Thursday, September 19, 2013

Is my Christian community distinctively Christian?

I have been thinking about this question as raised by Matt Stone in his blog post with the same heading.

He says this:
 "Is your experience of Christian community so distinctive that it genuinely stands out from other social experiences? Are your non-Christian social networks so much less loving towards one another in comparison." And I ask this with scepticism because, honestly, mine is not. Sometimes the experience has been wonderful, sometimes less so, but even when it's been the former rather than the latter, rarely has it been that exceptional.

I've kept this post in my reader until I had time to write about it, so it is from a while back. Just at that time I decided to address some definite disunity in one of my churches. And I felt that Matt had a point. This church community is pulling in multiple directions and struggling to find focus. Perhaps it is a depressing example of Christian unity.

But it dawned on me that this is actually the exact point of community and loving each other. We don't give up. We don't despair at the different perspectives and different maturity levels and other differences that lead to conflict. Rather we are committed to one another come what may. And that is what loving each other means and what makes Christian community. It is nice when we all agree and can have a wonderful time together in each others company. But true community is when we persevere together through the conflict and difficult odds.

I sometimes despair of this community that I serve, but I admire them for the incredible tenacity that they show in keeping going.


Steve Hayes said...

I was once on the board of a church hospital in Zululand, and some of the local farmers were also on the board. One of them, who was agnostic, started to get interested in the Christian faith and we talked about it, and eventually he said he wanted to join the church. I said it wasn't a bed of roses, and that people fought, and he could see that from the meetings of the hospital board that he attended.

He surprised me by saying that it was precisely the meretings of the hospital board that had made him think that there must be something in the Christian faith. He was a member of all sorts of secular boards, agricultural marketing boards and the like, and he said that the hospital board was different. Yes, there were quarrels, but the way they went about sorting them out was different from anything he had ever seen in the secular world.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks for this, Steve. It is encouraging to know that people respond this way.