Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cultivating communities

Cultivating communities is like cultivating the earth. It requires regular attention, watering and protection from harmful elements. All people need love, instruction and protection whether they are eight weeks or eighty years old. People also need people but more importantly, people need God. People and creation are not the only things that need to be cultivated; cultures must also be cultivated. Attention must be shown to the developing morals, values, institutions and structures of every culture if civilization is to prosper. Communities are comprised of peoples from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures. In short, people plus culture equals community. However, not all communities are created equal. Some communities are redeemed and others are not. As a result, human cultures allow for the flowering of human creativity and debauchery. As a result, there are things in culture that need celebration, instruction, protection and condemnation.

As a redeemed community, we, the Church, are created for cultivation in a cultural, spiritual and relational sense. In the cultural sense, we should contribute to the progress of human culture as others do, through work and welfare. In addition, as products of God’s creation, our cultures have been created to be enjoyed. As a result, we should cultivate creation and culture through both our labor and our leisure. There is not one aspect of life in which we are not intended to glorify God. We are called to honor Him in everything (1 Cor 10.31; Col 3.17, 23) and to do so redemptively (2 Cor 5.18-20). Therefore, in cultivating community we should engage labor, leisure and charity redemptively, not uncritically or unlinked to our Christian worldview. With this redemptive approach to living comes the need for Christians to engage in regular worship and fellowship, promoting a shared delight in the Creator and Redeemer himself. To that end, our cultivation of community is also relational. We are relational because God is relational. The Trinity is a being-in-relation whose source of happiness is Self. Created in God’s image, humanity hungers for authentic, soul-stirring community. It is the Trinity that sets the pattern for Christian community, a community that is Christ-centered. In the context of Christ-centered community, Spirit-led disciples minister to one another, extending love and promoting faith. As the overflow of rich and regularly cultivated community, we can extend our love and compassion to those who have not experienced redemption. This can be done locally and globally, which is precisely why we talk of cultivating “communities” (plural). By following the Spirit and depending on Christ as our model and means for discipleship, we can redemptively engage a variety of peoples and cultures in order to win them to the supreme satisfaction of bringing glory to God. As a result, we participate in cultivating, contributing and redeeming the communities of the earth. We believe that planting churches is God’s primary design for cultivating communities in this world because it is the church that bears the message and meaning of true community to the world. By announcing and enacting the gospel, we promote Christ-centered community which will last forever. Therefore, we commit ourselves to this vision for the good of all peoples and the glory of God.


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