Table in Sky
Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                             March 3, 2008
In This Issue
Community as Loyalty
My Reflections
Quick Links
Interesting YouTube Videos
The Banqueting Table does not necessarily endorce all contents of videos

Last year (2007) I attended Church Multiplication Associate's Organic Church Conference. At the conference Neil Cole spoke on the dark side of organic church. Although I'm not quoting Neil, he effectually said, Don't think organic church is easier than conventional church. In fact, it's harder. Why? Because being with people for real is messy.
Anyone who's ever given their heart to another knows this one simple fact: in the future there will be pain. And in a moment of transparency here, I admit I've constructed more defense mechanisms than I'd care to admit.
Below you'll find an excerpt from David Augsburger's latest book, Dissident Discipleship; it describes the stubbornness of biblical community.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: The Stubbornness of Genuine Christian Community
Community as Loyalty
Excerpted from Dissident Discipleship by David Augsburger
Dissident DiscipleshipChristian community is a web of stubbornly loyal relationships knotted together into a living network of persons. We recognize authentic community by the visible strands of commitment and concern that enable people to live jointly, corporately, and cooperatively together.
And this resilient web of stubborn loyalties is spirituality.
Recognizing that Christian community is not just webbed from one believer to another but is held firm by a central strand resolutely attached to Jesus Christ, it is no surprise that members listen to each other attentively, expecting to sometimes hear his voice as another speaks, and look to each other knowing that now and again they may see his face in the other.
And this stubborn attentiveness is spirituality.
Recognizing that community is a group in which free conversation occurs, the stubbornly loyal participants risk openness in revealing their struggles and vulnerability in accepting help, and they find that others are sensitive and responsive to their self-disclosure.
And this stubborn vulnerability is spirituality.
Recognizing that community is a place where one can feel freely and speak frankly about deep inmost feelings, the stubbornly loyal participants plunge into sharing what is precious and deeply valued.
And this stubborn inwardness opened outward is spirituality.
Recognizing that community is a natural therapeutic context that fosters maturation, healing, and growth for its members, stubbornly loyal participants band together to provide stabilizing connections and correctives and to offer support when personalities fragment or boundaries break down. One need not go it alone or live only by support purchased by the hour. Community is available to help bind up what is broken.
And this stubborn support and confrontation for growth is spirituality.
Recognizing that community is a place where both good friends and predictable frustrators are present, needed, valued, respected, incorporated, and indeed learned from in genuine dialogue, stubbornly inclusive participants do not give up on the irritating or withdraw into the conforming, but rather welcome both.
And this stubborn inclusiveness of enemy and friend is spirituality.
In the stubbornly loyal community, we look on diversity not as our enemy, but as a cause for gratitude. "People are talented and untalented, simple and difficult, devout and less devout, sociable and loners. Does not the untalented person have a position to assume just as well as the talented person, the difficult person just as well as the simple one?" (Bonhoeffer 1952, 93). The weak need the strong for support; the strong need the weak for balance and guidance. We dare exclude neither from community, or community dies; both must be included in mutual service and ministry (2006:61).
My Reflections

One of the qualities I admire most about Jesus is his stubbornness. Usually, we dress up Jesus's stubbornness by saying things like Jesus is faithful or Jesus is forgiving or Jesus is loving. To be sure, Jesus is faithful, forgiving, and loving, but sometimes, in my opinion, these holy words don't convey the gritty stubbornness of Jesus: the man just refuses to give up on someone, even unto death.
Arguably, the biggest black eye on the Christian church is this fact: Christians give up on each other. Jesus, on the other hand, never gives up on a person. I find it curious, then, that Jesus's followers generally bail when the going gets tough; quite simply, this is not Christian.
Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love [which includes not bailing] one another" (Jn 13:35). So, the next time you feel like leaving the Christian brothers and sisters God has put you in community with, think again. God may be testing your grit.
Note: Are there good reasons to leave a believing community? Yes, and I'll discuss those reasons (mostly missiological in nature) in future e-newsletters.
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table