Fifteen years ago God birthed in my heart a desire for community…. and I went on a search. I wanted to find a community that was calling me, or that I was being called to, or that I could at least join in good conscience feeling that I was getting involved in something I could relate to and that would embrace me as well.
I wasn’t really looking for a Sunday morning service deal – I was looking for believers who either lived together or almost lived together. I used to say, “When I graduate college I’m going to join a christian commune.” This might strike fear into the hearts of those for whom “commune” somehow conjours up Jim Jones or some other cultic picture, but for me, I figured since Jim Jones was dead and gone that he couldn’t be messing up all the good and decent communes out there at present…
And there is an old adage, “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it, because then it won’t be perfect any more.” I found an amazing group of people after a decade of searching, and felt in my spirit the liberty and invitation to become part of them. I did – I joined and gave my heart to them, and had a season in my life that I count as a precious gift from God. But a year or so after I joined, they disbanded. Was it the fault of the old adage about the perfect church being ruined by your presence? I say that altogether in jest… but the fact is that my community is scattered and gone, although forever in my heart and the hearts of those who I shared that experience with.
After Gemeinshaft scattered, I went on my search again. And here is what I found –
I found a lot of “christian peacemaking communities.” These communities exist to “create peace and end war.” This is good. I applaud them for their efforts. The problem is, that I’m just not very highly dedicated to that topic. I mean, I like peace…but the theme of war and peace doesn’t resound with me on a totally deep level. It’s something I might donate to, or help out with here and there, but not something that I really feel called to give my whole life to pursuing. And, doctrinally, I’m not really a believer that it is always wrong for a government to use military action. Regrettable? Yes. Overused? Definitely. But just…not really my area of passion. Perhaps I need to revisit this, and essentially repent. I dunno.
But at any rate, that makes it hard for me to decide to join one of these groups….even though I’m a hippy at heart in many other ways (organic, environmental, free thinking, etc…)
On the other hand, you have the monastic groups. And I’ll break these in to two categories:
1) Charismatic monasticism (generally NOT called this) represented by places such as the International House of Prayer
2) New Monasticism.
Generally, the charismatic groups do not seem to actually live in community. They tend to still live very individualistic lifestyles, except to come together regularly for extended periods of prayer. And then, even then, it is more like a performance thing than a community thing – with a stage, and spectators. I love the idea of praying 24/7. But doing so in such a performance rather than organic way bugs me.
It also gets old. I can only pray in a room so long before I am dying to bust out of the room and tell someone about Jesus. And these groups don’t usually have much of a grid for doing things like that together. So I don’t think I’d fit. Unless I live on donations and get them to send me off with YWAM or some other missionary organization. I can’t see myself doing that.
On the other hand, there are the New Monastic communities. These guys believe in “living it” as a community. Reaching the poor, the hungry, the needy, the destitute. There is no stage, performance, or spectators. Life is together – life is happily messy, people rubbing each other the wrong way and learnign to work it out and so forth. But here’s where I don’t mesh – I don’t relate to God through ritual. And these communities readily embrace christian rituals, christian meditation, and tend to disregard or reject most forms of charismatic practice. I really want to participate in charismatic gifts with any community I would be part of, and I just can’t see rituals fitting in real well with my spiritual practice, simply because I don’t seem to meet with the Lord in most rituals or liturgies. It just doesn’t work for me..whereas singing in the spirit or praying in tongues, especially with others, is awesome.
So how do I reconcile all these things? *sigh* I wish I had a community. I need to find my destiny, and I truly do believe that will only be walking side by side with others in Him.