May/June 2011 - Vol. 50
Empowered to Live in Community
By Bob Tedesco
This article is addressed primarily to members and leaders of the Sword of the Spirit, an ecumenical international network of communities. The practical wisdom and principles addressed here can be helpful for any group of Christians who seek to grow in the fruit of unity.One of the first recorded results of Pentecost was the new church, the new community. Pentecost is seen as the birthday of the church, and the church was from its beginnings a community. I use that word because of the way it is described in Acts: its hallmarks are community-like, and it is not simply a worshiping congregation.
Some hallmarks of the early church:
I believe that this early community was the number one grace of Pentecost...this is your sign, this is your wonder, and this is your miracle: people loving one another in Christ and centering their lives in him, in a common way of life.
To support this conclusion, I ask you to consider this: in 1 Corinthians 12:4-10, the various gifts are discussed, and we have the “more excellent” way of love described in chapter 13. Various gifts are ranked and compared; prophesy is given a high place. These gifting, or gifted persons, are compared to being parts of a body: less noble parts, more beautiful parts, etc.
But, this whole discussion of “parts” presupposes the body and
it insists that we build up the body with our gifts. Therefore, the number
one grace or result of Pentecost is the body. All of the gifts and roles
are in support of and for the upbuilding of the body. Gifts such as healing
or prophecy should never be “stand alone” phenomena, but are a part of
and an expression of the body. To wander the countryside prophesying misses
the main intent of Pentecost: the body itself.
This inner magnetism or grace can even have a regional or international expression as we gather with other members of the Sword of the Spirit at summer conferences or international leaders’ events. Our children experience that bond at regional youth events, and, in a very real way, they understand our “vision and call” more by this experience of koinonia.
A personal example: I have two friends, Jim and Connie, who live over 30 miles from me. We are in the People of God Community together in Coraopolis and Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania, but we are from different locations, somewhat different geography, different families, different parishes, different social circles, and have different hobbies. Yet, when we are together something inside of me resonates, celebrates, and rejoices with Jim and Connie. My covenant with them acknowledges what is already there: a spiritual bonding in the Spirit: koinonia.
We should nourish, stir to life, and protect the unity (Ephesians 4:3). We should anticipate the purposes of the Holy Spirit and we should adjust our decisions accordingly. (See Joseph’s responses in Matthew 1:19,24; 2:14, and 2:19-23.)
We are first and foremost empowered to live in a local, worshiping,
and directable people who will love God and one another in a common way
of life. By doing so, we both participate in and anticipate the purposes
of the Holy Spirit.
[This article is excerpted from Essays on Christian Community, copyright © Bob Tedesco 2010, published by Tabor House. Used with permission.]
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