Exploring the idea
Theologian L. Gregory Jones, the dean of Duke Divinity School, says it is our purpose, our telos. And that is to cultivate thriving communities that bear witness to the inbreaking reign of God that Jesus announces and embodies in all that we do and are. This should shape the way we think about our lives, our institutions and the way we lead our institutions.
In a seven-part series, New Testament scholar C. Kavin Rowe writes that the Acts of the Apostles pressures us to see six features that are the essence of the church.
The early Christians used the advantages of such places to develop communities that could have easy contact with one another and could become, by means of their communication and interconnection, “brothers and sisters” in Christ, Rowe writes.
Rowe writes that in Acts being Christian is by its very nature a public confession and identity. Contrary to what we might normally think, “Christian” was not first used as an internal self-designation. It was instead a term coined by outsiders, by those who could see a thriving community and needed a word with which to describe them.
Making room for the weak is not a kind of “add-on” to the central mission of the church but is something integral and internal to its identity, Rowe writes. Acts displays what becomes a central feature of the thinking of the church’s leaders: they look beyond the need to “fix” a problem (of which there are several in Acts) and instead think about thriving in a much longer-term perspective.
Rowe writes that such work entails the intertwining of the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, the prefiguring and confirming role of Scripture, and the discerning work of the community’s leaders.
A thriving community is one that knows why it exists at all -- the content of its being as a community -- and is able to articulate to others this reason for its existence, Rowe writes. It has developed ways of teaching this articulacy to the new people who join the community so that there is a transmission of and continuity in community identity and mission.
The Book of Acts portrays Christian communities that thrive despite suffering -- not because of an affirmation of the meaningfulness of all difficulty but because of the hope they know from the pattern of Jesus’ life, Rowe writes.
Seeing the Idea in Practice
A congregation of low-income people, ex-cons, rural folk and military families embodies the features of thriving communities. Read more »
Strive creates collaborative partnerships among others, in this case to improve education for children in Cincinnati. Read more »
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Christine D. Pohl offers insight into four practices of Christian life: Embracing gratitude; making and keeping promises; living truthfully; and practicing hospitality.
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