“The Basis of Christian Community – A Common Identity”

Format: Discussion

Passage: 1 John 1:3 – “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Talking Points:

· What is the most basic definition of community? [a group of people who have something in common]

· What kinds of communities are out there? [bowling leagues, Trekkies, fraternities/sororities, friend groups centered on a shared worldview or interest or lifestage, etc…]

· What does John say brings fellowship (community, koinonia) among the people he is writing to? [JESUS CHRIST! Being brought into fellowship with the Godhead creates fellowship with the brotherhood]

· “Biblical community is first of all the sharing of a common life in Christ.” – Jerry Bridges, True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia, KINDLE location 107.

· What do you think about this quote from Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 226 –

The church is not a club for those with similar cultural tastes, political views, ethnic backgrounds, and moral leanings. They do not meet because they share a hobby called spirituality…. Unlike voluntary associations (book clubs, political parties, or fans of the opera or garage bands), the church is not made up of people I chose to be my friends. God chose them for me and me for them. They are my family because of God’s election, not mine.

· What is the difference between a ‘natural’ community and a ‘supernatural’ community? [in a supernatural community, people have many natural reasons not to be together, but they are bound together in selfless love that transcends differences]

· Is Immanuel a ‘supernatural’ community?

· How much of our desire for community at Immanuel a desire for ‘natural’ community?

· What do you think about this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (San Francisco: Harper, 1954), 24-30 –

Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ. On this presupposition rests everything that the Scriptures provide in the way of directions and precepts for the communal life of Christians….

Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. This is true not merely at the beginning, as though in the course of time something else were to be added to our community; it remains so for all the future and to all eternity. I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ. The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity.

That dismisses once and for all every clamorous desire for something more. One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood. Just at this point Christian brotherhood is threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of all, the danger of being poisoned at its root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship, of confounding the natural desire of the devout heart for community with the spiritual reality of Christian brotherhood. In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality…

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream… Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. 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….

When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship….

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.

· Discuss…

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