Thursday, May 21, 2009

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

What’s your perspective of a Christian community life?

17 comments:

Susan said...

Like L’Abri?

Greg said...

Susan,
Thanks. Like L'Abri? Not really. I had in mind what each one would desire, imagine, or be living in their own contexts.

John said...

Greg -
Some L'Abri friends and I have had some conversations about this in recent months. Honestly, we wonder if a L'Abri-esque community is possible here in the States. A community where it is intentional, people are intentional about sharing all aspects of life together, sharing freely with others. I don't know if it's possible with our individual jobs, individual cars, and individual mindsets.

I was reading The Shack recently (I've really enjoyed it, by the way. I'd recommend it) and read a quote that says "Since our greatest hurts come from relationships, that's where our healing will come as well." Do you think it's possible that one way that the Evil One undermines our healing, and therefore to an extent growth as a Christian, is to get us into this individualistic mindset?

More questions than answers at this point on this topic, I'm afraid.

Greg said...

John,
Thanks. Well, I've always believed that a community with the characteristics you mention would be feasible in the USA, but too few people really give it a go.

Yes, I think that individualism as a referent for itself is bankrupt and perhaps an evil spiritual strategy to keep us focused on ourselves. Sacraficial love, in contrast, is a hallmark of following Christ and creating a community space for self and other to be working towards a shared life.

John said...

Greg -
I've looked for it, and I'm honestly not sure it's possible. Maybe in a withdraw (to a healthy extent) from the world scenario, like a community organic farm or something like that (like in societies in the past), but not in suburbia, or in the technology world.

Sacrificial love. Hm, that's not something that is talked about or seen often. Definitely not in my life recently.

Greg said...

John,
True, suburbia would be a more difficult place to attempt to do community. But I still think if enough people live in the same neighborhood or area that it could be workable, if it was worked at.

John said...

I was actually thinking about this question last night, Greg. I was thinking back to last Winter Term with the discussions on "what is a community" and "Is L'Abri a community?", which I always thought was a ridiculous question that only led to divisions, but I guess could be an important question for some...

But I think a community should be an open place, where all are invited and welcome, hurts are welcome, truth and honesty is expected, life is shared, people are loved well, and is a life-giving place that encourages, rebuilds, and provides hope.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

John, so where is the difference to the church?

Greg said...

John,
Good thoughts, but you could be a bit idealistic with your picture of community. Maybe you just didn't add this. I think you're aware of it. Living in community is hard work and has its own share of difficulties. It takes a high degree of commitment and a great deal of patience and of course, it's never perfect, but it is real. The challenges are in your face might be another way of saying it. But what an opportunity to express redemption and the life of the Spirit.

Greg said...

Lukas,
Thanks. I hope John adds his thoughts. One difference I would see is the structure. Churches usually have ordained pastors or elders and are part of a denomination.

John said...

Greg -
I do recognize that and just didn't include it. We've both experienced it firsthand, that there are very real trials in community, and patience is absolutely required, as well as heavy doses of grace, but those things aren't required of us until we are willing to engage in real community. This might be a reason why some avoid community. Not sure.

Lukas, in response to your question, I've never seen the church as fulfilling that role. Why? I don't know. I guess it depends on if you're talking about the church as institution/building or the body of believers. In my experience, for the most part neither is a community like I'm looking for. Most of the people I've met aren't looking to get involved in each others' lives in real ways. It's just a "how can I pray for you, how can I challenge you?" type of relationship, which is needed in a relationship, but cannot comprise the whole. There must be a sharing of life that I cannot find here where I am.

Susan said...

Greg you wrote: Living in community is hard work and has its own share of difficulties. It takes a high degree of commitment and a great deal of patience and of course, it's never perfect, but it is real.

I find this true of the church I attend. Though, not with everyone.

I think Jesus words are important in this context: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." An individualistic mindset is a danger but so is isolating ourselves from the world.

Greg said...

John,
Truthful and realistic notions of God, self, other, and world will be helpful for community life. Maybe it's these kinds of commitments that even Christians tend to back off of for fear of getting too involved and having to pay a price.

Greg said...

Susan,
Glad to hear that your church is aware of these issues. Good point about Jesus' words. We don't want to isolate ourselves from the world or each other and that means, for one thing, aiming to have a keen sense about how culture impacts us in community, church, and world.

Joshua said...

One of the most frustrating things is that it seems to be filled with idealism, not that idealism is wrong, but there are expectations that don't necessarily flow from a proper Christian imagination? Our imaginations have been captured by others, so it's difficult to discern from the get go.

There's really only about three people I'm critical of in this regard, simple cause I respect and trust them. The first is John, e.g. "sharing all aspects of our life". If interpreted absolutely, it doesn't even acknowledge real needs of the individuals to have periods of withdrawal and space. Another guy is a professor named David Ford, who seems to think that it will almost magically fix the problems we as Americans face. It doesn't ultimately fix anything. I actually wrote this yesterday before y'alls conversation had evolved. Note: my conversations with him though have been I noticed directed by his statements and questions on the topic, and even as Curtis and I have responded, we haven't really voiced we feel are the realities of community.

That said, a Christian community life is different from the Church, but is a type of community it seems focused on the Christian way of being. It I guess acknowledges at some level that the good life is not meant to be lived alone. Different ones are going to be more specific, e.g. Finkenwalde seminary and some are going to miss the mark of even what I would see as a Christian living.

David Ford though has made a great point in illuminating both the role of geographic proximity and the helpfulness of being unwed which presents different problems. With the shift back towards urbanization, it seems new Christians communities are going to spring up.

Greg said...

Joshua,
Thanks. Yes, there are no pure imaginations as they are always engaged. Not sure how much they are "captured" or are doing the capturing in their productive and reproductive sense. Both seem to be involved in remembering the past, projecting the future, and living in the present.

True, sharing all aspects of our lives will be humanly impossible and surely comminuty will not fix the ills of an ailing culture.

Christian community life will have its pros and cons. Hopefully, it will present opportunities for more intentionally following in the footsteps of Christ as we are involved with each other's lives to a deeper degree.

John said...

Josh and Greg -
Thanks for your comments and clarifications on what I said. I never meant to sound like I was taking away from individuality and individual needs, but sometimes I question how many freedoms and "needs" we really have a right to.

For example, Josh mentioned the right to periods of withdrawal and space. Do we always a right to this, or are there times that we give this up for the greater good? I definitely think we have a right to have personal space and to claim that as good, but we must not hold onto it too closely, for there will be times that we are called (rightly) to give it up.

But Greg, I agree that hopefully community, in all its imperfections, will be a place where growth can happen and God can be glorified as more intentionally follow in Christ's steps and share life together.