True Christian Community Living
It was a beautiful spring morning when I arrived in town with a wagonload of fresh produce and baked goods. I was just setting a bucket of water down for my horse when someone came up behind me, and rather startled me with an enthusiastic- “David, is that you?” I stood up turning towards the man as he continued, “It is you! But I hardly recognized you with that beard and plain looking clothes… I’d heard that you’d probably be here today, how have you been and what are you doing?” “Robert!” I responded, “It’s been several years…” and we started the usual conversation as to what had been going on in our lives since we had seen each other last. However, shortly into it, Robert, (a “good Christian”), wanted to know about what church I was attending, (we had met at a traditional church about five years earlier), and he caught me off guard, (as his manner is), with a string of connected questions in rapid succession- “Where have you been going to church? do they meet Wednesday and three times Sunday?, who’s your pastor?, and tell me about the programs- do they have a big choir and a great band?…how many usually attend?” He couldn’t understand, I guess, why for a moment I just stood there with a blank look on my face, and I guess that was reasonable, for it was a normal enough list of questions that I could have easily answered when I was going to my old church- but to answer them now was almost a challenge. “Well, Robert, I will try to answer your questions, but one at a time, and I can not assure you of the accuracy”. (He was looking at me puzzled, as I continued), “We had better sit down for a while”, (as I finished tending the first customer),
“Let’s see…I think the first question you asked me was- where? I was going to church- do you mind if I answer that for just last week?” He nodded in agreement, though still looking quite confused. “The first place we had church last week, best I can remember, .oh yes, it was in the corn field-…then, I think we met right here in this parking lot, and we had church a few times in the supermarket, at least four times on street corners,” (Robert was scratching his head significantly)… “two times at the nursing home, several times at the homes of strangers, once at the prison, about ten times at different brother’s homes, let’s see…and three times at McDonalds,” Robert interrupted- “You’re pastor must be exhausted!” “No,” I responded, “It’s a blessing, and not difficult at all, the brothers take turns preaching…we have about a dozen with that gift, and sisters sometimes share testimonies or…”
“A dozen preachers!” he exclaimed, “Why- your church must be huge! How many people go to your church?” “I guess you’re not following me, Robert- we don’t go to a church, we are the church, and whenever we come together as a body, there’s about twenty or so families here locally, plus singles and seekers and…” “I’m still confused, where’s your church at?” “If you mean where is our building? then I guess we don’t have a “church” however, if by “church” you mean a family of people that love the Lord, I belong to the greatest one I’ve ever been part of, and we live in a small community not far from here”. “What time do you meet?” asked Robert, “We meet whenever the Lord arranges it. Sometimes it starts when some of us are just standing around talking, or even working together, or someone might be singing and others just join in, and we start gathering together, a brother may feel led to share an exhortation or whatever, someone might have a prayer need- we try not to regulate or tell the Spirit of God when or what He should do…it’s spontaneous as we desire and seek to remain “in-tune” with what GOD wants and is doing.” “ In fact, some of our most powerful meetings were completely impromptu and in public places, like when, as often occurs, some of us were just praying or witnessing with a few people, and before we knew it, the Lord caused a group of people to come together out of no where- it seemed like, and the Spirit of God just fell on everyone within a radius of the Gospel! It was amazing seeing souls convicted and saved like it must have been at the time of Pentecost!”
You see, Robert, that whenever we are brought together, even if it’s only a few of us, we are always aware and open to the fact that that GOD is at the helm- Jesus is present, and those that are the children of God are led by the Spirit of God- at all times, and especially the church in assembly should be no exception to that- but rather a powerful demonstration of it.” “I still don’t understand- how can you people plan your work schedules, recreation and social lives with these sporadic meetings interrupting things all the time?- or you must have terrible phone bills coordinating all this?” “Robert, for the most part we don’t even have phones, or generally don’t wear watches for that matter, for the Lord is very good at weaving all His work together smoothly and even miraculously when we’re walking with him and in harmony with His Spirit- it’s all part of the flow, so to speak. We, our church, is not into making schedules, programs, future commitments, and so forth- how can we?, or why should we, predict one moment to the next what He might have us doing- or where He might have us to be? You see we don’t have a number of different lives like home, work, school, or worlds we’re trying to coordinate, we are a family all the time, and we’re all always really working on the same project- the kingdom of God, and the Holy Spirit is the director.
The fruits of the Spirit, and being intune with Him, is the essence of Spiritual Christian living, therefore by the members of local assemblies fellowshipping , working physically- “LIVING JESUS”, within a few minutes walk or a holler across the field from one another, the communications and efficiency for serving the Lord is enhanced greatly. One of our primary goals is to be open and available for the Lord to lead us whenever or wherever He chooses, for His glory and for the cause of the Gospel- which really boils down to loving others- especially their souls. Even our individual families and homes are mini-churches, and we are together almost all the time. You see, Robert, a church to us, is not a place where you meet each week, follow some procedure, listen to what someone has probably been paid to say, and afterwards go back to what you were doing till the next Sunday, (and then “play” church again)- and live like the world in the meantime.”
“I’m disappointed”, said Robert, “When I heard you were living in the area I was hoping you might want to join my church- we have an incredible building and a sound system that you wouldn’t believe, accompanied with a humongous video screen!…and you should have seen the performance we had the other night- some of the best acting I’ve ever seen- and even by our own pastor!”
“I’m, sure he’s good at it, but Robert, once you’ve had anointed preaching and genuine Spirit filled worship, sharing and living, it’s hard to settle for anything less. No offense, but the church I want to be part of is a family connected everyday, concerned for one another intimately all the time- bearing one another's burdens, working, learning, sharing, serving and simply- participating together in a life centered around love for Jesus and each other, and especially the lost. Personally, I’m done with spectatorship Christianity and going to catered affairs several times a week put on by “professionals”. Instead I now enjoy going to “covered-dish” suppers where we can all open up and share whatever the Lord may want to bring through someone. After all, if we truly love the brethren, then why would we want to be apart from one another most of the time with everyone doing their own thing mostly for their own personal benefit? Why don’t you come visit us anytime Sundays are especially good because we usually spend the whole day in fellowship and breaking bread either at the dining hall or house to house?
“I don’t know, David…, it sounds too radical to me- anyway. I just got a promotion- you know-“Big bucks!”
“Robert, it’s all a trade-off, but to trade this life, (which you know is going to end), for eternity, (which you know has no end), is an awfully disproportional risk! Besides- which life is even the better of the two- chasing selfishly after the things of this life with the world, or living in harmony with brothers and sisters in a natural environment, while serving the Lord and walking in His Spirit daily? I would much rather be part of an intimate, supportive and loving family, together as much as possible and serving the Lord as a full time team. The way I see it, if we are not “Living Jesus”, all the time, if the mind of Christ is not absorbing us moment by moment, filling us with His presence, cognizant of His Spirit, speaking to one another, even with psalms, and hymns, making melody in our hearts unto the Lord, praying without ceasing, while the fruits of the Spirit are flowing from our lives, empowered to reach out in love for others, than- WE’RE MISSING THE RELATIONSHIP GOD DESIRES WITH HIS CHILDREN.”
“Excuse me David, but you’re getting a bit carried away with this whole Jesus thing, why- YOU”RE MAKING IT YOUR ENTIRE LIFE!…Anyway…uh, I have a plane to catch soon- may be I’ll see you again?”
“Nice to see you too, Robert”, I said, as he turned and briskly walked to his car, and I went back to sorting some apples. However, I wasn’t busy long before someone I recognized came up- one of the local pastors.
"Good morning David...busy about the Lord's work as usual?"
"Well, I try to remain intune- how about you Pastor?
"Yea, making my rounds- say, I've wanted to ask one of you a question- your'all so big on this "community" living idea- where do you get that from scripture?"
"That's a fair question, brother, and if you'll bare with me a little I'll try to explain. Granted, that it seems that over the course of history that believers for the most part have not lived in separate communities, therefore I can not say that it is impossible to live a Godly life while interwoven in their secular society- but, doesn't there come a time, (usually just prior to God's judgment falling) when even if you are as righteous as brother Lot was- that you had better pull back some (Before you end up getting destroyed with it)?..you know, like- "Even the elect would almost be deceived". or "Scarcely are the righteous saved"... however, brother- if you're not that effected? -and your really empowered?- Is it that way with even you... the Pastor?"
"Well, yea, for the most..." (Cutoff)
"Honestly reverend- is it working? Are you, and your people, and the quote "church" as a whole for the most part proving they can live victoriously the way it is? Brother, face the truth about the results of the way we've been living so integrated in this culture, and...what do you suppose the "Mind of God" is pertaining to the current state of the salt? What was His mind when Israel was so involved with the ungodly?- and here's the bottom line about the way we have it, again- DOES IT WORK?, What is the fruit of it, look at my life before God granted me repentance and some radical reformation in my life-why I recently heard that the divorce rate amongst "Christians" is the same or higher than with the unbelievers! and you're going to tell me its working?
And I won't go there with some of these conservatives who would just write off such Christian people as being weak, carnal, or (simply lost), I'M inclined differently- and think the problems much deeper and widespread than that. I think that many, if not most, of these are truly brothers and sisters who really do love the Lord in their hearts, but have been blinded by the spirit of this age- and no offense intended, reverend, but I feel the main reason for this is largely the result of a bunch of hireling "Pastors" and preachers that are unfortunately under the same spirit of delusion"
"David!" , Pastor Smith interrupted, "Now you've gone too far!" You should remember that I am a respected member of this community- and you evidently couldn't care less about the danger of insulting me!? Good-by." (Indignantly)
"Please- wait! I do care! Very much" David called after him, "I love you pastor, but you're going to be held accountable as to how your flock ends up! Just think about it- don't you realize that we've been living essentially like the world, as far as our priorities regarding spiritual things- those things of eternal consequence?"
(The pastor slowed down his pace, as David caught up to him) "Pastor- I just think that there's a lot more to our Christian faith than what we've been living- just listen a moment, would you? Please? (As the Pastor stopped walking) "Pastor" (David continued), "Don't you think that a big part of the problem might be that there is some kind of obstruction keeping us from really receiving all the blessings, (spiritual) and the "abundant life" we've been promised?, have you considered this passage- could this be a clue to even the root of the current condition of the church as a whole?"
"NO man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; (so) that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (II Timothy 2:4) and how about the "Great Commission"? There's no getting around that, in that we are to be all soldiers of the cross, surely Ephesians six makes that clear that we are all involved in a warfare- but instead, our lives and lifestyles are little different than that of the blind worldlings around us..."
(As they both sat down on a bench, David continued)
"Pastor, that brings me back to your first question, about us living in community- Have you ever been away for a week, IM sure you have, to a conference, church camp or whatever- like a full time revival for a few days? And do you remember what it was like in an environment where all around you were people all excited, spiritually alive people, and when you left there you were just "Flying in the Lord", so to speak? Your flesh couldn't touch you, witnessing was just spontaneous and just seemed to flow right into every conversation, when the Word of God was so alive and vibrant to you- and your prayer life- I mean, your time in prayer was fun! Refreshing, revelationary, why new truths were so exciting you that even if in the middle of the night, you could almost not keep yourself from calling or running down the street to share it with someone?"
"Well, admittedly, not lately,David" (Pastor Smith responded, and David continued):
Answer me this, Pastor, How can I, or why should we be content, with anything less? And how can I sit under other than anointed preaching- once I've heard it? Or how can I enjoy eating dry crackers when there's available hot juicy steak and fresh wine- so to speak? Brother, I tell you its difficult, I just have a hard time settling into spiritual indifferency, and once a week spectatorship- spiritual pump-up endeavors. I think, no, strike that, I AM SURE (now) God has more for us, and I think that a community of God's people, unshackled from the bondages of legalism, unnecessary commitments, traditions, and worldly values, and all the general entanglements of this culture has a lot more spiritual vitality and viability.
And just one more point Pastor and I'll stop preaching to you- I think that the use of our resources, especially financially, when we live in the world system are highly wasteful...the interest, insurances, things and equipment we're compelled to buy, homes and vehicles we feel we have to have, all these things become a snare and destroy our lives and effectiveness for the Lord."
"Well, you are kind of making a case, little brother"
( Pastor responded patronizingly, as David finished)
"and Pastor, these expenditures are just plain poor stewardship, - even our church buildings are generally far more than is necessary, and I could go on elaborating on the eccomic differences and advantages of living modestly and sharing in community- which is all just a matter of simple math."
"Are you quite done now David?" (Pastor interjected, twisting uncomfortably on the bench and preparing to stand up)
"Just one more point Pastor...don't you think these matters are crucial- even critical matters effecting the eternal destiny of souls? I mean, my intent is not to upset you, or anyone else for that matter, or to be a judge of hearts, but our bank statements are not a matter of judgment- their a matter of fact indictment of the condition of our faith and priorities... and Pastor- I'm just trying to be obedient to my Lord, and what kind of love would I be showing you if I didn't try to tell you what I believe is true, and to remind one another about our responsibilities to almighty God- after all-is it not true that "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom"... sounds like a good place to start- not?
(As the pastor simply walked away and David looked on after him)
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