Lesson 15: Make a Real, Contemporary Christian Community Your Reference Point

Christian service as a community, working in a feeding programBoy, this one has some catchy adjectives. We are not to join just any church, but a “real” one that is relevant to the “contemporary” situation. In fact, it replaces “church” with “community,” implying it should not simply be a place where people go to worship but a gathering of persons who interact with one another. Of course, this reflects the current state of the Church where people search for a congregation that meets their standards rather than simply worshiping in geographically-assigned parish. Few regard denominational loyalty a criteria. But this guideline does insist that being a Christian involves participating in a community. A personal relationship with Christ is simply not enough.

So what kind of church fills this bill? A pretty decent description is found in the pledge Lutherans make at their confirmations. They promise to “live among God’s faithful people, hear his word and share in his supper, proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, serve all people, and following the example of our Lord Jesus strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”

The promise included three things sorely absent in modern society: community, tradition, and mission.

The Church is the one place in society where people from different classes gather regularly. Titles are dropped. Co-operation rather than competition is championed. Radical individualism is checked. All share a common meal as friends. A corporate relationship with Christ is celebrated in prayer and song.

The wisdom of the past is acknowledged. The ancient Word is read and then translated for modern application. The sacraments are practiced as means of God’s grace. The community engages in conversation with the divine as well as one another. Hopefully, tradition offers standards without subverting creativity.

The community calls those gathered to mission. It is one of very few places where both youth and adults are asked to make a public promise to work for peace and justice in the Spirit of Jesus.

I often think the bottom line is we need a Christian community as a place we can say to one another, “God loves you” and then gather together around the Communion table to experience that love, no matter what we have done that week or what other people have said and done to us. In this sinful world we fragile humans easily fall into thinking we are unlovable. We need a community that strives to be the kind of people God meant us to be, lovers who care for one another

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