Wednesday, July 01, 2009

How to Live in an Intentional Christian Community

I’ve spent the last five years living in and among what are often called “intentional Christian communities.” The use of this phrase typically implies that a group of people share their lives together in a number of structured ways with the common goal of greater personal and corporate faithfulness to Jesus Christ. These communities have been:
This involvement hasn’t often been exclusive; some of the communities overlap (St Patrick and St Columba) and my time in some of them has overlapped as well (VBCC, hOME, St Patrick). While there was some diversity in the particular practices of these communities, this is what they all had in common:

Learning to Pray. We came together to pray to the Lord for ourselves, one another, and the world he’s teaching us to love. We prayed our hopes. We prayed our doubts. We prayed our joys, our pains, our fear, and our despair. We learned to do this by praying the Psalms, and reading the Scripture together.

We learned to do this by sitting down together, and not running away. We didn’t learn to do this from the latest awesome book on the religion bestseller list. We learned to say to God, “I’m sorry.” “Thank you.” “Yes.”

Learning to Love. We ate meals together. We learned to fight, and not run away. We learned to say to one another, “Thank you.” “I’m sorry.” “I forgive you.” “Let’s do this together.” In learning to say these things, I became the kind of person who can say these things, and mean it.

Living in this way didn’t necessarily make the Christian life easier – in fact, it showed me quite a bit about how difficult it is. What this way of life did was show me what it looked like to really love God, and to know what it is to be loved by God. It broadened my imagination to see and know and feel what it’s like to be a forgiving person. This life teaches me that I can suffer with and for people around me without running away. Belonging with a people like this, and living life in this way has taught me that people really can become like Jesus, and that it’s possible to live our lives without trying to protect ourselves from the people we’d like to love us.

By all means, embrace “community.” But I’m always going to ask you these questions:
  • Do you eat?
  • Do you pray?
  • Do you hold your own feet to the ground?
If you can – if you will – it will make all the difference.

4 comments:

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Thanks for publicly living the faith we so often privatize.

Peter and Anna Milner said...

I hope we can sit down again at Winter Conference in Greensboro.

Enjoy your cigars, port, and book of prayer. This is the day of Doubting Thomas, in the Roman Calendar. Enjoy that. Enjoy God. He enjoys you.

Peace in Christ,

Peter Milner

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Steve Martin said...

It ain't always easy hanging out with other sinners, is it?