In my last Blog, I raised the unpleasant, but inescapable reality that churches and church institutions can (and do) die. That immediately raises the question of what communal expression of the church we should look for that expresses Christ’s design for his church? To be honest, it can take vast array in the plethora of social and cultural contexts in which it finds itself. Let’s keep it simple and Biblical, keeping always in mind that the church is that communal expression of God’s new creation (above), it is the community of his new humanity in Christ. We see it emerging in several different but harmonious forms, but each assumes that it be small enough so that Christ’s followers can know and minister to one another.

Let me give you four, for starts:

  1. Though Jesus preached to multitudes, he chose twelve to be with him so that he could reproduce himself in them. He then commissioned to reproduce that pattern as they made disciples which disciples would become his body in the world. In human dynamics that is something of the optimum number for any kind of dynamic human community;
  2. In the aftermath of the Pentecostal visitation we find the vast infant church meeting in public to hear the apostle’s teachings, but then from house to house where the processed those teaching and where they share possessions with the more needy, ate together, and experienced a new and intimate community. So: two forms: in public and from house to house.
  3. Most of the data in the apostolic speaks of the church meeting in homes, which means they were small enough to minister to one another, and could be versatile and accountable to one another.
  4. And, finally, there are all of those one another passages in the apostolic writings that speak to our mutual ministry to and accountability to other believers in some kind of smaller configurations in diverse settings. Love one another. Bear one another burdens. Forgive one another. Reprove and rebuke one another. Be tenderhearted with one another. Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you as you teach and admonish one another … and so much more

The need for human community is built into our DNA. Followers of Christ have a way of finding one another in public and from house to house, in coffee shops and the corner pub, in larger church assemblies and in smaller communities. The calling is the same wherever. The fruits of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5 are all interpersonal ministries, and make a beautiful check-list for us.

I participate in a most encouraging fellowship of about 1000 members with a stong teaching ministry – but the church leadership, wisely, encourages all its members to be part of community groups which fulfills this one another ministry, and has a staff member to oversee and resource these groups. It is a very healthy scene.

I hope this helps you. I would love your comments.


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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