The next three:
7. Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.
Community happens either intentionally or unintentionally where people are. We’re relational beings, so community is gonna happen. However, you can have static community (read OAPs in a rest home) or an active community (an Army, a football team etc). What happens in active community is best described as communitas, as opposed to community. Communitas is community gathered round a common task. It is, therefore, always an intentional community. This is the kind of community Jesus created amongst his discipleship, with mission as the organising principle. Common life comes with Jesus at the centre. Although the church in Acts 2:42 – 47 is a very young embryonic church, its a great picture:
“42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Some people look at this stuff and say the church has moved on from this and this shouldn’t be used as a pattern. No, maybe not detail for detail…the sort of ‘if its not exactly like this then its wrong.’ I don’t believe the bible necessarily has that sort of blueprint mentality when it comes to the church. But, my question is why should 21st C church be any less wonderful, transformative and powerful? I really can’t imagine why not. Sincerely. It is only our western individualism that can get in the way of this. There are transferrable principles that can be discrened in the NT writings about the function of Christian community which can only help to inform our function as a body.
8. Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.
There are, I think, two issues here. Firstly, there is discovering the value of singleness. I know many single people who serve God with abandonment that I’m not able to as a family man. There is often an unwritten expectation that its ‘normal’ to get married and have a family. Lots of people do, but there is something to note in people who commit to celibate singleness for life as a calling as well as those who remain single through circumstance. We need to find ways to honour the single among us. In the days when SA officers were required, many officers gave whole lives with single hearted devotion and many still do. Its about recognising the strength and validity of the ‘single warrior.’
On the flip side, its also recognising the place of the family in the war. Now, monastics of old would hardly have been married. But in communities of covenant (like new monastic communities or communities like The Salvation Army) there must be a recognised place for the ministry of the family. I don’t just mean having activities or programmes for all the family. I’m talking about the commitment to discipling the whole family, and that done together as a unit. Quite truly, the best times in our ministry have been when we’ve gathered in our home as a family with others around the word, to worship and pray for one another in small group gatherings. Special times. Lets not underestimate the capacity of all to live missional lives….even the children.
9. Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.
Commuter church is a strange concept. It is driven by a church consumerism…the kind that makes people drive to the best Jesus show in town. Too harsh? No…the consumerist church is often the antidote to missional living. It means that people can work in one place, live in a completely different place and worship in an entirely different place. So, there is something about local geographical presence here.
There is also something about being salt and light in a particular community and living out an alternative way of life visibly with others. Take Pill for example…one of our corps appointments. We figured that at the time we lived there, 1% of the population were Salvationist – thats fairly high! As a result, the Army had a high profile in the community not just through the public life of its officers, but through the visible witness of its soldiers and local officers. Another example of this are both the 614 communities and the Eden communities here in the UK. Christians commiting themsleves geographically to an area and joining in the mission of God there. There is something in banding together to minister to a neighbourhood that is very powerful.
Celtic monks here in Northumbria often went out on mission in bands of brothers, travelling out in small groups and establishing churches and outposts everywhere then leaving some staying on as permanant witnesses in some of those places. The Army have similar planting stories. You may or may not have heard of The Seige of London….this was an SA campaign to hold an open air on every street corner in London back in the late 1800s then leaving behind a couple to continue build community with the converts made. We have much to learn from this stuff.