19. A Community of Christ
The first reason I would move back into community must be the most real, and that is that I love Christian community so very deeply and I miss it so very much.
19. A Community of Christ
I received this note in response to “Members One of Another.”
My friend, I begin this Saturday morning the way I have most mornings, by meditating on the incredible wealth of understanding and rare perspective I find in your articles. Thank you for such a huge donation of time and spiritual effort revealed in your website. Regarding your interest in and desire for spiritual community (as I understand the idea), is it somewhat monastic in concept? A form of retreat from the world? I doubt that you are thinking only on those lines from what I have learned about your mind and character from your writings.
My only experience with community is that I spent my formative years in a “come out from them and be ye separate” semi-cultic hyper-legalistic branch of Holiness. Since I am satisfied that you are “none of the above,” what is the experience that you hope to replicate in spite of the disappointments you have lived through in the past? Are you wishing to create a “feast of tabernacles” environment? …a gathering of what no doubt would turn into close-knit friends and brothers?
Your questions about community are very important and timely. They are questions I need to answer, not just for you and others, but for myself and my own family. Moving back into a community experience would be a big deal and a step not to be taken lightly. Your manner of asking really helps me to zero in on what is core and essential. First, I will give you the reasons why I would consider Christian community again before I answer your specific questions.
Now, understand that I am qualifying what I say about community very strongly. I will not move back to the specific form of community that I knew in the move. I would require significant differences in very particular things.
Second, I would not subject myself or my family to anything that is built on any other word than the one that is presently flowing out of me. Community is give and take, most definitely, and I would not want to be the “boss.” However, I cannot be a part of something that would be religious and deadly or unless I play a significant role in the Spirit, the philosophy, and the direction of that community. I do not trust most Christian leaders. I know that I cannot walk together with something with which I am not in full agreement. So all of my comments are about community as I have tasted it – as I know that it can be by God’s grace.
1. God Made Me for Community
The first reason I would move back into community must be the most real, and that is that I love Christian community so very deeply and I miss it so very much. Again, I am qualifying that. There was much that was holy and pure community inside the wineskins of the move of God communities. Change to new wineskins and the community inside is what I love. So what do I love about community?
2. The Richness of Walking Together
I love being around God’s people. I am a solitary man on the one hand, but I always gravitate towards people on the other. I am both. There is a fellowship, a togetherness, a seeking God together, that is totally absent, it simply does not exist outside of community. The American way of life is so empty and barren. We hardly know our neighbors. Everyone lives in their own little tracks, following their own little ruts day after day. In community your lives are entwined together in richness. All that is my brother now belongs to me, and I enjoy all the differences and all the perspectives that each one provides.
I’m not capable, myself, of creating social relationships. Nevertheless they are part of the life of Christ, a part that I value and enjoy. But I find a wall between me and most Christians who live in the world. I can bless and fellowship with other precious believers, most certainly, but I cannot walk together with those who exalt America, who swear oaths of allegiance to its flag, or who “pray for the troops.” There is a separation, a come-out-from-among-them, but it has to do with death-producing relationships and with spiritual bonds, not with “holiness legalism.” I will not worship the beast, nor can I walk closely together with those who do.
3. The Bracing Winds of Reality
My heart has never connected with anything I have been a part of in this world. How can I give myself to build that which is temporal and worldly and utterly meaningless to me? In community you are working for one another in the Lord. I don’t care for working at a secular job. I much prefer to build the gathering together of brethren. I have much experience with building every aspect of the gathering together of brethren.
Now, you mention “escape.” I’m sure there are monastery-type situations where “escape” is a factor. But most people who have never lived in or connected with godly community have a completely backward idea on the “escape” factor. It is entirely the opposite. Community is the place of warfare. It is far more difficult and trying than the hardest thing in the disconnectedness of life in the world.
People “escape” the togetherness of community by going out to a secular job. Those who want it easy, who want to escape their brethren, live in the world. Those who love the bracing winds of reality walk together as the body of Christ. Community is no “greenhouse” environment; church in the world is the “greenhouse,” the easy environment where very little is expected of you.
Community is where you have to forgive, nearly every day. In the church in the world, you hardly ever have to forgive anyone. I love the giving of my heart, poured out completely, in the building of community, of the gathering together of God’s people.
4. The Blessing Found Nowhere Else
Here is where we enter a dicey element in community versus non-community. I am uninterested in “eliteness” in any form. However, there is an anointing of God upon the corporate life of community, as brethren gather together to worship Him and to share Christ with each other that is simply NOT found or experienced by anyone outside of community. It is impossible to explain to someone that there is a grace and anointing of God that they have never tasted and will never taste except inside of community. Many may dispute me on that, but the truth is, they simply do not know.
The Psalmist says that the blessing is in the cluster. I tell you what. No matter how many difficulties you’ve gone through, how many mistakes are made, how many wrong ideas there may be here or there in the community structure and philosophy, if it is a place that is truly filled with the Spirit of the Lord, when you gather together to worship God, there is an anointing of the Holy Spirit resting upon that gathering together, an anointing of joy and power, that I have never seen or known anywhere except in community. Yet I’ve known it so well inside of community. I miss that anointing. I miss it so much; and I hate it that my children don’t know it. Yet I would not move back into move community for particular reasons. That doesn’t mean I don’t long for that river of life that is upon the gathering together of God’s people and nowhere else.
5. Life Together
Now we come to theology, but theology that is rooted in life. Christ is a corporate man. He is a many-membered body. The American way of life seems “normal” to us because it is all everyone knows. But that being so, most people have no idea how twisted and weird and abnormal in every possible way modern American life really is.
Through history, most people have lived in some form of community. The isolatedness, the sending of children off to their isolated warehouses, divorced from life and reality, sitting in rows in boxed rooms with kids all their own age, and the old folks to their warehouses, and the parents go off each day to their warehouses and everyone is isolated and separated, disconnected and unreal. The kingdom of God, life in the kingdom is and will be community in one form or another – members one of another. Life together.
6. Love One Another
There are so many New Testament Scriptures that really have little or no meaning outside of church life. Things like “forgive one another.” How many Christians have to “forgive one another” in the hour or two they see each other on Sundays? The largest amount of teaching on one topic in the epistles is on the relationships together of brethren in church life. So much of the gospel finds its working out in life together, but when you move back into the American way of life, it all seems irrelevant. But that is not just an argumentative point. It is the richness of the Christian life that is found fully in walking together. Thinking about it, the reality is that American Christian life is so empty and barren, so void of reality or value in comparison to the richness of life together.
Now, some who lived with me in community will point to the problems of community that we knew, and I agree completely. But those problems were in the structure, in the philosophy, and in the theology. Those problems were not from the life of Christ shared together. And here’s the thing. Those exact same problems are found anywhere people try to do something together. I saw them in the public school, in the Christian school, exactly the same awful things. The only difference is that living together in community intensifies everything. The exact same problems are there, just more intense.
But the Promised Land is the life of Christ. And the Promised Land was filled with giants, not sunflowers. It was filled with rich fruit, and it was filled with bloody difficulty. We don’t know the one without the other. It is not a strange thing that Christ-life is filled with fiery trials and strange difficulties. What is strange is a Christian life that is not filled with all the difficulties of walking together in love.
7. Facing the Storm Together
The next reason is an important one, though other reasons must come first. And that is that living together on a rural agricultural property is the only possible way we will survive the shattering of the American support system, a shattering that is at the door. People have no idea what life will be like when the electricity shuts off and the gasoline is no longer there. No one knows how to get their life out of the ground. It would take just two months for over half the population to be dead, and among those who survive will be many thousands of cannibals.
This is real and imminent. The system that brings us our sustenance is more fragile than most people imagine. And when it’s gone, or if being part of it requires an ungodly submission to the system, then Christians who are isolated and alone will be hard-pressed. Yes, we will all have to live by the open power and provision of the heavens before this is over, but a shared life on a property with gardens and pastures is just so much better than facing the onslaught alone.
8. A Shared Life
There are so many outward advantages to life together that just don’t exist in our isolated suburban living. When life is shared, then everyone can enjoy the use of things that each one separately can never have. I’m looking forward to things like a woodshop, chickens, a woods for the children to build forts in, nice gardens and fruit trees. Maybe an herbarium or a trip to relatives without worrying about how you will pay the bills, and on and on.
9. A Shared Life
I love sharing meals together. Gathering together in the community dining room after a day’s work. Relaxing around the tables. Enjoying the laughter and the buzz of conversation. Enjoying the stories that different ones have to share. Life in community is so rich. Life in the American way of isolation and separation is so barren.
From my experience and perspective, life in a true, Spirit-filled community is togetherness, and life in the American “world” is separation. This distinction is the very opposite of what most people imagine when they look at “community” from the outside in. The modern American way of life is anything except “the real world.” It’s so fake – and completely unusual from history – in fact, I see the isolation of the American way of life as dangerous and unhealthy in many ways.
But what must be different between my past community experience and any community I would join my family to? First, what must be the same is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the word of the revelation of Jesus Christ, and an emphasis on Christ in you. There must be a freedom and liberty in the Spirit, in the sharing of the word, and in personal integrity. These things I knew in move community. It may not be the same in other kinds of Christian community. I know that there can be groups that are very legalistic and that have very little spiritual life. But that was not the community I knew in the move.
What must be different are these specific things.
A. You Belong to Jesus, Not Us.
The first is a particular philosophy that, if implemented, would alter the whole fabric of everything that is built together. And that is that those who leave the community for WHATEVER reason must be more blessed in their going than in their coming. Everything must be designed so that it is a reasonably simple thing for a family to take another step, to go elsewhere, to move on to something else they want to do. Things should be thought out so that people can leave with a reasonable measure of value, so that what they put into the community is not completely lost to them.
But most of all, never, never, never, should there be one shadow or hint of the idea that anyone or anything (except the land itself) “belongs to this community,” or that “if you leave us, you’re leaving God.” That is probably the single most destructive element that existed in move community, and that one philosophy alone is the thing that shattered the largest number of lives.
In the community I would be a part of, we would make a special effort towards anyone who “leaves” even if we don’t particularly agree with some aspect of what they are doing, or they with us, the effort must be made in the grace and kindness of the Lord to make them feel blessed and sent out, that they belong to Jesus and not to us, that we count them brethren and friends forever; that we bless them with all our hearts. If that philosophy is worked all through the design of the community, it would change so much.
B. We Highly Regard One Another
There are two definitions that I want no part of. I hate it when I see either of these definitions imposed in any church anywhere. The first is the definition of God, that He tortures forever those whom He refuses to save. That definition colors every aspect of the thinking and philosophy of any church or group; it is, I am convinced, the underlying reason why Christianity is the most violent religion on earth, why Christians slaughter one another in the name of God.
But it is the second definition, coming out of that first definition, that is the worst. And that is that Christian people are primarily “fleshy” and that they need to “get their flesh nature underfoot.” This is much more than a point of theology. In community it becomes the colored glasses by which we view one another. It becomes the definition by which we treat one another. If you are fleshy, and your heart is bad, then I will relate to you in a caustic and hurtful way. I will see value in imposing suffering and deprivation on you in some way “for your own good.”
I tell you, it’s sick stuff.
Sure, there is judgment in God; and sure, even good people can be selfish and thoughtless and can hurt one another without even knowing it. But our attitude towards one another must be that of fighting FOR one another’s hearts. That of highly regarding the feelings and thoughts, interests and hopes, fears and dreams of one another. Of seeing Christ in every part of my brother, ESPECIALLY in every part of his heart, in every dream that makes him sing. That’s the community I would be a part of, and that is rooted in theology.
I will be part of a community where the foundation and core of the community is friendship. Deep, personal friendship. Where we pray for one another in victory and power; where we release and help one another to be all that God has made us to be.
C. The Kingdom Does NOT Rest on Our Shoulders
I will not be part of a community where there is a hierarchy or separation of leadership. Now, government in community is a big deal and somewhat complicated. But the government we had in move community was not it.
The truth is there are three completely different arenas of government and those three arenas must be treated quite differently, with the prevailing philosophy worked into all of them being this: it matters not a bit if the whole thing falls apart. If the kingdom of God fails, if the ark of His presence hits the dirt, no big deal. Everything can go in the completely “wrong” direction, and Jesus is still among us. If we get rid of “God’s program,” no biggy. If things don’t work out in a particularly “Biblical” way, no problem.
In other words, the success of the work of God in the earth just simply does not rest upon our getting anything right. Don’t take ourselves or our decisions so seriously. There is no question of missing God or not missing God. That whole issue is just meaningless. Sure, we walk in wisdom and in peace, but we don’t have to NOT miss God, for goodness sake. What a bondage that weight was. “Are we hearing from God, or are we missing God?” A terrible way to live, completely contrary to the life of Christ we now know.
As an aside, the three areas of government in community are the community activities and concerns, the spiritual leadership of the church, and the oversight of work and business.
Every adult should be a part of all decisions that affect our life together.
There are those who are anointed of the Lord who care for the spiritual needs of the flock. But this should be private (two or three) counsel and not for making decisions for people’s lives, just how best to meet the spiritual needs of individuals and families. That includes a responsibility to watch over any intrusion of sin that is destructive to others, or a spirit of confusion or destruction, or the intrusion of strangers moving in a religious spirit, etc.
Then, third, work projects or business concerns need a boss. That boss operates as a manager for the duration of that task. He or she makes most decisions, but listens and honors those who work under him. At the same time, the manager operates by policies that are set and agreed upon by the entire community.
All leadership should be fluid and should change with the needs. There should not be individuals who are “the elders” and therefore the decision makers for life or “the anointed ones set by God to lead you fleshy ones.” Rules should be necessary only, agreed upon together, changed easily, and not enforced as if “God is displeased with you.” Rules are necessary to successful life together, but it is the enforcement of rules that destroys so many people. We have the responsibility to share with people the joy of the life of Christ and how He lives His life in us. But we have no directive whatsoever, and it is a wicked thing when we take such a false responsibility upon ourselves to “enforce the rules.”
D. We Are a River of Life and Joy
A community that is healthy must have a proper balance between building up the people in the community and being a blessing and a well of life to people who are not a part of the community. The move communities did not operate in a godly balance in this area. They were too disconnected from all other people.
I would like to be a part of a teaching community, where people, whosoever will, come in for a day, a week, a month, as they wish, and partake of teaching and training and learning what it is to walk together in both spiritual things and natural things. Teaching of woodworking and gardening and weaving and all the skills needed to live at least partly free of the system. Teaching of life together, of art and song, of the Bible, of the Spirit, and the ways of God. Such a community would have a continual source of income within the structure of the community itself, lodges and cabins where people “vacation” in a remarkable and loving environment. And it would keep a continual ministry to others without having to “go out” of the community to do so.
Now, as I look at your questions, I see that I have probably addressed most of them except the last – a Feast of Tabernacles experience. The answer is “Yes.”
As I said, I believe that church life is the normal Christian life and that the modern American way of life is not in any way “normal.” I believe that the kingdom is community in many different forms. I know that believers that are not connected in some sort of meaningful community life are in some ways “foot loose and fancy free,” and while there is no condemnation, nor any legalistic definition of what the kingdom looks like, the truth is they do not know large parts of God that they have not tasted.
The nature of Christ includes a commitment to one another. I think for some who are coming into a revelation of grace and Christ our life, it’s like “free love.” But shacking up together without commitment is much the same as bouncing around the body of Christ without commitment. God has seasons for all of us, seasons that change. And God has an appointment and a calling and a place for each of us, and they are very different one from another.
I am amazed at the reaction of some to my love of community. Suddenly, it’s no longer “Christ as Daniel Yordy,” now it’s something to oppose. But if I love community, how is that not Christ as me? This is one thing you learn in Christian community. So many Christians are posers and pretenders. They love “Christ as you” so long as you look exactly like they think Christ should look like, or so long as your life agrees with the modern, bland, disconnected American culture – or with their rigid and outer definitions of “Christ.”
But Christian community is also a calling and a ministry in the body of Christ. There are those called to evangelism, those called to inner city missions, those called to the mission field, those called to earn money and to give, those called simply to be lights in the world and in places of work, and those called to walk together as members one of another in the gathering together of the brethren.
Each calling is appointed of the Father and worthy and valuable. But I have found that the one calling that most Christians cannot accept, they will deride it, argue against it, put you down in every possible way, and that is the calling to Christian community. I have often wondered at the vehemence that whole issue raises in the narrow “Christian” thinking of so many individuals. Here are some more reasons why I love community.
10. The Fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles
The flowing of the power of the river of Life. Yes, I know this, that in my present isolated life I am missing out on so much. In community there is the anointing and the potential for the release of so much that is God. I’ve already said that, so I guess it does answer your question in part. I know that those who have never tasted are quick to deny that it is valid. But a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.
11. God Did Not Make Me for the World
Here is one reason that pertains to me. I am a contrararian. I prefer to go in the opposite direction of the majority. When I’m in the same track as the herd, I get very nervous. I love radical Christianity. I thrive on “heresy.” (Not real heresy, but rather what is called “heresy” by people who don’t know God very well.)
I don’t care much for a Christianity that is insipid and that fits so comfortably into this world, that finds an ability to be “good Americans.” I loved the wilderness. I’ve lived in the woods most of my life, though I have never been “backwoodsy.” Suburbia is just too tame for me. I love being on the cutting edge of what God is doing in the earth, part of the mighty moving of the river of God, of power, of life. I want to be front and center in the moment when the Father Himself fills His fully completed temple with the glory of His presence.
I want to know Him.
12. A True Foundation of Ministry
So, yes, the fullness and the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles. I know I said that, but it’s worth repeating. I don’t know what all that means, but I have tasted wondrous things of God in the midst of His people, and I know there is so much more. Actually, I thought of another large reason that fits this #12. That is that community would take the ministry the Lord has given me and place it on a far larger platform. A community, however small, is a place to which you can invite traveling ministries; I would invite some I know who move in precious anointings that most people don’t even know exist. It is a place where people can visit for services and conventions. It is a launching place to go out from and take the word of the revelation of Jesus Christ to others.
It is a place where you can tell people, “If you want to taste of what God is doing in the earth, then come and see.”
I tell you, I love it.