That's the title of a radical book (written by Frank Viola, “an influential voice in the contemporary house church movement”) which I am reading during this Christmas break. Though I may not agree with some of his proposals, what he pointed out regarding the practical implications of the church being an organism and not an organization resonated with my heart. God designed the church as an “authentic community.” It is rooted in the very relational, triune nature of God: “It is the unity of a community of persons who love each other and live together in harmony… They are what they are only in relationship with one another… There is no solitary person separated from the others; no above and below; no first, second, third in importance; no ruling and controlling and being ruled and controlled; no position of privilege to be maintained over against others; no question of conflict concerning who is in charge; no need to assert independence and authority of one at the expense of the others. Now there is only fellowship and communion of equals who share all that they are and have in their communion with each other, each living with and for the others in mutual openness, self-giving love, and support; each free not from but for the others. That is how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are related in the inner circle of the Godhead.”
And this is the very community that our Lord Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that we would enjoy as believers: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21, ESV) We can get a taste of this heavenly community on earth when we actively partake in a small group. (In Makati Gospel Church, we call them Circles of C.A.R.E. or COCs) It’s more than a Bible study (important as it may be). It’s more than discussing what we learned from Sunday’s sermons or from the material at hand. It’s more than having a meal or coffee together (which we usually label as “fellowship”). It’s a sharing of each other’s lives, where we can cry and laugh together, where we are held accountable, where we experience the “one another” commands of the Bible, where we see Christ at work in each other’s lives and in the whole group. That’s why I pray that this coming New Year, we will all decide to join a COC.
Brethren, may we all enjoy authentic community!