Meeting together once a week for worship and periodically on other days for bible studies is hardly sufficient to achieve the objectives of, “all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”, as per Ephesians 4:13. In order to make disciples, Jesus chose 12 men and lived with them for three years. Similarly, much more time together is required for God’s people to fulfill the “one- anothers” that we are exhorted to live out. The statement, “we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately”, made by Benjamin Franklin at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, is as much applicable today as it was then.
As the global economic crisis draws closer with each passing day, the need for Christians to radically change their way of life, in order to mitigate the effects, becomes increasingly more important. We need to live in ways that promote; the economic survival of families and the church, the nurturing of the body, mind, and spirit, the maturing of the body of Christ, and life changing personal outreach to the lost and hurting around the world. We need to return to living interdependently, meaning that we need to form communities that depend on one another, in a spirit of harmony and unity, to achieve the common goals aforementioned. The means to achieve this interdependent life form the acronym SHARED and can be outlined as follows;
S-Sustainable life-The current method of huge factory farms that use chemical fertilizers, deadly pesticides, and GMO seeds to provide us with food is not only unhealthy for our bodies, but is also unsustainable. Year after year, we are losing our topsoil to erosion and our bodies are becoming fatter and sicker because the nutrients and minerals have become depleted in the foods that we eat. So, to feel satisfied, we must eat more of this high calorie, low nutrient food, and the result is an ever increasing load on our bodies. In order to circumvent this problem, we must return to increasing the number of smaller farms that use sustainable practices that enhance the soil naturally so that we can grow food that provide our bodies with the necessary nutrients they need to remain healthy. Since we wouldn’t need to eat as much of this healthier food to feed our bodies what they need, there would be more to share with others around the world who don’t have the financial means to provide for themselves. We, as Christians, must recognize that, the Earth is the Lord’s and we are only stewards of it for a short time. If we really examined the way that our food is produced, could we honestly say that God would be pleased. If our answer is no, then to continue in the way that is not pleasing to Him would grieve His heart. In the book of James, it says that the man who knows the good that he ought to do, but doesn’t do it, sins. A video on youtube, called Food Inc., shows just how far our food system has become corrupted. It’s an important watch to understand the necessity to regain control of what goes into our mouths. A man who has sought God’s guidance on this matter and who has implemented a God honoring, effective way to produce food is Paul Gautschi. His methods can be read about on his Back to Eden website or you can take one of his many garden tours on youtube. Just do a search under back to Eden garden tour.
H-Holy life- 1 Peter 1:16 says “It is written, “be holy, because I am holy.”” Holiness is defined as dedicated or consecrated to God-a life that is pure and where sin is quickly dealt with through confession and repentance. This holy life is only possible through daily submission to the power of the Holy Spirit. We are commanded in Ephesians 5:18 to be “filled” with the Holy Spirit. We can best facilitate this by preparing fertile ground through daily study of the Word of God and prayer. We also need the body of Christ interacting with one another on a more frequent basis in a family setting to model this holy living by word and by example. Colossians chapter 3 and 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 are very instructive towards achieving this goal.
A-Affordable life-Actively seeking ways to live on less, recognizing that those temporarily in charge of this earthly kingdom have practiced unsound economic principles which has led to the erosion of the purchasing power of our currency. This has created a situation that makes it necessary, for those who go it alone, to have to work long hours just to survive. Instead, we can choose to live simply, interdependently and pool our resources in a sharing community. This would decrease our expenses and dramatically lower our overall cost of living. Living debt free is in accordance with Romans 13:8, which says; “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.” Practicing a more affordable, simplified life will also leave more money that can be invested in the kingdom of God through providing the necessities of life to those in need around the world. We would then be freed up to travel, as a community of believers, to poor countries to share the necessities of life with communities in need. These necessities are the ones that we take for granted everyday and include; nutritious food, clean water, suitable shelters, clothing, the Word of God, and a purpose in life. How we are to honor God in this regard is answered in Isaiah 58:7, “is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
R- Radical life-Defined as very new or different from the traditional or ordinary. Romans 12:2 is the directive; “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Ephesians 4:17, also says, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” Jesus himself demanded of His followers to live radically different. He said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37, 38. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29. A good illustration of this can be found on youtube -Francis Chan rope illustration and balance beam illustration. If we as Christians, live in a manner that is no different from the man of the world, then we have adopted their world view. Rather, we should be living in ways that has the man of the world remarking, “those Christians have strange ways, they think differently, they act differently, and they have different values.” So it was in the early church and as a result, they turned the world upside down.
E-Edifying life- We are to build each other up in the faith. That is the main purpose of Christians gathering together, using the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us to build each other up. This is in accordance with Ephesians 4:12, 13, “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” This is to be the continuing and enduring work of the church. More mature believers would model Christ like behavior through daily interactions and set a pattern of the Christian life for the less mature believers to emulate, thereby encouraging growth of the whole body of Christ.
D-Duplicating life- The main goal of the church expressed inwardly is to edify itself or to manifest Christ amongst itself through the spiritual gifts given to the body of Christ. The main goal of the church expressed outwardly is to duplicate itself or to increase Christ in the world through the lives of Spirit filled believers. This too is best done while living in community where God is present among His people on a daily basis. A Spirit filled community of believers, in my opinion, is the best means to model Christianity to a lost and hurting world by bringing them into community and witnessing to them through the purity of our lives and by our deeds of love.
Living the SHARED life, in my opinion, is the best way to live out the life that God has called us to. We could live about 7 months of the year in Canada and for those of us who are able, we could travel to poor countries and spend about 5 months developing community life there. Those who could not go would remain year round to maintain the functioning of the community. It is a self sacrificing life that seeks to invest the material treasures that we have on earth into the lives of those who have need, in order to gain spiritual treasures in heaven. Jesus said that we should not lay up treasures for ourselves on earth where moth and rust destroy, but to lay up treasures in heaven where they are eternal. He also said that selling our possessions and giving to the poor was the means by which we would lay up treasure in heaven. He was not talking about our salvation, which is by grace, but rather our rewards in heaven, which we attain by the way that we live our lives on earth. I am looking for other followers of Christ who believe this and are willing to live it out for His sake and His coming kingdom. By living sustainably, humbly, and communally, we can better provide for ourselves and the needs of those around the world.
I believe that living in community is both more effective and more efficient than living independently and attending once a week the one of many churches that exist in every city. It is very costly to support a building and staff to worship just once a week. I believe that there is a place for corporate worship, but I am in favor of one church building per city with worship services and ministering opportunities operating 7 days per week. The ministering services operating out of the building could provide opportunities for once idle pew warmers in our current worship services to use their spiritual gifts in a setting that would fit their particular gift. This is a more efficient and effective use of a building while drastically reducing costs. We don’t need paid pastors anymore. We have access to tens of thousands of excellent sermons online, and besides, learning is best done with your bible open, on your knees, and your heart and mind open to God and what He has to say. How many really remember last week’s sermon anyways. Learning occurs best as you live daily with other more mature believers and follow their examples. Those who have the gift of teaching and are comfortable speaking to a large audience can do so voluntarily and on a rotational basis. I have more to say on more effective and efficient church operation, but I don’t want to digress too much from my main emphasis of community living, but I will leave you with one last thought. I am greatly opposed to the ecumenical movement, but I greatly support the uniting of true believers in Jesus Christ. I think that the contemporary church continues to suffer from the 1Corinthians 3 syndrome on dividing over insignificant matters and losing sight of the more important matters. The apostle Paul’s solution is found in 1Corinthians 4:6, “Do not go beyond what is written”. If we truly want to obey our Lord’s prayer found in John 17, then we will take great pains to work towards unity in the body of Christ. Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed: “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”