Sunday, 4 May 2008


- I am captivated by community. I have written elsewhere, I think genuine Christian community offers something unique, I think community is not an optional extra for Christians, I would affirm, up to a point, that 'local church is the hope for the world' (Hybels), I find in architectural discourse the sheer confusion regarding the nature of 'community' cries out for a Christ figure to cornerstone their vainly hopeful 'community centres' etc. Within a Christian understanding, all relationships have a third party, (Mat18:20, Ecc4:8-12, Jam5:16 etc), every Christian is obligated to show grace to others (Rom1:14), each understands suffering, discomfort within a god-glorifying narrative (Rom8:18 etc) and no Christian need rely on another human for identity and affirmation etc etc…

- Community and unity are not exactly the same, I hope I can share some of my thoughts that I have had grappling with what community is, to maybe lend something to the unity question. I'm not in Cambridge I haven't even read, From Cambridge to the World, my understandings of things there are largely second hand, and they continue to baffle me, this issue of unity in cambridge, whose christian union historically and now makes disunity something of an art form, and it deeply pains me.

- Unity is not some pedantic legalistic end in itself - it is to the glory of God, and is arguably *the* outworking of an obedience of faith which is the (1John) third affirmation/assurance of the truth we hold to. Being one, being united, is the substance of Christian living, paralleled perhaps to marriage as a picture of God and the church. Disunity is to lie about God's character and to make Jesus out to be a liar.

- Out of that we might say unity is not a resting state or default, it needs to be *done*, we derive a theology of the trinity out of what we see Jesus do, and the way that he related to his father.. This Trinitarian God we say we believe in is attested to in the Father's love and Jesus' obedience, and this we know through his suffering, he was 'slaughtered' as a some measure of level of that radical obedience. If this is the measure of loving unity Jesus prays for, should we as a church of a city then be willing to die for one another?

- Disunity, even non-community, is not a neutral position, nor one in which the work of the enemy is absent. Jesus' prayer is also for the protection of his followers, as there are forces at work to divide, precisely because a unity of Christian believers would speak more gloriously of God. And so in this way the already proactive nature of movement towards unity, must also be combined with a conception of it as a spiritual battle.

- Unity is not abstract, you do not sign a DB that includes a unity clause, it is lived daily, it involves suffering. And God is glorified by community in tangible way, it is a manner of being in the world, which will moderate the fruitfulness of a group. Acts2:42-47 they ate together.. and the Lord added daily to their number. There is a danger here in citing this passge that it becomes a prosperity/numbers game, and that unity becomes a point scoring rote of works to appease God and glorify man. And while it is clearly not this in my own my mind, I'm not entirely sure I convey it. Anybody? God gives us the gospel to bring us to him and his glory, but also to bring us together, that he might be glorified. Making the two one (eph2:15 - stop me if I am misusing this..)

- Unity is expressed in community in practical ways, eating together, car-sharing, accountability, living together.. and through the lens of the environment, you use less resources, less oil, less green-field development.. I'm off on a tangent maybe.. these things glorify God? And also the accountability thing I touched on in the porn post, in relation to and Lauren Winner's Real Sex… Community is the context for discipleship, which is a framework for holiness and holiness brings God glory? Life lived radically together catalyses holiness? Not sure.. Soundbites soundbites..

- Is the problem of unity born out of the bounded set nature of doctrinal basis unity, rather than the centred set nature of the centrality-of-the-cross aim of these things in the first place?

- I'm confused myself as to how I would delimit the gospel, what is it and where does it go. There is scope, even while keeping the cross central, for disunity coming out of different takes on what is the gospel, what does Christian life then consist in, what does one do between new-birth and death? A problem of a reductionistic gospel is that it sees unity as neither a means nor an end to any biblically mandated effect. There is also a problem with a individualistic gospel, which emphasises *my* relationship with god, *my* salvation, *my* buddy Jesus.. maybe a corporate notion of salvation needs to be emphasized.. bible on that anyone?

- The bible talks in terms of a church in a place, the church in Ephesus etc, imagining this today, the church in Nottingham, am I being unrealistic? I'd love to see that sort of unity, (not at the expense of diversity in form and style between groups) but it is a paradigm shift away from this present understanding.. perhaps hope08 will effect a move this way. Word Alive I thought began to show a way forward for unity, with New Frontiers, Soul Survivor and the Conservative brigade all on one stage.

- There was an interesting note about fellowship by don carson at nwa, where he noted regarding 1Jn1:3 - "(approx)'Fellowship has become a plastic term based on who it is with: 'Christians', rather than the nature of the friendship, but in the original it was more like a business partnership, hands-in, buying into an enterprise" The uniqueness of Christian relationships speaks of the gospel to which they hold and the mission with which they have been commissioned. Jesus' (Jn13:35) prayer for his followers that - be known by their love for one another and the Jn17:21-23 purpose clause that the world might know and believe, makes the unity imperative and purposiveness abundantly clear.

- One lunchtime at nwa the question was amusingly raised of how much the education of all the wordalivers cost (our guess ~£140m) - the overwhelming majority being white-middle-class, almost exclusively university-educated and a significant proportion privately-schooled. I'm not making this a case against private education here at all (saved for another post..), but more observing the way we tend to clique on social grounds, become theologised in the tradition of that social clique and then conflate the two... I wonder if there is an element of this in the CICCU/Fusion thing, not necessarily in terms of race or class, but perhaps something of preserving social or stylistic tradition on 'theological' grounds… What are the demographic differences statistically between average Fusion members and CICCUers? Perhaps this is irrelevant.

- - "Q and A John Piper and Matt Chandler" (at about 47:00ish) they discuss intentional methods of promoting racial diversity in churches. The divide we agonise over is not racial but we are similarly impoverished in each camp if there are sociologically based camps and a trajectory towards cliquism.

- The repainting seminar illustrated the way damage is being done by those who would label 'spirit'/'bible' Christians, rather than by those who plod along in their own varying degrees of emphasis. This then drifts into questions about the validity para-church and the damage of non-intergenerational unity etc.. How many of you pray with your parents? And how do we avoid generational ghettoes? Enough…

How to unity
- It was interesting to see the efforts in Oxford, Vaughn Roberts and Charlie Cleverly swapping churches to preach for a Sunday in the other's church - Ebbes/Aldates, which represent conservative and charismatic ends of the spectrum there.
- Eat together.. a hospitality imperative..
- Gandhi's hungerstrike
over Indian/Pakistani disunity during Indian independence. I don't know much about Gandhi, I watched the film of his life a couple of weeks ago and I don't know how much of it is mythologised, but he certainly seemed to grasp aspects of Jesus teaching in a compelling way, in the power of a man unafraid to die and in the dignity of human life and in the desire that men be reconciled to one another.. Even if it is exaggerated or falsified, the film made for me a striking parable.
- Battle at the level of treasuring Christ.

- I would place unity really quite high on a list of emphases, unity being the embodiment of love, where love covers over a multitude of sins. (Prov 10:12, 1Pet4: 8)

Col3:12-15 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Rom5:5-6 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

1Jn3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

1Jn4:20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot] love God whom he has not seen.
"…'revival' amongst 'believers' is not conversion, rather, it could be said to be a change of attitude towards a more outward-looking life concerned with the happiness-of-others, their joy, their fullness of life, and this would form community, this would form church, in place of doctrinal debate and denominational feuding would come a preoccupation with the wellbeing of people outside and inside the church…"

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