Why in the modern church have we so used the term “personal relationship”, come into a personal relationship with Jesus as a way of defining my experience of God?
I have discovered through reading the scriptures that my personal relationship is not enough, I have discovered that through my faith experience that it is inadequate. the scriptures tell us that the church grows “as every joint supplies”, that if I say I love God and not my brother something is not right.
I have realised that we must apply this relationship to people around me and I must be vigorous and develop a strategic personal relationship with Christ’s people. So we have a personal relationship that express itself in the “love others”, if we don’t something is missing.
I have discovered that I cannot say simple “I love you” without grasping they are the three hardest words that you have, it is a statement that challenges and deals with my “integrity” “intimacy” and my “identity” – I…Love…You! It asks me to tell what i mean by LOVE
Community describes such large diverse formats in todays postmodern world, people in a home, monastic, celebrations where ever, what ever shape it comes in it does have highly defined principles.
These communities and practices so vary across our world from the House Churches hidden in countries where people are under threat of death to your G12 along with the mega church and many other expressions of various forms and practices. Even through out history we have accounts of people who would gather out of their daily routine to read, pray along with enquire of one another’s health and days. The Methodist in early days would gather and run a checklist on the condition of each others soul’s, the early pioneers would say if you did not involve in such a practice your conversion was likely not genuine. This was not a small group administration as we have today, although it was recognised that the best number of participants was 10 or 12 people, it flowed form the conviction that you could not and did not have a solitary faith – it was community, corporate all the way
“It became evident (to Wesley) that it was only through such close fellowship that people continued in their faith. Those who did not join the ‘Society’ (of Wesleyans) sooner or later fell back into their former careless life… The members of the classes came to meet together, and so a real encounter and true exchange between the members was assured. People shared experiences with each other, bore the burdens and care of a brother, spoke openly with each other and so nipped in the bud rumours and evil gossip. People prayed and sang with each other.”
For many decades this setting produced a fast growing church just as the underground church in China has experienced, so did the ‘House Church’ movement of Uk 40 years ago, clearly there was key to it. It is the appreciation of the power of Christ-followers together in community.
Howard Snyder writes that “renewal movements – notably Methodism and Pietism – offset the individual and otherworldliness thought structures of accountable community…they nurtured community that neutralised spiritual narcism to a significant degree. When these were abandoned they lost their key defines agains on overly subjective individualism” Perhaps its realising the ‘House Church’ movement of the UK, the renewal movement of South America along with the ‘Underground House Church’ movements of China say much on regaining a pattern that retains and develops ours UNION with God and one with another rather than the systems that uphold the achieving personal gains/goals/destinies?
One of the saddest influences upon us today was the shift in the church history from community (koinonia) towards hierarchy (ierarchia) from the sense of being the charismatic “one-another” body of Christ to being a structured institution. Its a challenge when we are to be the affirmation of the image of God in humankind and the manifestation of God’s glory, when God is never out of community, God is community, more than one, a covenant movement and the Church is to be its mirror in the earth…
One of my loved Africa sayings that come back to me time and time again, it is one that Archbishop (as he was when he used the statement) Desmond Tutu gave in a speech and spoke of the idea of community from an African perspective:
“We say in our African idiom, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. I need you in order to be me as you need me in order to be you. We are caught up in a delicate network of inter-connectedness. I have gifts that you don’t, and you have gifts that I don’t—voila! We are made different so that we may know our need of one another. The completely self-sufficient human being is subhuman.”
If Tutu accurately reflects the African perspective on human relationships, then we need in the church, the ekklesia – this given the surname of God need to relearn to reflect the Covenant, the Divine Dance of Gods Kingdom Gods order. And it’s this: that community—Tutu called it inter-connectedness—is essential in order for me to know myself … and to know you.
In the books written on the study of people you will find this quote that “True communities are built on the realisation that the autonomous individual is not a whole person. A person is whole only as he or she is a person-in-community.”
Paul and Frances Hiebert
Consider some of the scripture that so lock us into a UNION of many, the body of Christ. It seems that God relates to us in term of our connectedness not our individuality. Charles Simpson a wonderful friend once ministered that the church was “flexible…digital…”, and expanded on the digital aspect.
That each digit has all it requires in itself, nothing required adding but it does not fulfil its purpose or become useful until it is plugged into the mother board, only then as connectivity flows from digit that surround it does it come to life, working and become useful.
Could this be the true emphasis of 1 John 3:11 “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. … This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
This is not your light contact but a serious kind of experience, its not sentimental or emotional but a deliberate, intentional love, a life-giving relationship we enter into, for longevity, not friend today and gone tomorrow type. I note that people change friendships and their belonging, ho they along to and are friends with, they change as often as they change their clothes, what is fashionable in the moment or who is fashionable to be running with or who can give me what I am after?
As i said it is intentional, we connect not because you have some thing i need or want but because being “born of the Spirit” we have been “interconnected”, knowing i cannot display that in its world wide sense but i must locally be part of a people who receive my faithfulness, my commitment, my poured outness. In Union with Christ means I must replicate the way of life with one another. As i mentioned in my last blog it was meant to be the identifiable motif that distinguishes the Relational Movement we call Christ like or Christianity
I am because we are…A person is a person through other persons…I am who I am because of who you are