the weblog of Alan Knox

Faithful interaction with one another

Posted by on Feb 14, 2009 in community | 4 comments

I recently ran across this in the article “Breathing Together” written by Peter W. Marty for Christian Century (August 23, 2005):

[When yearning for something beyond themselves,] those with Christian leanings commonly turn to the church, and more specifically, the local congregation. Week by week, individuals gather together voluntarily in congregations, often with high expectations for experiencing what they cannot locate in their solitary lives. The church’s business, after all, has everything to do with relationship, putting people in touch with each other and with God. So who wouldn’t expect to find a profound sense of community there?

Surprisingly, a richly textured communal spirit is absent in many congregations. There may be experiences aplenty of social togetherness. And friendliness may be an abundant part of all these experiences. But this is not the same as participating in and being deeply entwined with a spiritually grounded community. The two should not be confused. Inhabiting the same ecclesiastical space for an our on Sunday morning is not the same as belonging to a community where your presence truly matters to others and their presence truly matters to you…

A communal spirit blooms where people are deeply in touch with one another, thriving because of the faithful interaction with one another. Outwardly, members of a community may have little in common. Inwardly, they can be touched by the possibility they have something to learn from each other. Broad friendship, mutuality of purpose and an abiding care for one another are all by-products of a spiritually grounded community that is working together. The way in which members of a congregation reproduce the love of God through genuine hospitality and a love for one another will indicate whether they are indeed the body of Christ or simply a religious club.

Every congregation has its supply of believers who would love nothing more than to cultivate their own private spirituality by taking home that beloved hymn refrain or sermon quip to benefit their personal life. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this private eagerness for spiritual nurture. But as soon as personal edification becomes the primary focus for “attending” church, individualism begins to infect the health of the congregation and the possibility of a grander sense of true community. (pg 8)


4 Comments

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  1. 2-14-2009

    Brilliant quote. Thanks for posting.

  2. 2-14-2009

    Wow! Powerful quote. Do you subscribe to this magazine or did you find the article elsewhere?

  3. 2-15-2009

    I agree that the church should function as Marty describes, but have not seen it, and know no one who has. It sounds almost utopian.

    If someone has been part of such a group, you need to write your story, replete with rich detail. Ideally, this would be the story of the larger group, not a small clique within the group.

  4. 2-15-2009

    Sarah,

    I agree. Its very powerful.

    Douglas,

    No, I don’t subscribe to the magazine. I found this article while doing some research.

    Sam,

    I’m beginning to see more and more signs that Christians are interested in community. There are still some aspects of our culture that hinders community, but some are willing to work through those issues.

    -Alan