– – –
Community is in our blood.
In the early ‘70s we discovered the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a church, and God led us out of stale, safe Christendom onto a radical path. God packed us out with scores of hippies, students, drop-outs and dissatisfied Christians, and consequently life got much more colourful.
At that time, people were longing to see a genuine counter-culture, instead of the selfishness they could see in society. So when some of these people came and found Jesus among us, it turned into a longing for the kingdom of God to be expressed through more than just attendance at a church service. We were becoming people of spiritual life and power, a place of healing and change.
The Holy Spirit baptised us “into one body”, (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), we loved one another like family. We started calling one another “brother”, “sister”. People just wanted to be together all the time and some started living together and informally sharing what they had. Reading about the explosive dynamism of the early church, how they sold property and possessions and “no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own” (Acts 4:32), we knew God was urging us to give it a shot, mad though it seemed in a modern society. God led us into intentional Christian community with the risky purchase of a partly derelict village rectory. The rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, like all paths worth exploring, ours has had its share of both astonishingly beautiful moments and rough battles, deep loss and pain at times coming through our own mistakes and hardheartedness. Nevertheless, God has always proven His faithfulness. Our greatest wealth has been in the people who have laid down their lives again and again out of love for Jesus to help (with other churches) create on earth God’s heart desire: a place and a people for Him to call others home to, an inviting demonstration of His kingdom, His family on earth.
Now our church and community has grown into maturity, but maturity carries its own challenges. Stagnation is easier for an established church. Now with 40 houses across the UK housing a quarter of our members, an international Christian network, our well known ‘Jesus Army’ identity and Jesus Centres across the UK, we’re established and things have settled. Pioneering in community is our genius, but often seems like a yesterday thing for us.
There is more to explore; God’s not finished yet. If we want to be good overseers of the rich inheritance God has given us, we must start to pioneer again because it’s fresh vision that inspires. It’s the challenge of pioneering that demands our creativity, our energy and our interest.
“People will sacrifice a great deal for a pioneering vision, less to maintain a status quo and hardly anything just because they’re told to.”
In my next post on this blog I’ll be sharing some of my vision for community, one voice in a growing conversation that God is inspiring in our church.
What’s your vision for the future of community? Leave a comment below.