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Building Christian Community

This article by Olga Soler is the chapter “Summing It Up” in Creative Ways to Build Christian Community edited by Jeanne C. DeFazio and John P. Lathrop.

If ministry is only the work of professional clergy and is restricted to what goes on at a church service or a major Christian event, then the church is lost and doomed to implode and die in our century. Why? Because, though these things may serve God, the personal touch is often lacking in them. People think clergy pray because that’s what they are paid to do. Many people are church-phobic. Large gatherings may attract people, but they cannot keep them. Happily, there is more to church and ministry than these. Ministry is what the whole priesthood of true believers everywhere does every day in the course of their faithful lives. It is what they do because they love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. It is what they are because Christ lives in them, and they are his. Real church is not an institution or a corporation. It is a loving, hospitable family that reaches out to the world the way Jesus’ hands of love and healing did when he was in the world. So, if the answer is this simple, why do we need books like the one you are holding? We need them because the meaning of true ministry and church may be lost in the fray of the spiritual war that is raging for the conquest of this earth. We must keep taking it back to the biblical norm in order for all of us in the church to survive and join in the victory won by our precious Lord.

No amount of money, sophisticated projects, grand displays, or facilities with impressive or elaborate architecture will make up for the power of what God can do with a community that is functioning in the way that Christ intended it to: being continually enriched and expanded by tapping into all the gifts God has given to its members. Christ told us how to do it in his word, and the value of this plan has not diminished through the centuries. If we are to each other and to the world what he wants us to be, the harvest will soon be reaped, and we will all go home.

It all begins when we realize how truly precious real community is. In the words of Dietrich Bonheoffer, as he reflected on fellowship from a cell in a Nazi prison,

It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that at any day now may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: it is grace, nothing but grace that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.1

Yes! When every job possible is automated, every materialistic need met, every gadget conceivable invented, and people have seen every special effect on film in a depersonalized futuristic utopia of science fiction, the personal touch will still be in demand. Stories told by human beings will still mean something. A letter written by hand will still be valued. A meal cooked and shared in a hospitable home or church will still be a delight. A song sung by a voice near you or the mystery of a work of human art will still draw people in. A prayer or teaching shared person to person will still heal, edify, encourage, and inspire. The love shown by another person will still be an incomparable thing. How does one create a real community with Christ within? By taking all the gifts he gives us and helping us share them with each other and with the world.

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2015

About the Author: Olga Soler is director, writer, and performer for Estuary Ministries, a Christ-centered performing arts ministry dealing with biblical themes, inner healing, abuse, and addictive problems. She holds degrees in education and communications with equivalent studies in theology and psychology. She has authored, co-authored, and illustrated several books including Tough Inspirations from the Weeping Prophet and The Body.

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