Thursday, August 2, 2007

Intentional Community

Here's a link to an article that someone forwarded me about Christian community. Actually, the whole website is for groups that might be considered "Intentional Christian Communites," some of which live together, some of which are just tight-knit groups of people. They've got 65 different groups like this in a number of countries.

Interesting stuff. Here's a small portion of the article:

    The early Christians recognized one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Before them, the Jews also had understood themselves as brothers. Among the Jews, brother meant not only "blood brother", it also meant the relationship all Jews had with one another because they were members of the Jewish people.

    Jewish law spelled out the responsibilities of this relationship in some detail. Deuteronomy instructs the Jews: "At the end of every seven years...every creditor shall release what he has lent to...his brother, because the Lord's release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it; but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release."

    "You shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be."

    "You shall not lend upon interest to your brother... To a foreigner you may lend upon interest, but to your brother you shall not lend upon interest; that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake" (Deut. 15:1-3; 15:7-8; 23:19-20).

    The Jews of the old covenant understood that their relationship with each other was different from their relationship with all men. Their relationship as brothers and sisters was a relationship of full commitment. To be members of the same people meant that each person was responsible for the welfare of all others (See also Leviticus 19:18).

    The relationship was the same for the early Christians, and it should be the same among Christians today. But today, few of us experience a definite relationship with many other Christians. We may be close to a few Christians, but most are complete strangers to us, even those who attend and support the same church.

And one other part I have to highlight:

    Having our lives in common also means sharing other personal aspects of our lives. In our culture, if we sin, if we are plagued by sexual temptations, if we are anxious or depressed, we keep these problems to ourselves. Victories over difficulties are similarly private. We might share our personal lives with our spouse or a very close friend. But most of us grow up with the firm conviction, perhaps arising from bitter experience, that our personal lives are strictly private.

    However, as brothers and sisters in Christian community, nothing in our lives is entirely our own. My life belongs to my brother. I cannot construct elaborate strategies to keep him from finding out what I am really like. In fact, opening up our lives to our brothers and sisters in the Lord is usually necessary to begin overcoming our problems and experiencing the freedom that the Lord wants us to have.

    Most people who belong to Christian communities where personal sharing is encouraged find quickly that they can be more free about their personal lives than they ever imagined. Personal sharing must be done with discretion and in the appropriate circumstances. But it should be done, for it is part of sharing our lives in Christian community.

There's a lot of great stuff in this article.


Robotface Shumway said...

Ok, I know that I don't know ALL of you guys, but I know Scott and I know that he rarely wears pants to the office. But seriously, I love this blog and would like to be able to freely contribute if at all possible.

This most recent post reminded me of a book called Risking Church by Ray Kallam Jr. Interestingly, the forward was written by Larry Crabb who wrote The Safest Place on Earth which deals with the same subject. In fact, Crabb has been preaching this message of the church being a place for people to share their lives and be healed together since he wrote Connecting, which is another good read.

You guys GET IT when it comes to the church. I hope you haven't lost hope. A group of guys that I meet with on Thursday night are studying the book The Call by Os Guinness. One of the conclusions we came to last night was that the CHURCH is God's creation. It may be full of men and women who are flawed, but it's still His and we need to stick it out. But we should continue to long for this type of intimacy in the church.

I can honestly say that our church is experiencing this within some of our small groups. This is where we are really allowed to share our lives with each other. One thing we did a few years ago in our group was share our "Life Stories". Each week was set aside for one person to share it all. I went first so as to set some sort of an example and break down barriers. God blessed this time SO MUCH. The things that were shared were incredible and our lives and relationships have not been the same ever since (in an awesome way).

So, that's my two cents for today.

scott said...

Feel free to comment as much as you'd like. And pants are entirely optional here, by the way.

I'm obviously behind on my reading, since I don't think I've read *any* of the books you mentioned.

We've done something similar in my small group -- over the past few years, we've had different nights devoted to individual people giving their testimony or talking about something that's important to them. It's worked out really well. I wonder how many other groups are doing things like that.

Robotface Shumway said...

The problem with calling it a "testimony" (in my opinion, of course) is that it often prompts people to dress up their experiences in pseudo-spiritual terms and to not include certain things in their life today. If the people in your group have been believers for 10, 15, 20, 25, etc. years, then they may think the story is over once they became followers of Christ. Plus, they may not feel like they have a real "testimony" because they became followers of Christ when they were 5 or 6 years old while attending church.

As it turns out, we all have stories to tell and when we are willing to open up and share our real feelings and struggles, the REAL fellowship and healing begins.

I highly recommend the books. More than likely, they will just reinforce what you're already practicing. However, it may give you a tool to get others on board as well.

Finally, I fully believe that this needs to happen in the churches that exist today. It's tempting to leave and start our own house churches as is popular today, but when we do this, we leave our brothers and sisters behind and I think that's wrong on many, many levels.

Robotface Shumway said...

So, do Joe B, Tonearm, darin and void77 actually contribute to this blog or are they just the names of your multiple personalities?

scott said...

They're all very smart, but I'm afraid they're illiterate. Never learned to write. Hooked on Phonics is working, though.

Most of the thoughts here come from the conversations that we have. Darin has a blog of his own. I'm not sure why I end up doing more posting here than the others... Blame it on more free time at work? (Shhh!!!)

You are right about the "testimony" term, too. I just broke out the Christianese out of habit. "Life stories" is a better term, and what we really want to be sharing with each other.

Joe B said...

Let's get this back to the urban abbey idea. You guys can swap stories or testimonies or whatever you want as soon as we get our virtual compound together. Think Amish, but with deodorant.

I think the dragon to slay for this generation is Suburban Isolation. God's great promise is that we will be a People, that we will be able to TRULY call each other brother. "The Kingdom of God does not consist in words..."

The pagan temple of the burbs is the 4 bedroom brick house. I say we should live in Christian tenements with extra flats for single moms, young newlyweds, down-and-outers, and ornery old retired men.

Luke 14:11-15: "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

So, does that just totally ROCK or WHAT?? BOO-YAAHHHH!