Life Together

Granada is midway through an experiment in Christian community.  We began Easter Sunday with an eight-week cycle of community groups in neighborhoods all across central Miami-Dade County.  Our goal has been to see our Granada church family experience Christ in their midst through the presence of other Christians and to see new relationships form and flourish.

Bonhoeffer

My views of Christian community are the product of growing up in the church and an early reading of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together.   I am one of those people in ministry who does not hate church.  Yes, the church I grew up in had problems, but the institutional church never captured my heart.  People did.  I was surrounded by a trans-generation Christian support group.  The church for me wasn’t meetings or committees.  It was the people. Because of this, I never felt let down by the church.  Of course, people were bound to disappoint.  But, I disappointed others as well.  The people God swept into my life through the church nurtured and served me and helped me become what I am today.  The problem is that many of us have been involved in church without getting close to people, without really becoming part of the community.

In the first chapter of Bonhoeffer’s book, he warns us against having what he calls a wish-dream.  That is, he warns us of the danger of loving our ideal of what the church should be more than we love individuals.  He says:

He who loves his dream [his ideal of what the church should be] more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the later, even though his personal intentions be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial…. God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious.  The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself.  He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brothers and God accordingly.

Now Bonhoeffer is not discouraging us from desiring a greater sense of community.  We should long for this.  He is saying, God does not command us to love an idea of what the church is to be. God calls us to love the actual people, the community itself.  How can we know if we are putting our ideal before the people?  Do we refuse fellowship because we feel we are better than others?  Do we find ourselves constantly criticizing others or the church as a whole?  This may indicate that you love your own ideal of the church more than the people.  At times when I have struggled with this I can see that my thoughts gave me an excuse for not sharing the life of the community.  They were part of a self-protective strategy I was using to remain safe and not risk being vulnerable or hurt by others.  The problem was that I was missing the wonder of being in community with other Christians.  Bonhoeffer learned all about this.  As a young pastor, the Germans imprisoned him and cut him off from Christian fellowship.  Amidst the deprivations of prison, Bonhoeffer longed for community with other believers.  He was never released from prison. But, he left us his call to take community seriously and to share our life together.

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One response to this post.

  1. Thanks for the post. I see many men in my world realizing they can no longer walk alone.

    Reply

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