Vol 1:33 Called to do Life Together

Roxburgh and Boren state that the second practice in the church demonstrating that they are sign, foretaste, and instrument of God’s present and coming reign is the practice of love (p. 110). They state that this practice “speaks to the ways a group of people commit to do life together” (p. 110).

As I reflect on this practice of love, I realize that this is one of the more difficult things for us to do in the contemporary church – most of what we do is committing to spend some time together on Sunday mornings or some other evening – be it a small group or ministry setting. But, for us to commit ourselves to one another to do life together – that seems outside of our realm of what is possible.

Years ago I minored in sociology during my university days and I remember the sociologist Weber talking about the differences between Gesellschaft and Gemeinschaft. Gesellschaft, if I remember correctly, has do with gathering, while Gemeinschaft has to do with community. The first is just a gathering of people for some purpose, but it does not involve a strong commitment. Gemeinschaft, on the other hand, is the kind of gathering of people in which there is a strong commitment to one another over a period of time.

In the USA and Canada we have become comfortable in church life with Gesellschaft – merely gathering together with others for worship, ministry, etc., but when we are done after an hour or two, we are free to head home. We may share prayer needs, even what is going on in our lives, but we do not need to engage one another deeply. But Gemeinschaft requires a whole different paradigm of how we are engaged and connected to one another.

Roxburgh and Boren express, “the life of the missional church cannot be done by a conglomeration of individualists who see each other only at formal meetings [Gesellschaft]. Being missional means that we do life together in a way that marks us as distinct from the surrounding culture [Gemeinschaft]” (p. 110). This commitment to life together is something we need to commit to just as we commit our lives to Jesus Christ. It requires the same kind of repentance, the same kind of discipleship, in order for us to live missionally as the people of God in the world. It is a committing of ourselves to one another in community, for “in community we learn to love one another, and through the journey of learning to love we are formed and shaped by God through the others in a group” (p. 110).

There are those who are seeking to practice such a life of committed community, often described as the new monasticism, along with their Rules of Life (not so much rules, but a set of practices which name how they seek to do life together). It is probably worth looking at such communities and Rules of Life in order to discover the depth of the commitment required to practice love for one another.

I believe this is probably a huge stumbling block in our becoming missional communities – are we willing to give up our individualism, our comforts, our privacy, in order to share life together with others? Are we willing to share our possessions, share meals and home together, sharing in responsibilities? It is not something we can do on our own – for that would put us on the road to becoming coercive communities – no, it, like our following after Jesus, requires the Holy Spirit to take hold of our lives and lead us. Are we willing to consider being the missional people of God, but exploring how we might live in community, in Gemeinschaft together. I know I need to struggle with this.

iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl