I don't know the answer to this.

The sermon at church yesterday was about “comissional” living. (Combo of missional and community.) Interesting topic that plays into my existing questions about where to live next. I'm thankful Bobby had a few minutes to chew through it with me this morning.

In my 80’s-90’s evangelical world, there was a big push for community living. Faith-based support groups were established. There was a focus on vulnerability and accountability. Churches developed community/cell groups where families would gather and share life. Deep writers with a psychological bent like Yancey and Crabb became very popular, because we wanted to know ourselves and others. These were all attempts to reject the highbrow, fakey piety of earlier generations and nurture something real.

But a conviction seemed to rise with the 21st century. During its pursuit for authenticity, the American church became too introspective in places. We were wealthy, strong, and found that we could live amoebic, "holy" lives separate from a greater world in need. Sure, we sent money to help people “out there.” But the main focus of much of the American church became absorbed with felt-needs and internal health.

Globally, millions of people died without water, food, or hope, while American Christians like ME bought mass-produced plastic Christian knickknacks at Lifeway. We filled our bathrooms up with cute little Bible verse signs made in hellacious factories overseas. We bought multi-color Jesus pens. We went on Bible study cruises. We attended princess-themed women’s retreats. We spent money on sound systems, and light systems, and game systems, and wore Jesus on our shirts like embroidered animal logos.

We ate our holiday candy until our tummies hurt. And we slowly realized something was wrong.

So the pendulum began to swing. Enter the call to social justice. New writers began to dust off of old verses about caring, going, BEING there. There was a push toward community OUT instead of community IN. People began to use terms like, "radical living." I have theological apprehensions about certain aspects of this movement, but I'm not going to write about those today. My bottom line for this point is that the church was encouraged to start taking Jesus literally with their lives.

And so the Christians started moving into downtowns. Started helping abandoned kids. Started giving themselves away to the oppressed. Began listening to and retelling the stories of the voiceless. Started moving overseas and pouring healing into places full of hurt.

Our family entered church ministry during this philosophical shift. I'm so thankful. I needed the help of both movements, even though neither has been perfect. And I'm grateful to have been ministered to by each of them. Many areas of my life that need reform have been exposed, my hypocrisy is still being brought to the surface, and it has been fascinating to watch churches refining the Church get refined once more.

Yesterday, I was thinking about these shifts in light of the term “Biblical community." And I was thinking about how every attempt I’ve seen from the 80’s forward to recreate Biblical community (internal or external) has been affected by one major cultural barrier.

Modern Americans are independent. We are autonomous. There’s not a natural, necessary exchange of life built within most communities like there was some places 2,000 years ago. I don't know the people who make my dishes, weave my fabric, or trade eggs. Many of us don't even know our neighbors. We shut our windows, and turn on the air, and live virtually sitting in front of screens. So whether the church is attempting to create internal psychological community or external social justice community, a strictly “Biblical” pattern is going to be a tough form to emulate.

We don't usually have the option of transforming a physical, fleshly community that already exists into something “Biblical." The beginning of whatever work this is would have to start with nurturing a basic, skeletal “community” on which to hang the clothes of Biblical love. And it's impossible to create this in a vacuum.

Political forces have opinions about community. Economic forces have opinions about community. The pull we feel to and from various options has root systems that influence secular sociological trends as well as sacred. Not all of the urges hitting us are sourced in Jesus.

So, I wonder what implications the temperature of our culture has on us? (Consciously or subconsciously.) And how should that affect the spiritual prescriptions we get filled? (Selfishly: How should it affect where I should look for a house?) What does discernment look like in light of all this? How can I go into this with eyes wide open, and a pure heart? No answers yet still. But adding these questions to the pot.

2.) What are the essential, light-giving aspects of "Biblical living" that can be applied within modern, Western community? Should I spend energy helping nurture new community structures, or should I creatively adapt to what exists comfortably already?

3.) How has where I am living in time, economy, and politics affected my inclinations? The inclinations of other voices influencing me? And how can I see those more objectively?

Moses' diaper leaked through all three layers of my clothes mid-service yesterday. Bobby filled me in on a few concepts from his sermon that I think would apply here. 'Going to try to find it online soon.

A note about this video:

I collected all of these pictures privately a few months ago. They are not an attempt to criticize any particular product or person mentioned. I'm sorry if it seemed that way. In fact, I included several of my own family photos in this mix when I first compiled it; but for privacy reasons, I removed those photos before posting here.

Initially, I collected these photos out of curiosity. I wondered what effect it would have on my heart to look through such diverse images in rapid sequence.

I have bought some of the products shown in the video. I have listened to some of those teachers. They are not all negative images for me, since many of the nicer pictures reflect the world I live life in daily. However, I usually segment my life so that certain areas don't mix emotionally.

But I was thinking about how the Lord sees all of these things simultaneously. So, I decided to see what feelings a vision more like His might elicit. I was shocked to see how simple images, without adding a single word, were so disturbing when I shuffled them all together.

I don't know what word to use to describe the feelings I have when I watch this. I certainly don't think all nice things are bad things. And I don't have a prescription to hand out that fixes this disparity. I guess I just wish my life were a little more cohesive, and I'm not sure how to get there. But maybe that's unrealistic.

mcb  – (August 24, 2010 at 1:45 PM)  

Thank you for writing this. Still chewing on it. Post this on FB

Anonymous –   – (September 7, 2010 at 4:17 PM)  

I feel axactly the same.

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Welcome to our family’s adoption journey. As you read, you will see us stumble and take wrong paths. You will see our hopes surge and fall. You will see the gaps in our humanity, and how our God realigns us to His purposes over and again. We think the messiness of this process is important. Sometimes walking with God isn’t a neat, linear package that can be summarized in bullet points. More often, life ebbs and flows around our plans, while God works His sovereign wonders from it all. We are learning so much through this journey. And we are super excited about our new son. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you along for the ride.

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