I have been thinking about community a lot lately. Over at Jesus Manifesto, there has been more discussion about the new monasticism movement that they champion over there. The idea really drives to a serious question: What does Christian community look like?
I believe community is found in communion. I wrote about communion extensively earlier at bible forums in the context of Genesis. There I said:
“As we take the Eucharist, if we take an older Christian understanding of it, we are taking it with the great “cloud of witnesses” that have taken it all throughout the centuries. Alongside us, in a very mystical way, is those past giants of the faith such as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Peter, the sons of Thunder, Martin Luther King Jr., and they are all taking it with us. The idea of communion is coming to the table of brotherhood, and we slam straight into the saints of all these many centuries.”
I think that people make Jesus too small whenever they say, “Jesus is _____ ” (you fill in the blank). I have noticed that Christians on both sides of the aisle, whether you’re N.T. Wright or Paul Washer, to say that “This is what God says. He says ____.” Let me give an example less controversial than critiquing scholars or evangelists with the magnitude of Wright or Washer.
Chris Brown, one of the teaching pastors at North Coast Church, comes to speak at APU (where he was a former campus pastor). He used to be the youth pastor of Pomona First Baptist where my mother was raised, and I would always hear him speak when we were on holiday in Pomona. One thing that was stuck with me is one of his key phrases:
“Jesus is desperately, passionately, and intimately seeking a relationship with you.”
This sounds wonderful, but the Bible never really teaches this. He infers it from scripture, just as Wright finds his version of justification in scripture and Washer finds his version of justification in scripture. But if begin saying, “Jesus is _________,” we begin walking on dangerous territory.
When we come to Eucharist we must realize that there are so many people who have come to the tables before us, and all of them have had slightly different ideas of what is right, good, and holy in the eyes of God. Remember that there was a time when bowling was considered sinful, and an innocent games of cards considered an abomination. Our ideas of God really are tied up with our culture, and we must be careful how much we take from our culture to shape our own Christian community.
What am I getting at here?
I am suggesting that the apostles knew much less than us about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, they knew less than us about Christology, and they knew much less than us about how scripture would fit together to create a finalized theology that has been accepted as orthodox among different Christian circles. Why were they in the upper-room? They were there BECAUSE JESUS COMMANDED THEM TO BE THERE AND TO PRAY. They understood the importance of obeying Jesus’ words. We must pray for one another. This is Christian community at its finest. When we are stopping with our own ideas and simply spending significant amounts of time in prayer with one another and with God.
This is not just something we should talk about with others. The Christian church has enough talk and enough knowledge. We need Jesus Christ to descend on us as we pray in the power not unlike the apostles. And we need to do it now in communities of God.