being life together

July 30, 2008

A catchphrase for the idea of community in Christian circles has been doing life together. I remember how appealing that phrase sounded to me the first time I heard it. I loved the idea of being so safe and intimate with a group of people. I recalled the days of living in the dorms in college where I was as comfortable in my neighbors’ suite as in my own.

Lately, the phrase has troubled me a bit. It falls short of being a description of what the mission of the church is. If the notion is gripped too tightly, it can become a consumer oriented version of Christian community. Christian community must always be focused not just on relationship with each other, but on shared mission together.

In The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch describes this community of shared mission as communitas:

“Communitas is therefore always linked with the experience of liminality. It involves adventure and movement, and it describes that unique experience of togetherness that only really happens among a group of people inspired by the vision of a better world who actually attempt to do something about it.” (pg 221)

The church exists as an agent of the Kingdom of God. Our mission is to make the way of Jesus known…to put Life on display. Rather than hold on to the phrase doing life together, I am holding on to the idea of being life together. For me, this captures the idea that community, or communitas, must be relationships that are focused on a shared mission. Our relationships are not exclusively focused in toward each other, but alongside each other as Life is demonstrated.

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