Empowered to Live in Christian Community
– by Bob Tedesco
One of the first recorded results of Pentecost was the new church, the new community. Pentecost is seen as the birthday of the church, and the church is, at the beginning, a community. I use that word because of the way it is described in Acts: its “hallmarks” are community-like and it is not simply a worshiping congregation.
Some “hallmarks” of the early church:
- It was different. It would be called “the Way” by outsiders. Outsiders would comment, “See how they love one another.” They shared their goods. (Acts 2:44-45)
- Their contact and times together were frequent. “…day after day they met together as a group…” (Acts 2:46 Today’s English Version)
- It had a family look to it. They called each other brothers and sisters.
- A rarely used word (agape) would be needed to describe their love of the brethren.
- A strong word (koinonia) would be needed to describe their relationships.
- They shared meals together.
- Their families were centered in the family of God.
The Number One Grace of Pentecost
I believe that this early community was the #1 grace of Pentecost…this is your sign, this is your wonder, and this is your miracle: people loving one another in Christ and centering their lives in Him, in a common way of life.
To support this conclusion, I ask you to consider this: in 1 Corinthians 12-19, the various gifts are discussed and we have the “more excellent” way of love described in chapter 13. Various gifts are ranked and compared; prophesy is given a high place. These giftings or gifted persons are compared to being parts of a body: less noble parts, more beautiful parts, etc.
But, this whole discussion of “parts” presupposes the body and it insists that we upbuild the body with our gifts. Therefore, the number one grace or result of Pentecost is the body. All of the gifts and roles are in support of and for the upbuilding of the body. Gifts such as healing or prophecy should never be “stand alone” phenomena, but are a part of and an expression of the body. To wander the countryside prophesying misses the main intent of Pentecost: the body itself.
Koinonia: Spiritually Bonded Community
Many years ago, the great Christian teacher, Bob Mumford, tackled the topic of “koinonia”. After five or six tapes with a number of quotes from Greek scholars, he still seemed at a loss to define the word “koinonia”, which weakly translates as “fellowship” in Acts 2:42. There seems to be a spiritual bond that happens among those who are baptized in the Spirit. It seems mysterious and beyond our understanding…a bond of unity. We often notice a certain inner celebration when we are together. It can be noticed at retreats, summer camp, and Lord’s Day celebrations. Children “catch” it at retreats, and we do ourselves and our children a disservice to miss these yearly events. It seems that the more the event is focused on the Lord, the more noticeable is the inner celebration and bonding.
This inner magnetism or grace can even have a regional or international expression as we gather with other members of the Sword of the Spirit at the summer conference or international leaders’ events. Our children experience that bond at regional youth events, and, in a very real way, they understand our “vision and call” more by this experience of koinonia.
As a personal example, I have two friends, Jim and Connie, who live over 30 miles from me. We are in the People of God Community together, but we are from different locations, somewhat different geography, different families, different parishes, different social circles, and have different hobbies. Yet, when we are together something inside of me resonates, celebrates, and rejoices with them. My covenant with them acknowledges what is already there: a spiritual bonding in the Spirit: koinonia.
Over the years, I think, it has been a mistake of the charismatic renewal to overly focus on the gifts and to miss this koinonia unity. It is a magnetism, yet it can be ignored if we walk away. The attraction can be broken or weakened by inattention. I believe the writer of Hebrews 10:25 warned about this when he said, “… not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some.”
We should nourish, stir to life, and protect the unity (Ephesians 4:3). We should anticipate the purposes of the Holy Spirit and we should adjust our decisions accordingly. (See Joseph’s responses in Matthew 1:19,24, 2:14 and 2:19-23.)
We are first and foremost empowered to live in a local, worshiping, and directable people who will love God and one another in a common way of life. By doing so, we both anticipate and participate in the purposes of the Holy Spirit.
This article is excerpted from Essays on Christian Community, © 2010 Bob Tedesco. The book can be purchased at Tabor House.
Bob Tedesco is past President of the North American Region of the Sword of the Spirit. He is a founder of the People of God community in Pittsburgh PA, USA, and has been one of its key leaders for the past 40 years. Taken from Living Bulwark June/July 2017 edition.