Introduction: In this article, we are going to examine God’s original plan for community, by looking at what community was like in the time of Jesus and the Apostles, and how Jesus explained community. If there has been a drifting or falling away from God’s plan. We will consider if there is hope for today; the need to recognize our need, cooperating with the Divine, not being deceived by counterfeits, that “Sola Scriptura” should still be our motto today, and what the conclusion of the whole matter is.
What was God’s Original Plan for Community?
In the Garden of Eden, it was God’s plan for mankind to commune or fellowship with one another and with God, together in perfect love, peace, and harmony; and to enjoy the presence of each other’s company.
Humanity had been created by God as social beings, and they were able to commune directly with God, face to face. However, this wonderful plan was disrupted, disrupted by the entrance of sin. Then our earthly parents were only able to commune with God through the spoken voice.
As time progressed, though, it came to where God could only speak to His children through His servants, the prophets. However, God in His wisdom had instructed Moses and His people to, “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8). Why? In order that He might commune with them. It was God’s purpose that by the revelation of His character through His people Israel, that mankind would be drawn to Him.
What was Community Like in the Time of Jesus and in Apostolic Times?
Early on, the followers of Christ, who were mostly Jews, expected Jesus to overthrow their Roman overlords and oppressors, and to set up His new kingdom here on earth. However, they misunderstood His motives and methods. This, even though Jesus repeatedly told His followers and the disciples that His Kingdom was not of this world; and that it would not take the form of an individual earthly nation.
Rather, it would be a Kingdom of Community, one of koinonea (in the Greek), meaning to share, a sharing; as in a partnership or fellowship. That is, a heavenly community of believers, who are joyfully practicing a loving, compassionate relationship together, in obedience to and in fulfillment of God’s commands.
This would become their witness to the world, as a means to attract others into God’s Kingdom. In John 13, verse 35, we read: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35). By Jesus’ followers displaying love for one another in a community of love, it would demonstrate they were Christ’s disciples.
How Does Jesus Explain Community?
Christ’s teachings on mindfulness; that is, the kind consideration of others: “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5), and that of kindness and compassion, are illustrated in the story of the Good Samaritan. It is further expounded upon in His “Sermon on the Mount.” These teachings are at the very heart and essence of Christianity’s meaning of koinonea… that of community.
Good community is where love, compassion, and forgiveness are expressed to one another; and where help, encouragement and support are found. This community is necessary for helping individuals to learn how to encounter life’s challenges of the present moment… to resist the unwholesome ways (sins, temptations, and lifestyle practices), of our time and culture. To go in the Way of Peace; and to plant and nurture the seeds or gems of the truth about God’s love, and let beams of Light shine through us. (Matthew 5:16). This is what Christian community is all about.
Even our best intentions, Jesus warns us, can and will falter, without such a support group of trusted family, friends, and fellow believers who experience the presence of Christ, and that have a connectedness with Jesus Christ, in their daily lives together. That is what a true koinonea community provides, and we need to strive to that end.
Has There Been A Drifting From God’s Way?
Over the years, since after the period of the time of Christ and the apostles, Christians and Christianity in our post-modern Western society have drifted away from the model or blueprint laid out and exemplified by Jesus Christ and the early believers. This, to a point where believers today have become merely isolated practitioners of faith, who briefly attend a church service for an hour or two, once a week.
What was once a dynamic Christianity became or has become simply drab churchianity. And we wonder why young folks have no interest in church, or that there is such a rise of interest in our youth in Eastern religion the occult, and Eastern religious practices? These are the youth of parents who left our churches in droves years ago.
Is There Hope for Today?
Things are changing. Today, there is now a worldwide movement toward home churches, and small group ministries within larger church congregations.
In addition, today’s trend toward collaborative processes and opportunities for transformation through online communities is made easier by the availability of affordable telephone conferencing, through prayer lines, and video conferencing providers, such as Skype, Zoom and Mighty Networks; as well as online platforms like Facebook and MeetUp. These and on-line Bible studies, and home fellowship communities offer hope.
We Need to Recognize Our Need!
People are searching, they are hungering; and they are in need of a supportive community. The tragic world situation is now pushing them; pushing us toward other alternatives. But, it is the original vision of living a meaningful life, that meets the needs of people, society and the environment. That is what is really needed.
We are awakening to the fact that we are interconnected, that we are interdependent, and that we are in need of community… where we can come together to fulfill our mission, help mentor others to fulfill their mission, and to take care of one another in a nurturing fellowship.
All too often, we have heard of one who has fallen in sin. They are gossiped about and accused, rather than being helped. Eventually they leave the church or are disfellowshipped. We need a fellowship in community where we as Christians awaken to the One who is expressed through the many, and we begin to engage together and help and encourage one another, as God intended.
But, none of us can bring about large-scale change alone. Only we can change, one at a time, and that only as we yield ourselves to and as result of the Holy Spirit. It is time to start telling the old old story wherein lives are changed, and our actions demonstrate we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). TOGETHER we can make a difference, for ourselves and each other. And God can accomplish that in and through us.
Cooperating with the Divine
We need instruction, we need help, and we need encouragement, to free ourselves of our limited beliefs and attitudes concerning ourselves and others, and the problems we face. It is part of God’s plan for us to be part of a body of believers. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” (Hebrews 10:25).
Human beings are social creatures that need community. Although we all go through hard times, we usually do not all go through them at one time. So then, we can share each other’s burdens. There is a need for honest, heartfelt communication, so each one can be attuned to the other in loving ways, that allow everyone to become their best, and work through their difficulties.
Do Not be Deceived by Counterfeits!
An uncertain future is making it seem necessary for there to be new and more intuitive methods and spiritual practices for personal growth and enlightenment; and for developing a new collective wisdom, human potential, and skills for practicing community. Such things as meditative practices, centering prayer, emptying of one’s self, spiritual centering, or so called “holy” yoga are claimed to be just what is needed. But this is not what is needed. These only distract, and may ultimately even lead in the wrong direction.
“Sola Scriptura” Should Still be our Motto Today! (Do I hear an Amen?)
God has given all that we need in the Bible! We need to return to the old spiritual practices, of personal study, group study, personal prayer, group prayer, fellowship, and witnessing.
These spiritual practices have yielded remarkable results in the past, and can and are now still playing a vital part in bringing about individual and corporate collaborative change in various home groups and small group ministries today. These practices need to extend to the regular churches. The Bible is a living handbook, and the only source we need for developing human potential and the skills needed to practice community. Together, You Can Make the Difference
A better future can be created by people cooperating with God and with each other. People who are living the values they want for themselves and the world, not just by abstractly using their intellect; but in a koinonea community.
We can ask ourselves, “Can I be what I want to see in the world? Can I fulfill God’s purpose for my life?” With the help and encouragement of others, we can! Can I practice these things mindfully, with consideration for others, in a spiritual community; with love, acceptance, sincere listening, compassion and kindness?
These are the values that Jesus demonstrated in His life here on earth, and that have been practiced by Christians for centuries. Values we certainly need to transform a culture of, “It’s all about me,” but not to “It’s all about we!” but to one that is “All about HIM.”
For, Jesus Christ, and the manifestation of His spirit in us is the beginning of true community. He is the Center of community, and He is the Future of community. Jesus invites us to be a part of that Kingdom Community. Won’t you become a part of a small group spiritual community today?
If you have questions about Christian community, or would like a copy of the book Steps to Christ, write away for a free copy to: Discover the Bible, c/o Charles Gilbert, P. O. Box 7081, Warwick, RI 02887-7081.