live out with others. in other words, those things we do or are about when we gather with others (sing, talk, pray, communion, etc.). The overly-simplisticway of viewing it is something like this: together, we do ABC, and alone (when we are not together), I do XYZ. But there’s something missing in this equation. It’s the “even when we are not present with one another, there is still a togetheIt’s the “even when we are not present with one another, there is still a togetherness that is expressed through ???”

This is where people do things like:

  • read a daily devotion/lectionary – the same one others are reading all over the world – so there is a commonality though we are apart
  • fixed hour prayers so we are all praying at the same time, even if not in the same place
  • all committing to do the same certain activity during the week on our own, thereby sharing in a collective (though not combined) experience
  • share prayer requests so wherever you are, you can carry one another’s burdens
  • get together in smaller groupings for Bible reading, prayer, service, etc. In other words, we are together, but in smaller sets

This is the part of a shared journey that I am quite passionate about. I think this is partially because it breaks the false distinction between personal and corporate spirituality. Also, it says that we can share in faith life even when we are not gathered all together. It definitely takes an extra measure of commitment. It also requires a different level of submission because I am allowing us to govern part of my own “personal” time. Sure, when we are gathered we generally have some sort of plan, often with someone giving guidance. But usually then I get to choose all that I do (or don’t do) in the time between. This is saying, “I will give some of my time between for us.”

I don’t know what those of us beginning to follow Jesus together here in Cape Town will do with this part of our collective journey. But I would love to hear what others who are exploring missional communities think and do.