Community As Theological Necessity

In October 2002, I planted Providence Community Church (providencecommunity.com) in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. From the outset I knew that I wanted this church to be different from much of what I had seen and experienced. I wanted it to reflect the type of community that I read about in the book of Acts, but had rarely experienced in the church. Mindful of the fact that I live in a very different time and culture than the one present in the book of Acts, I set out to shape a culture that would be driven by theological convictions on community rather than pragmatic approaches.

It took a lot of time and energy to accomplish this, but by God’s grace our church began to reflect the sort of churches that we were reading about in the New Testament. It was a slow and painful process that required us to rethink success. We gave up worrying about how many people attended on Sundays and became far more interested in the number of people sharing their lives, their food, and their homes with one another.

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Entering the Trinity

Editor’s Note: An issue of Conversations on community would not be complete without a look at what John Ortberg calls “the ultimate small group”—the life of the Trinity. To be truly grounded in God, all our discussion, thought, and practice of community needs to spring out of our experience and understanding of what God-in-community is like.

There has been much written on the systematic theology of the Trinity, a philosophical and biblical understanding of the truth that God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Less writing exists on what an experience of the Trinity can be for the community of believers, even though God has eternally existed as community and call us into full-fledged community both with himself and with one another.

What does it mean to live in trinitarian ways as a people of God? What does participating in God’s community mean for us? What does it mean for the shape and form of our communities? To begin to answer these questions, we turned to the author of Experiencing the Trinity, Darrell Johnson.

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Here is the good news: The living God is not a solitary God. The living God is not a lonely God. The living God is the Trinitarian God. From all eternity the living God has existed in community as Community; in fellowship as Fellowship; in relationship as Relationship. From all eternity the living God has existed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From all eternity the living God has been able to speak of himself as “we,” “us,” and “our.”

And here is the incredibly good, good news. We human beings were brought into being to participate with God in that us-ness. It is almost too good to be true! I was brought into being by the Trinity—and you were brought into being by the Trinity—to participate in the inner life of the Trinity. I was bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity—you were bought by the blood of the Second Person of the Trinity—to participate with him in his communion with the First and Third Persons of the Trinity. Because of the work of the Son on the cross, and because of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, you and I who say yes to Jesus as Savior and Lord are adopted by the Father into the Trinitarian Family. We become real sons and daughters in relationship with the only begotten Son. We enter into the Only Begotten’s relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. When we say yes, we come home.

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As For Me & My House

I love walking. One of my favorite pictures of the Christian faith is walking together with one another and with Jesus. Often unrecognized, as on the road to Emmaus, Jesus joins us along our way home, listening to our stories, asking good questions, sharing life with us, helping us dig deeper into God’s Word, and renewing us in our journey together. One of the good questions our Lord asks is, “How goes your walk?” Over a century ago, the early founders of the Evangelical Covenant Church asked each other, “How goes your walk with Christ?” As a Covenant pastor, I love this question. My brothers and sisters within the Covenant Church ask me this same question today whenever we meet together for mutual support, because they are interested in how goes my journey of faith with Christ. This article explores walking together in Scripture, walking with children in nature, hiking in national parks, and a few ways to walk together as a local church.

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The Grace of Mowing Grass

Sanctuary.

“A safe place. A shrine. A setting for worship.”

To a refugee or a person fleeing violence or oppression, the word “sanctuary” captures a sense of hoped-for safety and provision.

To a birder, it’s a specially set-aside area on which a long-sought-after species just might be seen, even if at a distance.

To a person in a religious community, the word conjures up images of stained glass, icons, men and women in robes and vestments, sacred texts and hymn books in the backs of uncomfortable wooden seats.

But the seat of a John Deere lawn tractor? Can that be a sanctuary?

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Avoiding the Trapdoor in Transformation

Although it was nine years ago, that Sunday morning is still vividly etched in my memory. A few years earlier my heart had been captivated by the life-giving understanding that God’s intention was that the lives of Jesus’ followers were to be deeply transformed into the likeness of Jesus himself. Since I had been a Christian for decades and seminary trained as well, you might wonder why it took so long for me to come to this realization. But that’s a story for another time. Having discovered the Father’s intention of transformation, I had given myself over to that process with great intentionality. I read books on the topic of spiritual formation and listened to gifted teachers whose lives evidenced that deep transformation was indeed possible. I began practicing a variety of spiritual disciplines, some familiar and some new, all with the desire to see the hidden recesses of my life touched and transformed by the love and character of Christ. After the process was under way in my own life, my Sunday sermons began to focus on topics related to spiritual formation. What could be more inviting than these amazing realities? People’s hearts were stirred, hope was ignited, everything was moving along nicely—until that one Sunday morning.

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Joy Changes Everything

Joy levels are like the temperature of an oven. We can choose our ingredients carefully, but the oven temperature will determine what our careful preparations will yield. Consider the effect of angry or joyful parents on family prayer and Bible reading. As joy increases so does the chance that transformation will go in a positive direction. Joy levels have huge effects on whether our efforts will be productive and lasting.

Why would a factor that powerful go unnoticed by most of the church?

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