ABOUT JESUS - Steve Sweetman
Into Christian Community
You might think this is
heretical, but I believe that if we substitute the term "community
of Christ" for the word "church" in the New Testament,
we'll understand church better. I
say this because I believe our present western world concept of church
does not reflect the Bible's concept of church.
I hope you know that the Apostle Paul, Peter, and even Jesus,
never spoke our English word "church".
Church is not a sacred word.
In 1974 I listened to a
four cassette tape teaching series on Christian community entitled
"Gathered For Power" by Graham Pulkingham, an Anglican
If I understood
Pulkingham correctly, he said that church has traditionally fallen into
two categories. Some
churches are task orientated; others are community orientated.
Most western world churches are task orientated.
Their focus is on church activities.
Few western world churches are community orientated.
Their focus is on personal relationships.
I view church as being
relational. When we receive
the Holy Spirit into our lives, He not only joins us to Jesus, He joins
us to others in the community of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13 the Apostle Paul says the process by which
we are joined in Christian community is via a baptism.
He says that we have been baptized into the Body of Christ.
Paul isn't talking about water baptism.
Neither is he talking about joining a church, going to church, or
church being a casual concern. Being
baptized into the community of Christ means to be submerged, immersed,
saturated in fellowship with those to whom we are joined.
That's what the word "baptize" means. From
the relationships in which we are baptized, ministries, or tasks, are
I agree with Pulkingham.
In our western world task orientated church, ministry stems from
ecclesiastical structure and not from personal relationships. It's
the church that provides the tasks or the ministries.
Whether it's a volunteer Sunday school teacher or a paid pastor,
we apply for the job and the organization of church accepts or denies
Our present day
westernized church doesn't link baptism with church.
To our detriment, many think of water baptism, not church
baptism, when they read 1 Corinthians 12:13.
In water baptism we're totally immersed into water. In
church baptism we're totally immersed into the lives of those to whom
Jesus has joined us in the community of Christ.
Christian community is
more than warm feelings we get from fellowshipping with others in a
Sunday service. Christian
community is being immersed into the lives of those to whom Jesus has
joined us, not just for the fun of fellowship, but for the work of the
Lord. In New Testament terms
ministry stems from personal relationships in Christian community.
This is why Pulkingham's teaching series was entitled
"Gathered For Power". The
power of God is best demonstrated in community, as seen in the book of
Acts. For this reason, if we
replace the word "church" in the New Testament with the words
"the community of Christ", we'll understand church from a
The teaching of koinonia,
or community, isn't new. Over
the centuries believers have attempted to live in community, but as it
always seems to be, community eventually evolves into an ecclesiastical
maze of doctrinal, cultural, and economic, distinctives.
From my understanding of church history, what pushes Christians
away from the maze and into community are the pressures experienced from
an anti-Christ culture. Persecution
drives us into finding support and ministry in personal relationships.
This is certainly the case in countries like Iran
today. Iranian Christians
have no other choice. State
sponsored persecution drives them into Christian community.
For them, finding support in personal relationships is a matter
of spiritual survival. Within
the context of Christian community God's power is demonstrated in the
Iranian believers as it was in the book of Acts.
Our western world is
plunging head long into an anti-Christian cultural abyss.
Christians are now being pressured to cave into the demands of an
anti-Christ culture. As in
Iran, we'll be forced to choose between Christ or culture.
If we choose Christ, the ecclesiastical maze will be of little
use to us. We'll understand
what it means to be baptized into Christian community where we'll find
support for our spiritual survival and ministry that demonstrates the
power of God.
singer/songwriter, Larry Norman, put it this way in his song entitled
"Right Here In America" (Street Level album 1971).
"There are Christians in Russia; they meet under ground, in