Why bother about Christian community?
No matter what “kind” of “church” “gathering” you are a part of, the idea of belonging and community have historically been part of the DNA fabric of what Christians have experienced since the Day of Pentecost (the historically accepted date of the birth of Christ, post-Ascension of Jesus, Book of Acts). Part of being a member of a community of faith entails within it both communion, actual community with other Christians, as well as the aspect of deep commitment to God through deep intimate commitment to fellow believers. It has been part and parcel of claiming to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth and belonging to the Kingdom of God, and a willing participant in the life and ministry of the “Church” in the world.
Throughout the ages, no matter the size of the localized Christian community, be it an organic house church, or a large Christian community that gathers in a large religious building, intimacy and community and participation of ministry has been part of the core values and activities of the Church’s mission in the world.
The intimacy found in smaller relational Christian communities
Having been part of the simple house church movement, and having established a few house churches and assisted others in doing so, I believing the prevailing issue in every situation is the heart condition of each person who is part of this kind of organic Christian family community. I can vouch to the veracity of the comment you have made here by Stephen Crosby.
The greatest joys from intimate Christian community
I have experienced the very heights of bliss and joy and intimacy where the Lord Jesus is the centre of a gathered group of people, where He is loved and adored and worshiped, where the Scriptures are read and spoken about and where the Lord’s Table has been a part of the agape love feast as we commune together with Christ.
Ministry that results from active engagement and participation
I have seen the miraculous and prophetic gifts flow and all the people function in spiritual diverse spiritual gifts. I have have sensed that “heaven on earth” ecstasy that existentially cannot be compared to too many Christian mystical community experiences. While personal and intimate, there is an ecstatic mystical reality that impacts whomever is part of that encounter, and in many instances the simple house church, be it in a living room or recreation room, it is more conducive to mystical encounter and worship. I have seen and experienced the very best of what I personally consider New Testament Christianity.
In reality, while I have experienced what I consider the best of Christian community and belonging, I have equally experienced the very worst of fallen humanity
I have been subjected to the very worst from people who call themselves “Christians” than I have ever been subjected to from others who claim no faith in Jesus Christ at all. Many have displayed a lack of godly character and very poor fruits of the Spirit in their lives in how they relate and engage with other people. Most regrettably, I have experienced the worst of betrayals, accusations, attacks anyone could possibly suffer at the hands of people who call themselves believers and disciples of Jesus Christ.
I have seen people who refuse to admit to their errors in judgment and refuse to even admit to making serious mistakes and refuse to own up to the resulting fall out from these errors in judgment. Their mistakes have hurt and injured other people. They have run away, cut themselves off from relationships, and refused to reconcile with those whom they have injured. They have been unrepentant, revealing hearts which are hardened and whose resistance to godly counsel defies not only logic, but the biblical guidelines for biblical community and mutual accountability in relationship. The evidence of their actual belief is contrary to their assertion of actually being a believer. Their actions betray their supposed true convictions.
You see, all these behaviours are rooted in the heart. Jesus himself said that it is what comes out of a man that defiles him. These kinds of heart issues are revealed over quality time when people engage and spend time with with one another. You don’t readily see that manifest in larger Christian communities. Statistics say that most people know between 10 and 15 people more intimately than others in a particular community, and may know up to 50 people casually. But in smaller more intimate Christian communities, you have these relationships in tighter and more restricted confines.
You see in a simple house church where people meet regularly in a living room or rec room, there is nowhere for anyone to hide
You face each other. You are most openly exposed to seeing each other, view body language as people talk and engage. You see and experience emotions from others right there in front of you. It can be uncomfortable and intimidating. You don’t just share a biblical insight or verse or testimony. You share life together, real, in your face “life.” You share meals together. You build you relationship together. You spend time together. It certainly is not a simple 1 hour together on a Sunday morning. Our gatherings lasted between 5 to 7 hours together. Unresolved heart issues, complicated relationship issues, all flow from the heart and our brokenness. When these issues fester and get worse, it flows out of us and affects those who are part of our community. The pain, hurt, rejection flows out, and the saying is true: hurt people hurt people. These issues will cause a church community to implode and be destroyed, and in the process destroy the witness of Christ to others.
The lack of dealing with heart issues will destroy any church gathering, whether you meet in a traditional church building, or in a home, or recreation room in a house. If you refuse to deal with your own heart, you are a liability and risk to any church body.
Peace and grace be yours.
~ Samuel M. Buick