Jack Watkins on Community

I read a great post, What is Community, the other day at Flight Level Musings by Jack Watkins. It discusses how the early Christians found it easy to live as a close community since it was a part of the Jewish culture of the time, but how our modern individualistic culture makes this close group lifestyle seem strange and unnatural. He says:

The first Christians apparently understood the community life of believers. It was ingrained in their lives. Being Jews, they had a strong-group world view…[but] For those of us in the west, this is not our culture nor is it our lifestyle. We are very independently minded and individual focused; not community focused. So for the most part you do not see much community life in Christianity.

I have heard it said, and have even taught this myself, that this cultural difference accounts for why we don’t “do church” like they did in the New Testament as if by that explanation the differences between us and the New Testament church are made ok, but why would that assumption be ok? I’m not sure it is, actually I am quite sure it is not! We need community and we thrive in community. We learn from and grow with each other in ways that we could never do alone. Yes, we must overcome our cultural bent to individualism, but if we can grow the way we see in the New Testament then I would call that a small price to pay! Let me end with another quote from Jack’s post:

Church life is so much more than having a meeting on Sunday morning, or even Sunday and Wednesday evening. If your family is not intimately involved with other saints on a regular basis you are missing out on one of the greatest blessings God has for us as believers.

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About Dan Allen

Just some guy trying to figure stuff out... View all posts by Dan Allen

7 responses to “Jack Watkins on Community

  • Anthony Verderame

    Thanks for sharing this bro! Could it be that we as the ecclesia of God don’t REALLY see ourselves as the “called out ones”? Have we allowed God to reframe our minds & hearts so that when I see another believer I truly believe, “Hey, he IS my brother” or “she IS my sister.” I am believing more and more that the reason we struggle with sharing our lives intimately with other believers is because this place IS our home and it therefore has my affections. Father is really dealing with me re: this. Where is my home….really?

    The “Lord’s Supper” illustrates this point of intimacy. It simply shows that we belong to Christ & we belong to each other; that there is a love relationship we have with God & with each other…..the cup of the new covenant!!!
    Bless You Dan!!!

  • Dan Allen

    Anthony,

    I think the more we understand that we are the “called out ones” we will see that we are a part of a whole other community and culture that is in many ways opposed to the culture(s) we find ourselves surrounded by.

    If we stop seeing this place as our home (or place of residence) we may find it easier to separate ourselves from it’s culture, especially where it’s culture opposes God’s desires for his children.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    -Dan

  • penandpapermama

    Maybe we don’t think we can “afford” to really be community for more than 2 or 3 hours a week. We do, after all (even if we’ve gotten free of the “need” to have church buildings and expensive programs and such) need to have nice homes (which are a safe protective spot for our own little family), all kinds of teams and lessons for our kids, good food (including our fair share of eating out), reasonable fashionable clothes etc… We DO need those things, right?

    Looks to me like the people in the early church who had “stuff” beyond the true essentials sold it and shared with those who had very little or nothing (or at least shared their dwellings and food etc which they had).

    Sadly, “individualism” is too often “me-ism” … and we really do think we “need” a lot more than we really do. It also leads to “cocooning” … versus really sharing.

    Somewhere recently I read a blog post in which the writer suggested maybe we need to give ourselves a “leg down” before we can really be able to give others a “leg up.” Hmmm…. I suspect Jesus coming to earth was a pretty big “leg down” … and his disciples gave up everything too…

    Maybe it’s somehow easier to belong to each other when we actually need each other…

  • Arthur Sido

    Dan, have you read When the Church Was A Family by Joseph Hellerman? Great book, looks at the cultural divide between how the early church looked at family and thereby the family of God and how we see it. Very interesting stuff.

    I get the argument all the time that what we read in the Scriptures dealing with the church was specific for that time and doesn’t apply to us (places like Acts 2 & 4, 1 Cor 14, etc.). We seem awfully willing to excuse our own unfaithfulness to Scripture when it conflicts with our traditions.

  • Dan Allen

    Norma,

    How awesome would it be if our consumer minds could let go of our NEED for stuff! I love the testimony of the church in Acts, being willing to share and disperse among the whole family so that there was no longer haves and have-nots. I would never let my daughter go hungry while I ate a large meal and through what I couldn;t consume away, but how often do brothers and sisters in Christ go without while we have so much stuff we have to start throwing it away!

    Arthur,

    I have not read that book. Thank you for the recommendation. As far as your comment concerning our willingness to excuse our own unfaithfulness to Scripture, I think we need to be very careful when we write something off as descriptive rather than normative, and ask ourselves seriously if we think the text or our own opinion is driving that hermeneutic.

    Thank you both for your thoughts!

    -Dan

  • Mark Van Norden

    I have been thinking about this lately. We have reached a point with our fellowship where I believe He will take us to a different level. To be honest, the thought of that makes me nervous on some level, a testament to how the culture of America needs to be further replaced by the Kingdom. I do think, however, that this kind of deep community function must be allowed to develop and cannot be manufactured. Refarding Arthur’s comment, I think we have to guard ourselves, as the enemy is hard at work trying to pervert the church, and slowly turn us gradually back to what we came from. Those who insist on it being their way may be on their way to that.

  • Mark

    I just realized I was thinking of a comment by Arthur on another post when I wrote this comment, so it seems misplaced in this context. Sorry!

    mark

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