(in)authentic faith community part 2
disclaimer: i am prolly the least qualified person to offer a critique of the state of the church. im a former pastor and church planter who has been rejected and hurt by the church and should therefore be thoroughly ignored by anyone who desires to read a balanced take on anything to do with the subject.
in the previous post i relayed the story of my friend who is struggling with the church and feeling isolated and frustrated. having talked with her again a couple times since the initial conversation some things have become more clear. her frustration really centers on the notion that church should be more than just singing & bible study – that there should be on some level a relational investment in the people you are worshiping & bible-studying with.
this has caused me to look at my own experience with church because we have some of the same issues. my wife and i are a part of what is called an adult bible fellowship which is simply our churches authentic faith community approach. essentially its a group of people who get together every sunday morning for coffee and bible study. theres also an effort to plan a shindig outside of this once every month. along with these we have had a couple of sunday lunches together. so our authentic faith community spends roughly 6 hours together per month give or take.
in lukes commentary on the church from acts 2 he states that they devoted themselves to teaching and fellowship – to eating together and praying. he says the believers were together and had all things in common and that all of this was an everyday occurrence. in reading his account it certainly seems to have been more than a 6 hour investment.
i realize the world we live in is different. i understand that the way things are now is not conducive to such togetherness. but im convinced that an authentic faith community takes more than 6 hours a month. i believe it requires a daily commitment – whether that means text messages and phone calls or sitting down at the dinner table together or hanging out at the coffee shop. it may include a weekly q&a over a given bible passage but it will necessarily be more than that.
a few years ago i had the rare joy to be a part of something that i believe came close to lukes description in acts 2. it was essentially a house church composed of a handful of people who not only worshiped & studied together but actually shared life. on weekdays.
it wasnt always a planned event either. the organic nature of our relationships meant that no two weeks looked alike. some things were similar while other things were very different.
aside from our regular monday night time when we got together to eat dinner at our home and talk about some scripture passage or concept, we also sometimes hooked up & went to see a movie or grabbed coffee/breakfast from time to time. come to think of it a lot of our interaction centered around eating together. or watching football.
and we prayed. for each other and those in our lives – those we were trying to build relationships with at work or in classes or in the community. we never sat in a circle and shared prayers requests but as conversations exposed providence or need we would join together before the throne in thanks or petition. this stands in sharp contrast to a 2 minute prayer request time at the end of a bible study on sunday morning
another thing that set this experience apart was that between the group when bills came up short or someone was in need we met it. there was no paperwork at the church office and no one had to ask the group for help. we helped each other out because we knew each others issues and were able to help without it being a big deal.
these are only a few of the things that set this experience apart from every other church experience in my life and in an ironic twist they ruined me for the typical traditional institutional approach at many churches. which is why im skeptical every time i see a church advertising itself as an authentic faith community because generally speaking in my experience it just isnt the case.
at the conclusion of my previous post i asked a few questions. i want to take a look at them now in light of the experiences related above.
is it unreasonable to expect broken people to achieve this or is the desire for such integrated relationships merely a pipe-dream?
i dont think so and theres a couple reasons. first is that it certainly seems like it was the experience of the early church according to eyewitnesses such as luke. his statements depict a group of people fully integrated in each others lives. but i too have experienced broken people living this way. our time with the house church in alpine always gives me hope that it can happen again.
can we ever take ourselves seriously as christians if the basic rhythms of our lives in no way resemble those of the first christians?
i think not. i know our world is different now and there are a hundred excuses for why we dont have enough time but i think this is all the more reason the way we live and interact with each other and those around us should look vastly different.
im not calling for a wholesale withdrawal from society. in fact i think that would be a devastatingly poor decision. im convinced those christians who have done so have abdicated their voice and are among the least likely to influence anyone for the good. on the contrary i am calling for an immersion in the society coupled with a complete withdrawal from the societal value system. and though it seems a paradox i think its completely possible. just as the first century christians in lukes account remained integrated socially in their world while withdrawing from its value system i think followers of jesus must find a way to do the same.
im not sure what that will look like in every situation because i think it will be malleable. but our efforts should have the purpose of gods kingdom community while using the methods of the context in which we find ourselves. because if this is what we saw jesus and his first followers doing – and it is – then this is what it means to follow him. being an authentic faith community requires it.
~ by graceshaker on February 23, 2011.
Posted in being, christ and culture, christianity, church, faith, life, prayer, relationships, scripture
Tags: acts 2:42-47, authentic faith community, community and discipleship, complete withdrawal from the societal value system, disillusionment with the church, gods kingdom community, house church, praying for each other, questions and doubts, struggling with the church