Tonight I was reading through the journal I kept in 2003. I read through my entries on my trip to Mozambique, Africa and Church of the Savior in Washington D.C. Some of the entries from Africa brought tears to my eyes.
While at Church of the Savior we heard a number of amazing practitioners, one in particular jumped out at me tonight (I am re-reading some of my thoughts so I can shape my dissertation proposal), it was a talk given by a man named Bill Haley. Bill had just returned from a trip around the world visiting Christian communities that were or had been successful in bringing about personal, societal and global transformation. (Sidebar – I was struck by the fact that five years later we use similar language in our community about following Christ to serve others in three realms: personal, local and global). He talked about Wilberforce and the Clapham’s (social reformers within the Church of England.
Bill then talked about small communities of Christians committed to prayer, study and service as the most powerful tool in God’s hand for personal, societal and global transformation. Then went on to name some of the groups he studied and visited:
The Sisters of Charity
The Iona Community
Various monastic communities
Church of the Savior
The common denominators he found:
1. The Communities are Christ centered – Jesus is the reason they exist and they know him as a suffering God
2. There was some degree of life together
3. They had strong leadership – leaders that had a strong inner sense and a focus “what is not yet needs to be done” there are things God wants to do in the world
4. There was a great willingness within the community to live sacrificially
5. There was a profound reliance on prayer
6. There was an external goal – the entire community internalized an external goal, namely, they existed for other people, social justice was equated with loving God
7. There was shared discipline
8. There was a high expectation for membership (individualism was not part of their language or practice) they realized they could get more done with 10 committed people than 100 people who were not committed to the mission
9. They all had a commitment to commitment – you choose how you live
Here was Bill’s definition of Christian community:
An interdependent group of Christians whose lives are centered around Jesus and ordered by love, who share common goals and common commitments and who together intentionally seek to love God and love their neighbor.