We spelled this issue [kuh-MYOO-ni-tee] to emphasis the point that we Christians today don’t understand what this is. We know what activity is. We know what fellowship is. We even know what love is all about some of the time. What we fail to comprehend is the wonderful, challenging, painful, joyful world that exists within a Christ-centered community.
I speak as one who didn’t understand and even today has a difficult time fully embracing it. I didn’t understand it when I joined my church, Saint Peter Presbyterian, in 2005, but it is what caused me to not only join that church but to quit one life, move, and start another.
Community is like irony, we know it when we see it but we cannot easily define it. I recognized it on the porch of my soon-to-be pastor Laurence Windham. I was visiting from the DC area and was invited to dinner. What was the aspect of community life that attracted me? It might have been the gracious invitation that came without strings attached. It might have been the warm reception by one and all. It might have been the sounds of the children playing together—happily—or the murmurs of contented wives and their babies. It might have been rather the edenic conversations on things temporal that stretched all the way into eternity in the minds of the speakers. All I know is that it was attractive to me and part of that attraction was its peculiarity.
I came from a large Presbyterian church whose members loved each other when they could, between work and commuting and family functions and church events and neighborhood sports. In twelve years I never heard of an illness, attended a funeral, or received a call for help. I sat next to people in worship and half the time when the handshake portion of the service came around we were surprised to find out that both of us had been going there for years.
I think that this is too common. We make choices in our churches that favor lots of things over community and yet most of the Bible is a guidebook for establishing it whether it is the nation ofIsraelor the New Testament church. God tells us how to act and how to treat each other so that we might become that shining city on a hill that will illuminate the darkness and bring glory to Him. The choices that we often make in our personal lives and as church bodies are not ill-intended but neither do they keep us from fragmenting our lives to the point that we have lost that communal aspect so critical to the church.
The way in which Paul describes how a pastor is to shepherd his sheep and how a flock is to minister to each other and how they are to bear each others burdens all points to a world that is organized such as to make this possible. If a pastor has 900 sheep, he can’t possibly know when one goes missing. If a flock isn’t intimate then how are burdens known much less shared? The hard decisions come when the pursuit of a communal life is fully appreciated and desired. That’s when fathers make decisions that favor family and community time over commuting and work. It’s when mothers leave careers for their families. It’s when children leave the nest but build one elsewhere in the tree. It occurs when church leaders split their churches into shepherd-sized portions so that none go unloved.
All of this is only the starting point to building a culture of faith that dares to exist beyond families and even beyond churches. It is the sharing of lives and faith and possessions and time to the benefit of the others. It means real sacrifice of time and money and deep hurts and heavenly joys.
The phone rings more often in the night. The e-mail brings work to do and often it needs to be done immediately. Sunday means returning all the food dishes that were delivered that week. Monday means cooking for more families than your own. Tuesday means praying for yet another unborn child and praying that a childless couple be so gifted. Wednesday means an extra errand at the stores. Thursday means an unexpected invitation out to eat. Friday means praying fervently for someone you love who is failing to repent. Saturday means cutting wood for a widow and her children. And then Sunday comes again and the people of God who have given of themselves to each other all week can come and rest and eat another meal together but this time with their King who is well pleased to call them into His community. etc
by Eric Owens for Every Thought Captive magazine, April 2012