All believers in Christ are united through Christ, as an ekklesia (called gathering), in a state of koinonia (a sense of togetherness or commonness of purpose, of being one people). It's what He wants of us. All talk of Christian unity is rubbish unless it draws its roots from Christ. Church history is a track record of splits, dissention, and killing. The Scriptures bear witness to Christ, but also to an early church that had many sharp differences in thought and practice. They recognized that a few differences (such as the matter of whether to accept non-Jews) cut so close to the mission of the community that they had to be resolved, but most differences were tolerated and even embraced. Thus, Scripture is a source of both unity and dis-unity, for good and bad. Even our efforts to live our faith together, when done in a shallow way or with half-hearted commitment, can create more disunity. We lack the solidary, the sense of being a rightful part in this one existence. Which leads us back to the One source for what the Christian Church is. In our own faltering, drunk-like way, we follow Jesus, through his life and teachings, the Cross and Empty Tomb, and the divine doings of Pentecost, which ultimately takes us back to each other.
The Holy Spirit brings Christ into us, reveals to us the truth in the Scriptures and the falsehoods in the world around us, and gives us gifts to build each other up and help others find God's grace, mercy, and good news.
The time that Christ most clearly binds us together is when we are taking in the Bread and Wine (also called 'the Body and Blood of Christ') together.
Notes on Churching
The church that prays together stays together; the church that sings together clings together. The church that shares, cares.
As a believer in Christ, you are never alone; you are a citizen of the Kingdom of God, with billions of others throughout eternity, in both directions. We are here to love as Christ loved. This is what Christ says we will be known by. Yet the Church has made a lot of people more alone, ashamed, or rejected. If that's you, you're not alone in feeling alone. And there really are Christians who will accept you, forgive you, perhaps even love you - and not just a few, but many. We need you; we can't learn or change that part of us without you, we won't be whole without you.
Most people tend to be drawn to a church of 'people like me' -- acting like me, thinking like me, looking like me, working like me, holding to the same doctrine and the same practices as me, having the same needs and corruptions and lunacies as me. Some church growth theorists see this as a good thing. To me, it sounds like some assimilative creature out of a space alien movie -- the Borg Queen would love it. Eeeeeek. Worst, it would have its full share of self-seeking hypocrites, because sometimes I'm one. When our different and very-human behaviors and motives get me frustrated, thinking on that image makes me less arrogant about it.
Because it belongs to a realm other than today's world, the church must be a place where people can still belong. We need to spread the word that life's not about "me". It's about God. And God calls us to be a "we".
Here's a blog post by Scot McKnight on our skewed expectations of what the church is. With a large sectional quote of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's *Life Together*.
This 'one anothering' is done in a wide variety of settings. Some of it is done through prayer groups, caring ministries, twelve-step groups, dinners, home bible studies, and sometimes just being together and having fun. The core of it is done through groupings that are specially set aside for God; these include house churches, cell churches (house groups with larger group settings for worship, pastoring, and ministry), congregations, parishes (churches for a specific community), campus/student groups, and intentional Christian communities. The church uses different forms of getting together to embody Christ in a different cultural or functional setting. They each do other things differently, but what's in common is community. You can't "one another" by yourself. It takes another!
A Spirithome dare: Break the social rules and reach out to someone who's isolated from the rest. (Be aware that they may not be easy to get along with. But it's worth a try.)
about you and the community of faith
In what situation in your life today do you do the most 'one anothering'?
Outside of bible studies and in-church activities, what do you do, together in faith with another who is a Christian? (Actions, not just words or thoughts.)
For those studying this as a group -- those who are bold enough:
Share with the group about when a congregation acted in a way that left you more alone, ashamed, or condemned. (It's best to speak of things from more than, say, three years ago, in order to make it easier to stop it from being a gripe session about your current church life.) Then, speak about these questions amongst yourselves, and other questions of your own you might have:
Did anyone reach out to bridge that gap?
Was there a function of the church that gave you a place in it?
What was it that helped you keep faith while this was happening (or returned you to faith afterward)?
Quotes on Christian community
"Koinonia refers to the internal character of the church community. It is the solidarity of that community in which a common purpose is strong enough to render all other stratifications among human beings of only secondary importance .... ...Koinonia refers to the character of the church as the embodiment of the reign of God."
---- James Evans, *We Have Been Believers*, p.136
"Unless the role of community is grasped one has failed to understand what the renewal is saying. It seems to me that the primary consequence of the resurrection and of Pentecost is not the exercise of gifts but community formation."
-------- Kilian McDonnell, *One In Christ*, v.16 #4, p.331
"Communion is strength; solitude is weakness. Alone, the fine old beech yields to the blast and lies prone on the meadow. In the forest, supporting each other, the trees laugh at the hurricane. The sheep of Jesus flock together. The social element is the genius of Christianity."
-------- Charles Spurgeon
"A church is a place in which gentlemen who have never been to heaven brag about it to persons who will never get there."
-------- H.L. Mencken
"Contrary to general expectation, highly individualistic Pentecostalism is remarkably corporate and congregational in its life. The Pentecostal church-meeting or assembly where the individual gifts are principally exercised is close to the center of the Pentecostal movement. Here the experiences of the many merge into the one and by this confluence the power of the Holy Spirit is felt in multiplication." Frederick Dale Bruner, *A Theology Of the Holy Spirit*, p.22
"It is dark at the foot of the lighthouse." proverb of unknown authorship
"The Church is not an institution which has sacraments; the Church is a sacrament which has institutions." Alexander Schmemann.
Teach us to utter living words
Of truth which all may hear
The language all shall understand
When love speaks, loud and clear
Till every age and race and clime
Shall blend their creeds in one
And earth shall form one brotherhood
By whom Your will be done.
"O Spirit Of the Living God", v.3, by Henry H. Tweedy
"Well before ekklesia was used in a religious way, it referred to the assembly of persons 'called out' from everyday life for a particular purpose." [[Such as a volunteer army, or a gathering to make political decisions. (ed.)]] "When the early Christians used the word ekklesia to describe their group, it showed that they understood that the Holy Spirit had called them out of one kind of life and into another. They were different people, and they had a new purpose."
--- Thomas Kadel, *Living the Creed* (Parish Life Press), p.62