Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Five Characteristics of Community

Today, I am going to take a look at the five characteristics of community around a purpose. In the second post in the series, we looked at why small groups fail at times. The reason is that they do not have a purpose. Here are the purposes and some explanations.

1. Authority

This is a word that makes people squirm at times. I think that is because so many people have seen the abusive side of authority. Thus, when they hear the word; they want to run in the other direction and scream. I think Rany spells it out clearly in the following statement:

In a community united around a common purpose there is a clear understanding and respect for the authority structure. Someone is responsible to lead the community in such a way that it upholds and advances the community (pg. 57).

I think that there needs to be "authority" in order for there to be true accountability. If we do not have accountability, our talk becomes merely disclosure. Disclosing our sins with one another is not enough. We need to be accountable to one another. We must give the person the 'authority' to hold us to what we are struggling with.

Randy sums it up in the following manner: Open disclosure is a fine value to have in a group, but it won't produce genuine community.

2. Common Creed

A common creed is a shared beliefs and practices that guide the community. (pg. 59)

This was the purposes of creeds. I know that there are a lot of individuals who are against 'creeds' because they are a persons thoughts and not directly in the Bible. However, the creeds (normally) are scriptures that are place together to tell a story. For the most part, the creeds are being pushed to the side in the America.

We, however, need to have creeds (beliefs and practices) to hold us together as a group and a community. I think that there are numerous churches in the nation that if you would go into their churces and ask "what is the common confession"; they either would not know or you would get 50 different answers.

So, in a community group, a group of four-five families would come together and form a 'creed' that will hold (bind) their community together. Their community will flow out of the creed.

3. Traditions

A true community uses traditions to perpetuate the purpose and common creed and pass them on to the people of that community, particularly to the children (pg. 61).

Traditions are very important. To be honest, until recently, I was not much for traditions. However traditions can be great teaching tools and great assets for us to pass on to our children.

When you look at scripture both the OT & NT, there are stories after stories of traditions that were passed down. When you look at Israel, they had events (traditions) and these events were central teaching tools. Through the traditions, people learned.

Thus, it begs us to ask, what type of traditions can we establish that will help tell the stories of the Bible. What are some of the traditions that we can develop within our community that with emphasize Christian tenants and help us grow strong in the Lord.

The book of Acts give us a glimpse of some of the traditions that the first century Christians held onto and we as Christians still hold onto them today. Communion (Eucharist) is a tradition that Jesus established to help us remember his death and resurrection (yes, there are arguments among churches on how and what it implies)

Randy emphasizes a very important in the following statement: If we are to rediscover community, we must revitalize old, or create new, traditions that impact our purposes, values and beliefs into our thinking.

So, I sit back and think, what are some traditions that I want to have. What are some traditions that I want to pass onto our children. I believe that we did one for the first time a few weeks ago that will become a tradition and that will teach our children a very important belief. I will share about that experience this week. Also though, I am thinking, if I was in a community group; what are some things that I would like to be established.

4. Standards

The definition for standards are pretty-straight forward: a list of written or unwritten guidelines that define what is expected of the people of the community.

These can be challenging to some individuals who are coming from an individualistic society and lifestyle. But, for community to work, the community MIST have a set of standards and hold each other to those standards and live within the standards.

He concludes his standards section with the following statement: We want community - but few seem open to the characteristics that promote it and sustain it.

I think that numerous people will go, yup with this. We want it but we are not willing to give up 'things" to achieve it. To be in community, you may need to give up a job, cut back your work hours, say no to some activities, give up living in your fortress, or limiting the kids extra-curricular activities. The list could be exhaustive and each person and family will have a different list. But, if we want to be in community, we need to remember it is not all about me (us as a family) and we must give up a few things to experience the community we desire.

5. Common Mission

Any true community will have a clearly defined mission that brings the individuals of a group together and knits them into a cohesive family. (pg. 63)

This comes from the clearly church in Acts. We see that they (the believers) came together and they had everything in common. they knew why they were coming together and when they got together; they practiced and lived their mission and purpose. here is a 'key statement' that will lead to the foundation of what is going to occur in the groups:

We must adopt from the ancient church and redefine for the postmodern church what a follower of Christ looks like. Incorporating these common beliefs, practices and virtues into the lives of people must constitute the central purpose that draws the Christian community together.

For a long time, we as churches, have drifted from the initial intent of the church and we must navigate back to that place and we must find community among believers and strengthen one another as we try to be more of who God has called us to be.

To follow Christ and His teaching are very tough at times. But, we can do it. A great place to start is getting into a community that has common beliefs, practices, and virtues.

Reggie makes a wonderful summary:

This community must have in place respected spiritual authority-individuals who are biblically literate and who can serve as exemplary spiritual mentors. This gathering must have a common creed that succinctly lays out the beliefs, practices, and virtues that the members of the community agree to follow, to encourage in each other, and to which they are all held accountable. They must resurrect old, or create new, Christian traditions that assist in cementing the history and purpose of the Christian faith for the next generation. And, if this community is to be effective long-term, there must be standards that are considered normal behavior for all followers of Christ.

The Series

Entry 1: Introduction to the Series and Book
Entry 2: Individualism
Entry 3: Five Characteristics of Community Around a Purpose
Entry 4: 10 Ancient Christian Beliefs
Entry 5: 10 Ancient Christian Practices
Entry 6: 10 Ancient Christian Virtues
Entry 7: Seven Functions of a Biblical Community
Entry 8: The 4 I's
Entry 9: 5 Characteristics of Community Around Common Place
Entry 10: Consumerism Mentality
Entry 11: 5 Characteristics of Community Around Possessions
Entry 12: Dreams of Community & Conclusion


Rick Gibson said...

Wow, talk about night and day! Kingdom Grace has just finished up her review of 'Pagan Christianity' and you are going over this book. I think my head might explode :-).

If you are interested in a different take on leadership in a comminity head over here. Only if you are interested that is.

One last question, I know scripturally that we all will give an account to God, and that we are to confess to one another so that we might pray for one another. But where does this idea of holding each other accountable come from?


Rick Gibson said...

oops! I can't seem to spell this morning.

Jeff Greathouse said...

Don't worry about the spelling. My spelling is terrible; especially when I am trying to do a quick post or comment.

Thanks for stopping by. I am sorry that your head may explode. I think that there are plenty of scriptures that can lead/prove/show that accountability is a good thing and that it helps us grow as a Christian.

Is it the only thing ? Absolutely not. The reason is simple, we are accountable to God. But when we are also accountable with others in Christian community, they can help us in our journey.

Does the Bible speak of Christian accountability? First of all, the Bible says that God holds us accountable. Romans 14:12 says, "So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." This is personal accountability.
Christians are also accountable to one another. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, we read that Christians are all part of the same body - the body of Christ - and each member needs or belongs to the other. This Scripture suggests the importance of strong accountability between Believers. It is important for every Believer to have at least one other person in which to confide, pray with, listen to, and encourage.

Galatians 6:1-2 gives a helpful principle, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

If your accountability friend has done something contrary to the Bible, you are called to confront him gently, forgive him, and comfort him. It also admonishes you to consider yourself because no one is above temptation.

Another aspect of Christian accountability is encouraging each other to grow in their spiritual maturity. Hebrews 10:24 says, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says to, "…encourage one another and build each other up…"

Here is something else:

Those who say that they are accountable only to God fail to realize the spheres of human authority that God has established for our good (Hebrews 13:17). Like the centurion who told Jesus, “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me” (Matthew 8:9), we must recognize our own need to be under the authority of others.

Those are a few things. We also have carry one another's burden and the list can go on.

Maybe, I will do a post on that. Please share more. I would love to hear more. I think that is part of the reason that we are a "body" as well.

Rick Gibson said...

Maybe it's these darn postmodern times. But I'm thinking accountablility and submission aren't synonymous. To me accountability seems so legal, and (biblical) submission more relational.

Accountability is like having a policeman driving behind you on the road. Sure you are probably one of the safest drivers on the road, following all the rules. But when the officer leaves, you breath a sigh of relief and think 'Thank God he's gone' -- it still feeds the 'protect you own skin' mindset, and doesn't produce community. Where submission carries the connotation of regarding others more highly than yourself. Does that make sense?

Jeff Greathouse said...


I am not sure if I am following you 100%. Thus, I am going to say, "no, that does not make sense to me".

Can you flush out your postmodern comments and your analogy a little more and share what you think the differences are and if you think either one of them are biblical ?

Then if you can share why (so it seems) that you do not believe that accountability may bring or promote community.

Dreaming again said...

I don't get the accountability/policeman analogy at all.

To be accountable to someone else ... means that you, have someone that you sit down with, and say (in my case) "sister, I'm doing really well with doing this this and this, but I'm having trouble staying on track with this that and this, I could use your prayers, advice, and support"

Rather than ...without that accountability ... having the issue that I'm having trouble staying on track with ... being a secret, and slipping off track ...and then it becoming a secret sin ...and pulling me farther and farther out of fellowship with God.

In the policeman scenerio ...the policeman has come up behind me AFTER I've sinned ... caught me, ticketed me ... and sent me on my way ...and I'm releived to have them out from under my skin to go on about my business as I've gone on, until I'm caught again.