A CRY FROM THE HEART(The following writing uses the word "community" various times. Let it be understood in a sense of a group of people with a common unity of spirit (having koinonia), and not just some people with a common land title and banking account.)
A community of believers that co-exists in harmony with each other and the surrounding community. Can this be done? Can a group of people with diverse backgrounds come together and really settle in their hearts what are convictions, and what are preferences? Can a home-schooler live alongside a day-school advocate? Can several different coverings be worn in the same meeting with absolutely no superiority exhibited by some? Can the Holy Spirit truly direct the church and call out some to go to the field as He chooses? Can there be a plurality of leaders with no authoritarian inroads? Can a brotherhood of believers come together and work with each other for the common good of their fellow man? Can a group actually live without unscriptural rules? Can this group be open to others even if they don't do things just like they do? Can some have cars, some have horses, some have kerosene lamps and some have out-houses? Will God actually give His gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to such a group as we speak? Can they all get along well enough to let the Lord work through them? Can there be times of solemn assemblies, prayer and fasting, true seeking of His face for direction and guidance? Can a group be evangelistic minded and actually do something more than a token thing here and there? Can or will a group like this ever come about in our lifetime, or will our children have to do it after we pass on?
Can you for one minute imagine a community of believers living and dying for each other like the Scriptures point out to us? A place where those that have been divorced because of the Lord can come and live, a place where singles can come to for a chance to really be a part of a family of God's own children, a place where the food is not contaminated, where the air is fresh, where the water is good, where children are being raised with truly godly characteristics, and are not just taught it by mouth, but see it in action every day of their lives? A place where it is perfect? Dare I say it, a place that the flesh has a back seat to the Spirit (that to me is perfection). If we can't get along here, what makes us think we will up there? Is death going to make us somehow fit for cooperation, or is there something available here that we can show the world who have been disillusioned for so long a time? A true perfect love that has no ulterior motives other than the glory of God. A love that chooses the other person first because it wants to, because it springs from a right heart.
I may be a dreamer, but I believe a place like this can exist, mainly because I believe in God and in His ability to work in the lives of His true disciples. I really believe that the world is waiting to see something like this happen. They are so dismayed about religion and have not seen a true form of Christianity in so long that they don't think it can happen. A group that cares about the needs of those around them at the cost of sacrificing themselves. A group that tries to maintain an equality amongst it's members, and it does this not by legislating, but by loving others more than themselves. This generation of sinners is waiting to see what this generation of Christians has to offer, and if we don't show them, who will?
Allow me to rant a bit here. I am tired, as are some of you, of bickering over application of doctrines when so many are dying and going directly to hell. I am fed up with learning principles without true life application. I am tired of telling my children how Christians are to be toward one another, and showing them that this ideal (which is what is turns out to be in their little minds) is far from reality. We need a move of God's Spirit to create this group of people living with each other, that is the only way it will ever work. It has to focus on Jesus and His teaching, His compassion for the lost, His love for the church. Oh, if only we could prove wrong all those who say it cannot happen! Oh, if only we could really please our Maker by showing Him we really do have faith in His ability. Oh, for a true lifting up of one voice for every need, to Him who loves us, to freely give us all things! My only question is when, when will this happen? I cannot go on without trying, can you? I know that deep down a majority of you are waiting for something like this to happen, well, where are those who have the audacity to make it happen, to take the altar by the horns and storm heaven for some God-sent direction? We are so at ease in Zion right now. Cannot we see the desperate need for this to happen? Oh sure, one family can do some good things for the Lord, wherever they are, but a threefold cord is not easily broken, and one can chase it's thousands; but two can chase it's ten thousands, there is more to expect with a group, more responsibility, more action, more prayer, more duty to fulfill.
Oh, maybe I am just dreaming. Is it really true that the book of Acts is only a picture of the church in transition? Is it really true that it isn't an example for us to follow? Is it really true that chapters 2 and 4 were just the way those believers acted out their appreciation and love, and it isn't like that for us? To me it is a wonderful picture of true love and faith in action. Oh, how the world could be influenced by a love such as this! We must remember also that this devotion and sacrificial love was spontaneous. Something as special as this could never have the impact is it were worked up in the flesh (if indeed it could be).
What is the purpose of living a plain life? What really is the motive for doing away with the modern conveniences of life? Why are so many of us on what appears to be a quest to live a simpler life? (Someone may say it is because we love the Lord and want to do as He has commanded, and this would be a good answer, but not the best.) Often "simpler" living entails more work, providing time to work together as families and brethren, thus providing opportunities for bonding, exhortation, admonishment, and worship of our Lord. To be able to live on just pennies a year as opposed to the thousands we had be accustomed is a good thing, but what does the Bible say about all this? It says we are to work so that we can have to give to those in need. It also says that to show love toward God is to love our neighbor. That is the God-ordained way to show our love for him, by showing love to our neighbors. If I made thousands previously, it would be very well to streamline my expenditures to pennies, but then give the leftover to help in the cause of Christ somehow, somewhere. What I am getting at is this: If our sole motive for living simply is merely the sake of living simply, we shall have missed the entire reason for our being. Everything we do must have the glory of God as the sole motive, anything else is selfishness at best.
The way I see it the sole motive for a community of believers to exist is to glorify God and serve our fellow man. We can glorify God in many way, having our families in order, having our working habits adjusted correctly, having our homes free from the influence of the sinful world, studying and practising how to win souls for the One who alone deserves those souls to worship and love Him, so He can receive the reward of His awful sufferings. These are just a few of the many ways we can glorify the One who bought us with His precious blood. Put all these together in one pot, and stir in some genuine love, humility, forbearance, temperance, and one should have a very Biblical mixture for a powerful work of God on this planet. The essence of Christian community is unconditional accountability to, and unlimited liability for, our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. That means that our time, our money, and our very selves are available to the brothers and sisters. What happens when God grants the gift of GENUINE Christian fellowship? Deep joyful sharing replaces the polite prattle typically exchanged by Christians on Sunday morning. Sisters and brothers begin to discuss the things that really matter to them, They disclose their inner fears, their areas of peculiar temptation and their deepest joys, And they begin to challenge and disciple each other according to Matthew 18:15-17 and Galations 6:1-3 and they will live out before the eyes of a dying multitude of unbelievers the very acts of 1 Corinthians 13!
The following is from a book, but it expresses a very good idea of a community of Christians acting out their faith instead of talking and arguing over it. "One day a man with a serious drinking problem dropped in to talk with Virgil, one of the elders. When Virgil invited him to accept Christ (or more importantly for Christ to accept him. -author) and join the community of believers, the man grew uncomfortable and hastily insisted that he simply wanted money for a bus ticket to Cleveland!
"O.K." Virgil agreed, "we can give that kind of help too, if that's all you really want." He was quiet for a moment, then he shook his head. "You know something?" he said, looking straight at the man, "you've just really let me off the hook. Because if you had chosen a new way of life in the kingdom of God, then as your brother I would have had to lay down my whole life for you. This house, my time, all my money, whatever you needed to meet your needs would have been totally at your disposal for the rest of your life. But all you want is some money for a bus ticket..." The man was so startled he stood up and shortly left, without remembering to take the money. The next Sunday he was sitting next to Virgil in the worship service." Is this the essence of the Biblical teaching of community or not? Why can't this happen amongst us, who have come so far along the road of obedience? Why must we stop short and let the devil leave us defeated? Let us press on to higher levels in Christ and really live out our faith. Is there anyone out there who is ready to commit to such a radical role?-Rick Shields