Christian Community

I just started reading a new book, Living In Christian Community by Arthur Gish. So far I highly recommend it. It is now a link in the books I am currently reading section.

Nothing can state my experience with Christian community like the introduction by his wife, Peggy Gish. It stirred up emotions of excitement and encouragement in me. I long for the day I can experience living in Christian community once again.

Here are some excerpts from her intro.

"When Art and I began to talk about the need for Christian community in our
lives, it was mainly theoretical for us. Yet we felt moved in that direction and we began seeking. It was only after living and sharing more closely with other Christians that the concepts took flesh. We began to see and understand more than with our minds what community meant - but also with our hearts and innermost beings.

Not only did the church become alive to me, but I also found myself challenged to examine and deepen my own faith and commitment to God. I began to experience much more the daily leading of the living Christ in my personal life and in the
corporate life of the Christian fellowship. The Scripture began to
speak more directly and authoritatively to me.

I began to see that so much of the gospel does not really make sense taken in fragments, as concepts, or "Christian principles." It must be understood and experienced in a loving, sharing, deeply committed community of believers who daily lay down their lives for each other. Apart from such a fellowship, so much of what Jesus calls us to seems impractical and impossible to live out. It has been exciting and encouraging in our pilgrimage to discover groups of Christians who, in psoite of their human weakness and imperfection, have been living out their faith together with real depth and power."
I'm sure I will be quoting from this book more in the near future. It touches on what I feel I am currently missing in my church experience. The same passion that causes me to long for community was the same passiong that God used to prompt me to plant the church in Lansing. I long for Christian community, not for Christian community's sake, but for the sake of the glory of God.

Too often we try to do Christianity alone. It shows up in our evangelism when we try to convince people of a belief statement in order for them to attain a personal salvation. That just isn't what our Christianity should be. Our faith should be lived out in community as a group of believers. I discovered in Lansing when living in Christian community that witnessing came naturally when living a collective faith. We were (They still are) an example of what the Kingdom of God should be. It is joining that physical, tangible Kingdom that makes one a Christian, not individually adhering to a set of belief statements and practicing the spiritual disciplines. Now, I have to use the disclaimer when talking with non-Christians that the church really doesn't exhibit what the Kingdom of God is but is more of a collection of some genuine, some mediocre, and some fake Christians. I want to be in a group of Christians striving for perfection, a group in which I can tell seekers, "View the faith of anyone in this church and see what it means to be a follower of Christ. This is the Kingdom of God. Welcome and see God."

"To some, what is written here may sound idealistic. That has been a
common criticism of radical Christianity. For me it is a living reality
that I have seen, touched, and tasted. God really does give people the
strength to live aout the new life that is offered to us. Although still
very human and imperfect, genuine community is possible for all who will open
their lives totally to God's love.

Another reason for not seeing this as idealistic is that, not only down
through history, but also today, many communities are actually trying to live by
the Sermon on the Mount, are living in peace and unity, and are demonstrating
for the rest of the world the reality of God's kingdom...However, while seeing
some validity in it, most have not seen such an approach to Christianity as a
live, compelling and practical option."

The view of Christian community and living in it is contrary to most popular Christian thinking of the American Christian. "All that matters is one's individual salvation." "There really isn't a tangible church; it is invisible." These are almost a necessary beliefs to hold due to the sorry state of the church around us. However, I don't think it is the right belief and living our lives as if those statements are true is stifling the growth of the Kingdom of God. If we want to see a revival in our towns, cities, nation, or the world, then we need to see the church become the Church. There is no scriptural basis for an invisible church, and there seems to be a consistent teaching about the physical Kingdom of God, the Church.
In light of this blessing of community which is offered to us, and all the
biblical emphasis in this direction, it is curious that a tendency in Protestant
thinking from the Reformation period to the present has been to maintain that
the true church is invisible. Many Protestanst today do not even have
a doctrine of the church. For them salvation is individual and, at most,
there can be a gathering of individual Christians for praise and edification,
but little sense of the visible, coprorate body of Christ.

Protestantism has been weak in the whole area of its vision of the
church. The Reformation was more concerned with reform of worship and
doctrine than the nature of the church. Many popular
revival preachers openly suggest that new converst go to any existing
church which suits their fancy. The implication seems to be that there are
not many differences between groups, or that these differences are not
important. The emphasis in the Bibles is on a visible community of
faith. There is no mention of an invisible church in the New Testament nor
any suggestion that the true church is the invisible collection of individual,
pure Christians around the world. Although the church certainly has a
spiritual foundation and nature, this is expressed in her social character and
cannot be separated from it. Rather than"an external support of faith"
(Calvin), the church is a necessary consequence of faith."

I like that. The church is "a necessary consequence of faith."

Watch out for the potholes.