Life Together.

The following is a guest post by Tyler Recker.

There’s this book sitting here on my desk that I’m mad at.  When I finished the fall semester of school, I was ecstatic at the possibilities of being able to read anything I wanted.  And I knew I wanted to tackle this one because I’ve been a big fan of the idea of community that we see in the book of Acts but, in my humble opinion, rarely see in Gwinnett.  So I was stoked (synonym of “excited”) to get into Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together”.

But I’m mad at the book because just a few pages in it hit me with this:

“Every human wish dream that is injected into Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” (p. 27)

It was through this wisdom that God convicted me that too often I’ve wanted to be involved with a community of believers that functions like the church did in Acts, but I really wasn’t acting like a believer did in Acts.

I’ve often lamented the individualism of the suburbs, and I think that is a holy discontent, but the issue is that I’ve seldom worked to be a part of the Kingdom change that the New Testament describes, opting instead for dreams of what it might look like.

But we’re moving on from there.  We’re moving from dreams and talk to action.  You can get in on it too.  (Truth is, some of you have been in on it long before I realized my own ridiculousness.)

So, for starters, here are some things that we are doing to increase our connectedness with folks so that we are spending more than 2 hours a week together, but rather we are living “life together”.

  • We’ve seen a great deal of bonds formed and strengthened by opening up our home for meals on Sundays for lunch.  In doing this, Leah and I sought to spend some time with folks we didn’t quite know as well as the “usual suspects”.  We’ve loved it.  Each of the conversations had a great mix of small talk, spiritual discussion, and laughing.  Once we had this great problem:  We couldn’t get the folks we’d invited to leave ! I won’t call them out. Man, it’s been great.
  • The guys in our BASE group are talking and experimenting with what it looks like to encourage and exhort one another in the Gospel. By the time this posts, we will have had our first meeting centered around this idea.  (I’ll keep our location a secret, but it’s not Burger King, because that’s disgusting.)
  • We’ve joined together with other folks for hobbies that we enjoy.  In middle school and high school, this would have been a no-brainer, but as adults, it’s easy to isolate and want to have time alone.  It’s helpful that we don’t have cable, because it means that for me to watch a football game, I have to go to someone else’s house.  Likewise, Leah enjoys hobbies with others at the same time.

Today, as I write this, I was privileged to enjoy the community of some really great dudes for breakfast at a local Mexican place (they called it “lunch”, but I had just woke up and it was my first meal of the day).  I was reminded of something else that Bonhoeffer wrote about how community isn’t something that we create, it’s a reality that we have to walk in:

“We thank God for what He has done for us.  We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise.  We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily.”

…and when my perspective changed, I’m realizing that He’s surrounded my wife and I with a wonderful community.

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4 thoughts on “Life Together.

  1. I think we (myself included) often idealize the early church to be much more mature and “perfect” than it really was. Just as there is no perfect church today, there was no perfect church in the first century. Consider the Corinthians believers who were constantly embattled over some kind of bitter dispute that threatened to divide them. These early believers also did very little to address major sin issues in the church. The Galatian church gave in to heresy. The Jerusalem church was filled with legalists, and also argued about such silly things as which group of widows was being cared for the most.

    I too look at passages like what we find in Acts 2 and Acts 4 and wonder, “why can’t today’s church be more like that?” But if I stop complaining long enough to hear the answer to my complaint, then I will see that the reason we don’t have that kind of community is because of sin. It is the work of our flesh that results in a lack of real Biblical community in our churches….just like it was the result of the flesh that the early church dealt with its various issues.

    The answer is the Gospel. Knowing it, living it, and proclaiming it to unbelievers AND believers.

  2. The church was definitely not without it’s growing pains, and indeed will never be. The Church is the taste of the Kingdom, but that won’t be fulfilled until the culmination of history.

    For sure, the issue is sin, and as we mortify sin through the Gospel, we ought to become a better taste of the future Kingdom.

    The thing that they had in Acts that we sometimes lack is the counter-cultural mindset that pushed one another to each other as the people who shared the tightest bonds. I think one of the reasons we don’t realize the community that the New Testament points to is that the Gospel isn’t our highest prize, and so we don’t see the Gospel people (the Church) as the ones with whom we share the most in common with.

    In other words, when I see the Gospel as what is ultimate in life and follow after Jesus, I suddenly have more in common with a fellow believer in Ghana than I would with an unbelieving blood relative of mine. So, I would be more in community with that brother than I would with my own family.

    This is what Bonhoeffer was saying when he talked about community being a present reality more than a ideal to be attained.

  3. Bonhoeffer’s little book is a classic and worth reading multiple times. I try to read it every year. The quote that made you made is one that I quote to my seminary students every year. It is humbling, challenging and inescapably true.

    The reality is that many Church shopping Christians never develop community because they never get more than a year or two worth of community in one place. Community is built out of the shared mess of our lives that celebrates our oneness in Christ.

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