August/September 2014 - Vol. 75

Introduction to this Issue

How can Christian Communities weather the challenges and storms ahead? 

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” – Psalm 127:1

Living in Christian community is a gift and calling which we cannot take for granted. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together, speaks of the privilege Christians have to live in visible community with other Christians. 

It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.  There is his comission, his work. ..So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians.
In this issue
Dr. Daniel Keating in his article, Called to Be God's Household, Priesthood, and People of God, explains Peter the Apostle's teaching on "being living stones built together 'into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.'" 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer exphasizes the spiritual truth that life together in Christian community is only possible through and in Jesus Christ. A selection of quotes from Bonhoeffer's writings highlight his teaching on life together in community. 

Bob Tedesco offers an apologetic for lay Christian communities today and their role in the wider church. 

Steve Clark's article, Mere Christian Community, offers timeless wisdom that community essentially is a type of relationship rather than a particular structure. 

Carlos Mantica explains how the City of God community in Managua, Nicaragua heard the call of the Lord to rebuild their foundations during the chaos and upheaval caused by a major eathquake, political revolution, and collaspe of church leadership in the decades following the 1970s. The lessons learned can be very helpful for those who seek to build solid foundations for life together in Christian community.

A prophetic sign of restoration
Today there are many hundreds of Christian renewal covenant communities around the world. What is the significance of these intentional lay Christian communities for the wider church today? First, it is a signpost of what God is bringing about through the gift of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. It is a visible public sign of the Lord's work of renewal in bringing people into a revitalized relationship with God, and it is a sign of the unity he desires for all his people. The unity we already have as brothers and sisters in Christ stems from baptism and the gift and working of the Holy Spirit. This gift of life together enables Christians of different traditions to recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and to live together in real shared life. This unifying grace is a hallmark of God's work today. 

Second, covenant community is a servant of the renewal. It is meant to be a prophetic sign to the rest of the charismatic renewal, and to the churches, and to the world. It's a message to everybody, but not everybody is called to this particular form of community. People should be able to vist covenant communities and see how the Holy Spirit is renewing his people and restoring to them a fuller shared life together. It is part of the nature of a sign that you cannot be everything. Covenant communities cannot do everything and cannot solve all problems. They are only a part, but, nonetheless an important part of God's work of renewal and restoration. 

The Sword of the Spirit
We believe that the Lord has called the Sword of the Spirit, an international network of covenant communities, for this age, a time of significant change and upheaval in the world and a time of difficulty and spiritual conflict for many Christians. But it is also a time for great spiritual renewal and evangelism, and for building Christian communities throughout the world to stem the tide of evil and to strengthen God's people. 

Sincerely in Christ,
Don Schwager

Don Schwager is a member of The Servants of the Word and author of Daily Scripture Readings and Meditations

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