How to kill your community

For many years, Christians have been talking about “community”, “missional community” and more recently “oikos” (a Greek word which refers to a “household” including extended family.) I love all of this.

But sometimes I think we can get in a bit of a tangle about it all. We get so overwhelmed that we don’t know where to start. Or we hold up the ideal of community to such a degree that the ideal destroys the reality. There is one thing that will always kill any of these communities:

If the ideal of community is held up to such a degree that the reality can never match the ideal.

Recently I came across a lengthy quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Frank Viola’s blog. For the full version click here. But the section that stood out to me was this:

He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. ..The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly

Ouch. I guess many of us have done that. I’m not talking about a God-given-vision for community here. That’s an entirely different thing. But many of us have loved the dream of  community more than the community ( i.e the people)  itself. When we do this the Missional Community/ “oikos” becomes the “god”, rather than a channel of grace for us to access God corporately and to share that with the world around us. It becomes more about fulfilling our own needs than recognising that a community is made up of a bunch of broken people who we are called to love and grow with.

How do we find our life? We lose it. How do we find community? We serve each other. We lose our individual dream and agenda and we choose sacrificial love and something beyond ourselves. This will feel counter-cultural in our society which esteems individualism above community, and the nuclear family above extended family.

If we are truly to grow in community with others we need to be able to identify what our “ideals” are and take them to the cross.  And from that place allow God to resurrect what He wills.

I have a stack of “ideals” for my community. A whole load of stuff that meets my needs that I have to lay at the cross.

Do you know what your “ideals” for community are?

What do you need to “drop” to let God do His stuff?

Posted by Anna

3 thoughts on “How to kill your community

  1. This is an incredibly perceptive piece Anna & I went “ouch” more than once. You are so right & sadly the destroying part can put some bystanders and participants right off community.


  2. Anna, I think that we need to see and do community like we see and do family. I have 3 grown up daughters, 2 of whom are still living with us. It’s often messy as we process life together. I’m learning to be less of a parent and more a co partner in this household. Good functional families can be a good models for living in community. It’s nearly always about letting go of my rights and dying to my selfishness, being real and honest with one another in the every day of life that brings about genuine affection for my family and sends a powerful message to those who spend time with us..


  3. Challenged afresh this morning by this insight Anna – thanks! Also, read for the first time the article you referenced – wow! Lots to ponder. Love to you, Rich and your fabulous kiddies x x x


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