Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                              July 28, 2008
Living the Dream is a Community-Killer
My Reflections
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One of the things I love about the believers with which I regularly fellowship is that they love me, mood swings and all; sometimes I'm rowdy and sometimes I'm downright melancholy, contemplative. But because they're family, they roll with the punches because that's what families do.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: Being realistic about Christian Community
Living the Dream is a Community-Killer 
Excerpt from Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial (1954:27).
My Reflections
I suspect most people who tell me they want to be part of an "Acts 2" community haven't soberly thought through all the implications. After all, knowing people "for real" is difficult. So, trust me when I say, I completely understand why most of the evangelical church takes on a preacher and pew format: lots of pain is averted. It's difficult to be irritated by a person who sees me only a couple hours a week, most of that time spent singing or silent while engaging a common focal point (Band? Preacher? The Lord?).
Now, before anyone takes the above as a slam - don't. It's perfectly normal to take steps to relieve tension. As a father, I do it in my family and, I'm sure, you do it in yours. The problem is we (parents) often relieve the tension to the detriment of what's best for the family, namely character development.
Not long before Robert Webber (author and professor) died he was asked the question, "What does your tradition [evangelical] do so well that you could lead the rest of us [mainline, liberal] in?" Knowing evangelicalism wasn't fairing too well in current conversations, he replied "passion." And he was right; most evangelical church expressions have a deep love and passion for Jesus. This is to be commended!
At the same time, we must remember Jesus's words, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Mt 22:37-39). Inherent in Jesus's command is this: we must love the real God (i.e. not sanitized) and we must love our real neighbors, mood swings and all. And to do that, we must continually put ourselves in those, often uncomfortable, situations where our God and neighbor is real. If we don't we might just be living in a "dream world."

Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table