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INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY A Premise
Whoever claims to live in Him must walk just as Jesus did. 1 John 2:6
OFFERED BY MICHAEL HOGG
COMMUNITY FOR THE KINGDOM-MINDED
WHO MAY NOT BE CHURCH-MINDED
“Whoever claims to live in him must walk just as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6
Welcome Getting Started
1: The Difference of Intentional Community 2: The Involvement of Intentional Community 3: The Fraternity of Intentional Community 4: The Growth of Intentional Community 5: The Obedience of Intentional Community 6: The Discipline of Intentional Community 7: The Doctrine of Intentional Community
“ . . . give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
I must first give thanks to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who is moving me in a journey I did not envision or even knowingly desire but a journey into what it means to be a part of His spiritual community and where His Father is moving in our world. I am indebted to those who have encouraged and supported me but also inspired and challenged me. I cannot predict the outcome of this experience save that it will certainly end in His presence where all will be revealed. Michael Hogg
All verses are taken from the New International Version of the Holy Bible, unless otherwise noted.
First, you must understand that I love the church. I have served it for over forty years and have enjoyed the comfort of its fellowship and the support of its people. It is out of that love that I sought to understand what has been happening to the church. Men much wiser than myself have shared the same concern their work predominates much of current Christian thought. What follows is not an alternative to the established institutional church or a criticism of the same. It is an observation and appreciation for what God is evidently dong in our communities of faith. It is a response to the crisis now present in our churches. “A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith.”
The proposals found in this paper are in recognition of the spiritual desire found in all people of faith and seeks to compliment that desire and work to accomplish that to which we were saved. “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:2–4 I ask that those who read these proposals keep that priority in mind and consider how even this can add to the work of the Kingdom of God. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son [Jesus] he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
I believe that Kingdom of God is among us but can only be found in that personal journey that is made with God through His Son Jesus Christ. There is a transformation offered by God that cannot be fashioned by any of man’s creations but only in the spiritual rebirth that comes from God. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12–13 It is my prayer that the Intentional Community offers a means by which some of the followers of Christ may experience that rebirth and find their personal mission in revealing of God’s Kingdom to a world lost in darkness.
There is a stark reality in our churches that we may not want to admit. Despite our programming and the good intent of its people, we are seeing a decline in the number of disciples being formed in our church bodies. “The Christian church in America is comprised of many converts but shockingly few disciples.” George Barna
His research has identified all too many common symptoms of this plight. No Spiritual Priority. When Christian adults were asked to identify their most important goal for life, not a single person said it was to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ or to make disciples of Christ. No Spiritual Plan. Less than one in five ‘born again’ adults had any specific and measurable goals related to their personal spiritual development. No Biblical Roots. When given the basic teachings from the Bible, only 1% of Christian adults embraced those teachings as being biblical. No Absolutes. A minority of adult and teen believers possess a biblical world view as the basis for their decision making or behavior. “Few believers said their church lacked programs but most Christians complained that little is done to effectively motivate and facilitate their development as genuine and fervent followers of Jesus Christ. Our surveys among pastors showed that they dismissed such views as excuses and as inaccurate, but the bottom line still remains unchanged: most Christians are simply not making progress in their personal spiritual development.” George Barna It should come as no surprise that many of these tenuous disciples eventually fade from the church. Matt Chandler defines them as De-churched and offers a reasonable explanation for these departures from the established church. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzTm3W2Ai7s My hope is that the intentional community can offer a means by which the de-churched and even the disenfranchised can reconnect to the community of faith and renew both their commitment to the church and to fostering other disciples.
A DEFINITION: Intentional Community is a smaller assembly of people (10 to 30) who meet outside the sanctuary setting in private homes, restaurants, coffee shops and even in unused rooms on church campuses. By its definition, those attending must intend to pursue a commitment to an authentic life with Jesus Christ that will result in spiritual life and discipleship. They will represent a counter-cultural response to their neighbors, family and friends who have become disillusioned with the so-called American Dream.
The Difference of Intentional Community
As previously stated, Intentional Community is not a replacement for the established church. What it offers is an opportunity the de-churched to renew their spiritual purposes in a climate that is strategically different to their traditional experience. Those differences are by design.
Colossians 2:2-3 (NIV) My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Intentional Community removes some of the hindrances perceived in the traditional church experience. The intentional community does not do programming. It assumes that God has already placed them in significant relationships with family, friends, coworkers and community where they may and should represent Christ. Fulfilling those roles provides their greatest opportunity to minister on Christ’s behalf and to represent Him to their world. It asks no more of them than to make their world their mission. The intentional community does not own buildings or property that depletes or distracts from the missional calling of the community. We meet in rented or borrowed spaces and own only materials sufficient to our teaching purposes. The intentional community does not compete with traditional church schedules. Members of this community may meet midweek as well as midday. By intent, we do not meet during the worship times of the traditional church to allow members to the opportunity to access and attend such services for their spiritual purposes The intentional community assembles only once a week. Yet, due to its smaller and more intimate size, informal fellowships and pastoral responses to its membership are flexible and more easily achieved. The intentional community makes good use of the today’s technology to allow the disciple to maintain a daily connection to the group and their study and support. Much of their resource material is digital and so available in real time.
The Involvement of Intentional Community
Intentional Community requires the engagement of every member of its fellowship. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NIV) What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. Smaller communities of faith by their size experience a higher level of intimacy and fellowship. The biblical sanction of the priesthood of all believers is capitalized in this environment. As baptized believers, all members of the community are expected to be led by the Holy Spirit in aiding the strengthening of the group. This is to be accomplished by the gifting of the Holy Spirit and to be received both within and without our worship experience. While there is a pastor or teacher to the community for the equipping of the community, that experience is achieved by the involvement and harmony of the entire community. Each brings to the table and each takes away from it. Intentional Community involves every member in the practice of their weekly gathering.
Acts 2:42 (NIV) They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. While the study of God’s Word follows a discipling plan, the sharing of God’s Word and the message to be gained requires a cooperative spirit from all the members. They are expected to prepare and participate in the sharing of all teaching. While the pastor or teacher engages in the care of his or her flock, the membership of the community is responsible for their own shepherding and fellowship. They are to practice the spirit of compassion and encouragement for one another as illuminated in the scriptures. The pastor is not hired to perform any other service than member save those legally required. The ordinance of baptism and communion is shared by the community. There are no church officers who distribute the emblems but a common body that break bread together and remember Him. Essential to involvement is the place of prayer in the lives of the community. It is both act of corporate worship and a commission of personal responsibility. Each member is expected to pray actively for those within and without the faith.
The Fraternity of the Intentional Community
John Eldredge said, “When scriptures talk about church, it means community…a shared life. They worship together, eat together, pray for one another, go on quests together. They hang out together, in each other’s homes.” Herein lies on of the defining opportunities for an intentional community. Because of their intimacy, they are more apt to share their real selves, be vulnerable to one another and experience an authentic relationship of life in the faith community. When they gather, their conversation is more likely to be honest in their discussion of real struggles and their search for a practical life of faith. As relationships develop and life is shared, it becomes possible to genuinely ‘encourage one another’ and ‘bear one another’s burdens’. Intentional Community deals with the reality of their lives and their faith over any sectarian need of the established church. There is no room for a disciple to hide themselves from the view and work of the body. Those who attend are aware of this reality and so are subject to it. They are expected to build those Christian bonds and engage themselves in the support of their Christian brothers and sisters.
The intentional community does not engage in the criticism of any other congregation or community of Christian faith. Quite the contrary, that fraternal spirit induces them to see them as comrades in the mission and calling of Christ.
Unlike the structure of the established church, there are no membership requirements in the intentional community outside their covenantal relationships. They are bound to Christ and to each other by their faith and love which are more binding than any signed record.
The Growth of the Intentional Community
The Intentional Community draws first from the fringes of the established church and then to the community at large. Then intentional community seeks to leverage the experience of the Kingdom-minded de-churched into an experience of viable Christian community that will foster evangelism and discipleship in its purest forms. Churches within the community will be consulted and, if willing, be engaged in developing a summary list of candidates for an intentional community. It will be made clear that this community is not in competition with their church but seeks to access and involve those who have drifted from their ranks. Whatever means is used to solicit the involvement of these Christians, the dynamics and covenantal relationships required will be explained with clarity. This is not a refuge for malcontents but a resource for those who still have a Kingdom heart. Likewise, the presentation to the community at large will reflect such a commitment. It is anticipated that the initial core of the community will be drawn from the church community. Informational and orientation experiences will be offered to aid those with interest to determine their involvement. The appeal of the intentional community may precipitate a larger response than anticipated. Consideration will have to be given to soliciting among the churched first to refine our expectations. Wolfgang Simson describes the potential of such an unencumbered community, “ …a church which does not need huge amounts of money, or rhetoric, control and manipulation, which can do without powerful and charismatic heroes, which is non-religious at heart, which can thrill people to the core, make them loose their tongues out of sheer joy and astonishment and simply teach us The Way to live; which has not only a message but is the message, will spread like an unstoppable virus, infect whatever it touches and cover the earth with the glory and knowledge of God.” Member of the community are not expected or even asked to invite others to their fellowship before they have first invited them to consider Christ. Only then can the community take them within their fellowship for the sole purpose of discipling them as they disciple themselves. The community does not invite people to come and see but challenges people to go and do. Those who may observe will in a timely manner be asked why they believe God has led them there and what they intend to do with that leading of God.
The Obedience of the Intentional Community
“ During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Hebrews 5:7–8 I do not have grandiose visions of what this community may accomplish. Though it may not sound leadership in nature, I tremble at what all may occur in this experience. But this I do know, it will come with a price not measure in earthly terms and reward us with riches still stored in heaven’s treasure house. Our ability to stay faithful to our relationship with God in Christ and our willingness to submit these things to God will determine His blessing and whatever glory we may give to the Father. With God’s help, we may return to the spirit of Christianity and replace ‘church growth’ with a wider vision of Kingdom growth. We my develop disciples instead of church members by focusing on spiritual formation rather than church programs. And we may as a community of faith move from prediction and planning to preparation for the challenges of this uncertain life and world. The Intentional Community must be accountable to the church at large. We must submit ourselves not just to Christ and one another but to good and godly men and women in the church at large who can give us accountability and with whom we may share the discoveries and blessings to be found.
It will be necessary to establish a board of directors to see to our legal responsibilities and to represent us to the church at large. They will aid in ensuring the credibility of the ministry and facilitate any larger outreach to the church community.
The intentional community will be cyclical by nature to allow for growth and to prevent stagnation of covenantal relationships. The community will periodically (18-36 months) purposely review itself and determine whether it should renew, rebirth or disband to fulfill God’s purposes. Members of the community may at anytime choose to return to a traditional church practice or exit the community but will be challenged at the end of the cycle to consider what God would have them do now.
The Discipline of the Intentional Community
“ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’” Matthew 4:4 The intentional community and disciple are centered on the Word of God. The cycle life of the community requires that we address certain disciplines and doctrines in that time. Some of the disciplines that will be sought include: Spiritual Awareness: The disciple is called to open himself to the light and Word of God to honestly and accurately understand where he is in his spiritual journey. Spiritual Management: The disciple is called upon to address the difficult emotions, expectations, temptations and rigors of the devoted life. Spiritual Development: The disciple is called upon to keep a life-long commitment to learning and growing and buildings one’s spiritual strength. Spiritual Mission: The disciple is called upon to discover and keep a sense of God’s purpose in his life, his family and his community. Spiritual Decision Making: The disciple is called upon to address the elements of godly decision making in his life and to learn from his failures. Spiritual Belonging: The disciple is called upon to nurture his relationships and to live in community with others including family, followers, mentors and friends. Spiritual Aloneness: The disciple is called to the regular practice of soul-shaping solitude and contemplation.
Growing Like Jesus
The Doctrine of the Intentional Community
Our desire is not create another church but to be the church and to please the Lord by what we do. “So we make it our goal to please him.” 2 Corinthians 5:9
Fulfilling that desire requires that we faithfully share that which was given us. The biblical foundations sought in the life of the community occur with a purposed plan that allows for the leading of God’s Spirit. The foundational goals sought for the community occur on the following timelines: Year One: A study of the basic teachings every believer should know to allow the disciple to understand the ‘big picture’ or worldview of God. A study of the habits we form, the sin we embrace, the forces we struggle against and overcome as they have been addressed by our victorious Lord. A study of the biblical elements key that lead to discovering the will of God and making spiritually wise decisions. Year Two: A study of deeper biblical teachings of Christ and the scriptures so that His Word may abide in their hearts. A study of the patterns of godly relationships in the home and with our loving God. An intense study of the Spirit-filled life that addresses the dynamics but allows the disciple to understand how to walk in the Spirit, grow in the Spirit, serve in the Spirit and share in the Spirit-filled life. Year Three: A study of the biblical principles for developing, reproducing and bearing lasting spiritual fruit. A study of spiritual parenting or discipling that allows you to intentionally invest in the lives of others in preparation for the decisions next in the intentional community.
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