Forming Faith: Community

September 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Posted in: Forming Faith Tags: Christine Pohl, forming faith, community

Like most, I’m ambivalent about community when it comes to practicing it. I’m fully in favour of Community’s commitment to community but, if I’m honest, I find it difficult to embrace it fully in the way that God intends. As with other appointments I like to order my schedule of community participation in the way that best serves me. If it’s not convenient then practicing community becomes secondary, optional.

Yet, I can also flip to the other extreme and get frustrated with those who seem not to care about community at all. What are you doing belonging to this church if you don’t want to commit to some kind of participation?

I guess you could say that I’m a “fair-weather friend” when it comes to living into community: sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I’m not alone in this, of course. It’s a culture-wide and malignant condition whose epidemiology traces back to individualism and consumerism among other Western pathogens. But that’s just the point. As a Christ-follower I should be struggling against this condition; at the very least, I should be welcoming the inoculations I receive that come in the form of my community group and sermons on the characteristics of the church. To my embarrassment, I don’t always struggle against it nor welcome the inoculations.

A real help in understanding the condition of my condition has come in Christine Pohl’s Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us, available in the church library. In this award-winning 178-page book, Pohl examines 4 practices – gratitude, promise-keeping, truthfulness, and hospitality – that make community possible. With each practice she first lays out a biblical understanding, then suggests how the practice is at odds with our culture, examines the complications that come with practicing the practice and, finally, goes deeper to explore what weakens and strengthens the practice. Real-world examples make this book invaluable and a good read.

Reading Pohl on how groups and communities must be intentional about using these practices also led me to examine myself. The inverse of gratitude, for example, is envy and Pohl’s discussion of this complication struck very close. Not always comfortable reading but certainly eye-opening!