The first time it hit me that I was missing something was during a mission trip Africa. A Kenyan pastor was taking us around to a few homes of members in his congregation. I stood in the kitchen (a half-enclosed shed with a fire pit in the middle of the structure), and I learned about how families and friends would gather around the meal being cooked and would just be together.
More recently, I was in a small mountain community in Haiti affected greatly by the earthquake. With so many families who lost homes, the community came together and made a list of who needed their house to be rebuilt… and they began to build. Nearly three years later, they are still building, and won’t stop until everyone has been taken care of.
Then I return home, and I shut myself into a house where I only know the names of a handful of neighbors.
We need community. We need intentional community.
In his new book, The Intentional Christian Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus, David Janzen talks about what it means to live in community with each other. He makes a strong case for why “intentional Christian community” fills a need that we have:
“A longing for deeper community is growing in our land. Many observant Christians have lamented that, despite the hype of worship and glitz of church building and programs, the lives of most American church members look very much like the rest of the world.”
This ‘longing for deeper community is something that I sense. I often believe that there must be more. There must be something that I’m missing. Janzen continues,
“Our church scene is so different from the first centuries of the Jesus movement, which was notorious for its familial affection and sharing across class and ethnic lines, with a reputation for feeding the urban poor and supporting widows to serve the church…”
Janzen’s book is rightly titled as a handbook. It’s a reference guide for showing us how nurture and grow intentional Christian community.
The best part is that Janzen is using his experience spanning the last five decades in everything from playing basketball with a regular, small group to living in communities as part of the New Monasticism movement. He’s experienced some great successes in forming and functioning in communities, and has had some devastating failures. All of them leading to the wisdom that he shares today for build strong, intentional communities.
I’m not sure that I’m ready to pack everything up, and move to a large piece of farmland with a bunch of other people who are committing to live, work, and worship together. But I am gleaning some incredible wisdom about how I can develop a stronger sense of Christian community right where I’m at. Janzen has me thinking long and hard about what it means to do life together with other Christians. We simply were not made to live in silos, separated from one another.
“Every group that hopes to be good news for the world must have an intentional life together that will be different from the world. Or, posed the other way around, a group that is like the dominant society has no good news to offer it.”
Let’s change the world. Let’s be an intentional community.
Review for the Patheos Book Club Roundtable Discussion on David Janzen’s The Intentional Christian Community Handbook.
For more information about the Patheos Book Club, click here.