Recently I read an article in the March issue of Christianity Today that made me want to stand up, throw my hat in the air, and holler AMEN!” In an excerpt from his book The Benedict Option, Rod Dreher says:
“If [the Church] wants to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith, both in thought and deed. We are going to have to learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West. We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs.”
He cites “community building” as a way to “be the church,” stating that small communities provide the motivation, stability, and challenge for spiritual growth. Dreher’s idea of community is a group that crosses boundaries such as denominations, tradition, theology (and I would add race and class) to create a “common front” against atheism, secularism, and the culture around us.
He points out that it is as easy to create such a community as it is to “start a book club.The purpose, however, would be much different: catechesis (teaching and passing on the Word of God), discipleship building, and intentional community building. Groups like these take seriously the importance of honoring diversity – which means to have respect differences and creating a space where serious convictions can be discussed without attempting to convert someone else. Dreher says that, when this community happens, the next step is almost always to serve – not just members of the community, but also people in their towns.
Rachel Balducci, a member of such a community, told Dreher that the gift of community is that it “builds a social structure in which it is easier for Christians to hear and respond to God’s voice and in which others hold them accountable if they lose the straight path.” Living so closely with others can strain one’s patience, but Balducci says that it has been good for her family. “If I were a hermit, just God and me, it would be easier to be a saint,” she says. “Living this way is good for my humility. It’s like being in a rock tumbler. It polishes you and wears away your rough edges.”
Those who have participated in the Apprentice Series know the value of community; a nitty-gritty world where spiritual formation takes place in an atmosphere of love and grace.
I believe we can form the communities Dreher describes inside the Church and outside the church. As we do, we will regain the passion to be the body of Christ – a body that provides understanding, healing, and service.
Anybody ready to join my group?
The Apprentice Series is three books written by James Bryan Smith: The Good and Beautiful God, The Good and Beautiful Life, and The Good and Beautiful Community. For more information on the Apprentice Program click here
For another view on renewing and revitalizing the Church, see an earlier post on “The Dones” – a discussion on “spiritual refugees.”