Patrick Murphy: Communal Faith
What ever happened to “community” anyway? The earliest Christian circles certainly understood the value and camaraderie that comes with holding together a group of earnest disciples of Jesus and his Apostles. Acts 2:42–47 explains the communal aspects of the first groups of believers who “were together and had everything in common,” and “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”
What a way of life! Is it so far beyond our imaginations to picture such a scene today? Whenever I visit, regularly attend, or serve at a church, I always try to pay attention to the ways in which the church community holds itself together and invites new members in. Sometimes, but not always, it seems that Sunday mornings may be the only time some of these “brothers and sisters” in Christ come together, and then only for an hour or so of worship. Although I don’t have any definitive answer, what can be done to encourage Christians to come together more often…to engage in new ministries…to just share a meal together?
While in this consumerist, privatized, and individualized society it may not be realistic to envision a Christian community sharing everything in common with one another or holding daily gatherings, there is still something to be said for a deeper common life. Why is it so hard to remember having an afternoon church gathering outside on picnic tables with games and food? Why do we no more see such a thing as ma and pa sitting on the porch with neighbors and sweet tea while my brother and I play ball with the neighbors’ kids? The vision has been appears to be lost from our minds! God calls us to intentionally love and nurture our neighbors in holiness so that by grace we grow into Christ-likeness, but instead we lean on excuses such as the drudgery that comes with work, school, or home life. God has a better idea.
The Scripture from Acts 2 concludes by saying that God added to their number every day because of how they lived and how they communed with one another. Is it so much to set aside some time to bring together believers, maybe not even for any other purpose than to thank God and enjoy fellowship? I’m no pessimist, but my heart longs that I, and all of us, always remember the communal power of Christianity, how only by pulling together and embracing one another with faith and love we can begin to grow and witness to our respective communities and hearken to their needs.
God will sow believers into a church embedded in its community with love, inclusive fellowship, and intentional contact. May God add such blessings to all our ministries!
Patrick Murphy is a Rural Ministry Fellow from Elizabethtown, N.C.