The need to answer the question ‘How do we live an authentic Christian life in the West today?’ precipitated the vision and heart for Christ-centred Community which came a number of years ago; since childhood for Ruthy and for us as a couple since 1999 when the Lord impressed a vision / desire on both our hearts (incidentally, this vision for community is for us tied into the call to come to Canada which began in 1997). How is it possible to live more simply, and meaningfully, being ‘in the world’ but not trapped or immersed in / by it? As the Northumbria community puts it ‘How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’
The vision given in 1999 has been developing since then. The original call to community left questions unanswered. Community, yes – but to what purpose? What would it look like? Where would it be based? What aim? How would it work…?
To answer these questions, we had to go back a step. What was truly on our hearts? What were we finding so distasteful and false in our present experience of living? It was the blatant shallowness, superficiality, worldliness of our ‘rich’ culture, both in the UK and here in Canada. And sadly, we saw only too clearly that this same spirit extended to the churches, to the fellowship we were part of, and we were not exempt…
In our hearts we felt that this should be different. As scripture shows us, those who are in Christ, should not live this way. How can there be revival, unless there is change, unless the people of God radically embrace the gospel, unless they are seen to be genuinely different, from the heart outwards? How are we any different from our ‘rich’ neighbours, except that we go to church on a Sunday morning? Living in Community, in both vulnerability and availability, sharing with others, welcoming whoever our Father sends was the way God seemed to be answering this for us…
So, in reality, how would we answer this call to Community? We don’t have a complete answer to that yet! Our vision has proved to be an organic, changing thing, yet with a heart that has remained the same – focussed on worshipping Christ, being Bible-centred and living out a simple Rule of life, giving to others out of our plenty, holding all things in common….( which we are sure will be no easy task! )
Only our Father sees and knows what will come of this call; we need to walk with him and trust Him; we are not given the future, just enough for today. It might be, that as our life together is lived and grows, that ‘community’ life within our churches might become more meaningful, might go beyond the ‘house group’ level to a far deeper, sometimes more painful, more real church…
• Where the needs of one are supplied by the plenty of another (Acts 2 v42-47) that offers unconditional hospitality.
• Where there is a deep love for God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and for each other.
• That looks outward to bless the poor and helpless, realising that we are also the poor and helpless.
• That daily worships, prays and works together in openness and vulnerability; whether gathered together or ‘gathered’ apart, which would form a rhythm, or rule, to community life.
We see a main facility as being a sort of ‘Mother House’, where a body of us would permanently live, welcoming those whom the Lord sends, for ministry or to minister, to stay for short periods, or for longer, to seek refreshment in order to go back out into the world in mission….Whoever lives there, for however long, would also embrace the daily rule of life and join in the tasks that keep daily life going; the practical on-going kitchen, house, cooking, cleaning, gardening sorts tasks! As well as looking after the library and chapel…And so we all contribute to the life of the community. We live together, pray together and work together, asking the Lord to “establish Thou the work of our hands “.
Many other folk, who also value this simple rule of life will be called to remain in the neighbourhoods and situations where they are now. But they also can be a part of community life by embracing the ethos of being available and vulnerable to God and other people, by using the same Bible readings, daily worship ‘offices’ and periodically visiting the Mother house to offer their time and talents and just to visit.
This would not be a church, or even a parachurch organisation, but a revolution within the life of our churches as they are. All community members would be encouraged to remain within their present church fellowships.
As we view the current state of the world, it occurs to us that there could also be another component to this community, that of rescue. As the world grows darker, so there will need to be beacons of light, offering hope, rescue, a refuge and a home – an oasis in a country where we can no longer talk about “Christmas” or “Jesus” (especially in the schools), where you get in to trouble if you say anything that is perceived to be ‘homophobic’ or if you ‘offend’ anybody’s faith. One can imagine it might not be that long before Christians are discriminated against in the workplace and elsewhere just because they are Christians. Indeed, the need for Christian community would become even greater.
A few years ago the Lord clearly said to Pete; “If you build it they will come”. We have pondered and prayed long and hard over this one, wanting to be obedient yet not impetuous. If this call to community is indeed of God, and we firmly believe it is, then the ‘where’ and ‘how’ and ‘when’ will be of His making and in His time.