The Purpose Driven Life, on Cultivating community: Community requires commitment. Only the Holy Spirit can create real fellowship between believers, but He cultivates it with the choices and commitments we make … it takes both God’s power and our effort to produce a loving Christian community. Unfortunately, many people grow up in families with unhealthy relationships, so they lack the relational skills needed for real fellowship. They must be taught how to get along with and relate to others in God’s family. Fortunately, the New Testament is filled with instructions on how to share life together.
We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow. This is what I think we want to do … how can we help that happen?
Jesus is Lord: so, we learn to follow Jesus.
People grow: how do we do that? Notice how Jesus helped the 12 disciples to grow: he brought them together and they all went together. In short, they grew from their experiences with Jesus and with each other. They grew from their relationship with Jesus AND their relationship with each other. Jesus used their relationship to help them learn about what it means to be human and what it would mean to be like Jesus. In short, almost all that Jesus taught them was learned and experienced in the context of community. As you read through the gospels there are very, very, very few instances where ANY of the disciples does ANYTHING alone with Jesus … they are always TOGETHER with each other while they are with Jesus, in various groupings ranging from two to thousands.
Keith Drury explains the context of one of John Wesley’s well known sayings:
“There is no holiness but social Holiness” –John Wesley. As Wesleyans along and other evangelicals plunge into experimenting with the neo-social gospel, I hear a quote from John Wesley bandied about often—“There is no holiness but social holiness.” The quote is used to argue that social action is squarely in the center of what true holiness is and thus social action is proper for Wesleyans. The argument may be true but the quote is taken far out of context. Here’s the exact quote from Wesley: “Directly opposite to this [the approach of the desert mystics] is the gospel of Christ. Solitary religion is not to be found there. “Holy solitaries” is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness.” –John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley Volume XIV p321 preface to poetical works; Hendrickson Publishers
When these folk quote Wesley saying, “there is no holiness but social holiness” they mean social action—things like drilling wells in Africa or opening a food pantry for the poor. But this is an error. Read in context, Wesley was clearly condemning a kind of religion that was solitary (in particular that of the desert mystics) arguing that holiness is always experienced in relationships with others, primarily in the church. Wesley’s quote is about individualized, personalizes, separated-from-the-body religion not social action.
Sure, Wesley was active in social action and his life’s example is a powerful argument for well-drilling or opening food pantries. But the quote “there is no holiness but social holiness” is the wrong one to use for supporting social action. In this quote Wesley condemned personalized, privatized, solitary religion that was disconnected with other Christians in the church.
Ironically today’s American Christians may be in more need of hearing the original intent then the out-of-context use. To Wesley “Holy solitaries” were no more likely to exist than holy adulterers.
You will spend time alone in prayer, just as Jesus did. But it is no accident that Jesus specifically said the truth that is found in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” A community wants to be something, but what it most wants to be is a community. It wants to go somewhere, it wants to do something, it’s restless without a goal or a direction, but the first thing a community wants to be is a community. First things first.
There is already a community … how do we strengthen it so that it can live?
Test: read through one of the gospels and notice how the disciples interact with one another, and with Jesus. There is a lesson for us today in every single story of the disciples interacting in that first community that followed Jesus together.
We are allowed to become one of the twelve walking with Jesus … and we are commanded to teach others what he commanded us. But we need the other 11 to have the genuine experience. So – who are the 12 disciples of which you are one, learning from and following Jesus together in this life? Matthew 28:20 indicates that you are not expected to learn about Christ on your own … someone is supposed to walk with you and teach you how to observe everything that Christ commanded of us, just as a parent teaches a child how to be an adult and also – most importantly – by this example, they teach us how to be a parent to a child of our own.
And, when you come full circle and are fully obedient, you will teach your faith to disciples who will learn how to follow Jesus by following you. Who are your 12? How do you spend time with them? What are you learning together?
Some quotes in italics are from Day 19 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002).
For a definition of community based on M Scott Peck’s book, The Different Drum, see My Purpose Driven Life: – Day 18 – Part 6: Mercy at http://disciplewalk.com/ambidextrous/2013/03/28/my-purpose-driven-life-day-18-part-6-mercy/
The long quote in italics by Keith Drury is from http://www.drurywriting.com/keith/no%20holiness%20but%20social%20Holiness.htm
The photo is by Will Lion, courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons License, and can be viewed at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/will-lion/2595051813/sizes/z/in/photostream/