Let me tell you a short true story.
Once upon a time waaaay back in the late 60s the Holy Spirit turned up at a normal Baptist chapel in the sleepy English countryside. Things started kicking off big-time. Soon many of the hairy hippy freaks from round about came by the bike/car/busload to see what the fuss was all about. This caught the attention of some straight-laced Christians looking for something more than their stuffy straight-lacedness.
Many of them found Jesus, and it changed them. People started living together, sharing their time, money, cars… In one house they put all their money in a teapot and lived out of it. God was doing something and they were going to be part of it. Extravagant generosity became normal and people saw each other as family. In 1974 this new melting pot sparked the fusion of a radical new community. The church started buying up big houses and living together like families.
Of course the journey certainly wasn’t without plenty of mistakes and difficulties, but 42 years later this community is still relatively strong. Today sharing is still very much in our blood.
This is the community the four of us now call home.
Now we’re a little more organised, maybe too organised.
I’ve heard someone describe the common life-cycle of churches thus: man ❭ movement ❭ machine ❭ monument. It seems to make sense, so I thought I’d try to work out how these things progress from one stage to another. This is what I came up with:
Man (or woman, of course) ❭
Anointing then ministry ❭
Exodus/physical death ❭
I reckon church is most effective when it hovers around the movement bit, releasing more movement-starters whenever it starts getting too large and clumsy. Now, I’d be very surprised if more slick organisation turned out to be the best way to get us back to the movement end of the scale!
Our wheels are so well oiled we could keep rolling on empty without realising.
We long to get back to the simplicity of a young community, a diverse family of friends living out of a teapot. In fact we bought a teapot for that exact reason. Every weekend we stay with Joz and co we drop a little moolah into it and take from it when we buy meals. It’s a little start.
Join the “back to the teapot” movement.
I’ll write soon with more specifics on the marks of our new common purse, the core qualities we intend it to be marked by.
I’ll leave you with a pointed quote from Jean Vanier:
“At the start of a community, God’s action can often be felt very tangibly – in the gift of a house or money, the arrival of the right person at the right time, or other external signs. Because of its poverty, the community is completely dependant on Him. It calls and He responds. It is faithful in prayer. It lives in insecurity, it welcomes whoever knocks on the door, it shares what it has with the poor, and tries to take all its decisions in the light of God. In these early days, it is often misunderstood by society. People judge it as utopian or quite simply crazy; to a degree, it is persecuted.
Then with time, people see that this crazy project is working; they discover its values and its radiance. The community is no longer persecuted; it is admired and becomes renowned. It has friends which meet its needs. Gradually, it becomes rich. It begins to make judgements. It becomes powerful.
Then there is danger. The community is no longer poor and humble; it is self-satisfied. It no longer turns to God as it did before; it no longer begs His help. Strong in its own experience, it knows how to go about things. It no longer takes decisions in the light of God; prayer becomes tepid. It closes its doors to the poor and to the living God. It becomes proud. It needs to be jolted and to go through some serious trials if it is to refind its child-like quality and its dependence on God.”
– Jean Vanier, Community and Growth
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