When we’re looking at the church with eyes that see beyond today, and beyond this present adult generation, we’re looking at the wonderful prospect of a fresh generation that bids well to reconceive the church in a form much more in line with Biblical teachings. I’m referring to both the Millennial, and the iY, or 20/20, generations.

Here’s why I make such a puzzling statement. One of the primary purposes of the church is to be the demonstration of God’s recreation of the true human community, God’s new creation community. Remember that Jesus taught us that it was it was he who would his church (translate: ‘called-out people’), but then never gave us a pattern, or template, for how that would take place. But one thing he insisted upon was that his called-out people were to love one another as the Father had loved him, and as he, in turn, had loved them. That would be how the world would know that we were his disciples. Note that!

We’re talking here of costly, sensitive, encouraging, authentic, faithful love in which his people were both responsible for, and accountable to each other. It would be a community that would reflect in the realities of its life the very divine nature of God. To use another Biblical word, it would be mutually edifying, or committed to building each other up in their calling to be the family of God—not in some ‘spiritual’ or theoretical or superficial way, but in all of the realities of their mutual life together: financial, familial, social, environmental, sexual, emotional, etc. realities.

Now, face it! This simply cannot take place in a large, somewhat impersonal religious assembly, or institutional form of the church (they may have their place, but are not the primary form). It simply cannot happen there. It can only take place in a quite small group in which all of the members have access to the names, faces, stories, and existential realities of each other’s lives. It has to be (in the best sense of the word) intimate, hence the use of the Greek word koinonia in the New Testament. You note that early on, after the thousands turned to Jesus and were baptized at Pentecost, that in addition to public meetings, they met in homes where they were in fellowship/koinonia praying together, rehearsing the apostles’ doctrines, eating together, and in which context no one consider his possessions his own, but made them available to the needs of the others.

This is the clue: a group small and intimate enough to accept the responsibility of each other, in learning, in prayer, and in that beautiful display of ‘one another love’ that was a demonstration of New Creation/Kingdom community.

Our calling by Christ, is a call out of our privatism, our individualism, our self-focused life, and into the wholesome, robust, authentic community which has been God’s intention for the human community all along … and that kind of community flows naturally out of our embrace within the intimacy of the Trinitarian community through Christ.

The Millennials are, according to many studies, looking for authentic relationships, for purpose and meaning and mission in the context of true community. Such are willing to be both responsible for each other and accountable to each other. So a true church for them may be more such a gathering of disciple-friends around a table at the coffee shop, than in some vast and impressive but impersonal religious institution. Not only so, such a form is more Biblical!    

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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