Spiritual Community

Spiritual Community
January 17th

 Recap of Last Week:  We are made in the image of the communal God, but our culture is radically individualistic.  This shift stems from spiritual and systemic causes, particularly the ability to live independently from one another.  Technology is not a cause but an accelerant.  Depression emerged as an epidemic in our culture but not elsewhere because of this isolation.  We need a Sandlot community!

Key concepts this week:

  1. The church is critical in the development of spiritual community.
  2. Spiritual community, essential to our well-being, must be intentionally developed.


Thomas Paine, in The American Crisis, said, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.”  There is a high price to be paid for community today, but that dearness gives it its value.

What is spiritual community?  4 ideas.

1.  Spiritual Intimacy

Christ + Context + Communication = Spiritual Intimacy

Jesus and the 5,000, 70, 12, 3 and 1 (note the significance of all his intimate friends sharing his faith).  These can be divided into the following contexts:

Public – 100+ people at a shared event/experience.  Jesus & the crowds. In church, worship. 
Social – 20-70 people with a strong affinity.  Jesus w/ the 70.  In church, retreats, mission trips, youth groups, etc
Personal – 4-12 people revealing private info.  Jesus w/ the 12.  In church, small group.
Transparent – 2-4 people with vulnerability/openness.  Jesus w/ the 3.  In church, marriage, deep friendships, accountability or prayer partner.
Divine – Alone with God.  Jesus and the Father.  In church, prayer life.

Lack of focus on social and personal!

Matthew Kelly and the Seven Levels of Intimacy.  These are really the levels of communication:

1.  Cliché’s.  2.  Facts.  3.  Opinions.  4.  Hopes and Dreams.  5.  Feelings.  6.  Fears and Failures.  7.  Needs.

Connect the Context and the Communication to develop intimacy.

2.  Spiritual Togetherness

What did Jesus’ community look like?  Common purse (John 12:6), shared faith (John 6:68-9), shared purpose/mission (Luke 9 and 10), massive time investment.

Oikos (Greek for household) as a central community.  Who is your oikos, and who would it be most fun to do church with?

3.  Redeemable Community

What happens when the church lets you down?

This is inevitable.  What we do when it happens matters a great deal.  Matthew 18, John 21.

Keep working on your oikos – Jesus and his family.


Conversation: Discussion Questions

1.  In the New Testament, identity as God’s family was experienced in small house churches.  In our larger churches today, where do we experience “strong-group” identity?   

2.  What demands on your time and your life make experiencing tribe most difficult?  How can you make space for kingdom-community?  Hint: you will probably have to give up something that matters to you, and likely something “good.”

3.  Have you been part of a church community where you expected/wanted your group to weigh in on your major life decisions?  Describe or speculate on what blessings and challenges would be involved.



Live Poorly, Live Alone

Live Poorly, Live Alone
January 10th

Scripture References:
Genesis 2:18
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
The Sandlot – Did you have a community like this?  Did your kids?  Do you have a sandlot community today?
Two concepts:

  1. Our joy, purpose and identity are profoundly rooted in our relationships.
  2. Isolation from relationships removes our joy, purpose and identity.

Genesis 1:27 – we are made in the image of the communal God.  Genesis 2:18 – It is not good for man to be alone.  Yet our society is painfully and radically individualistic.
What is happening to cause this shift?
1.  Spiritual Component
- Sin, Satan, World – Good Omens and M25 London Motorway.
- All three cause us to drift apart, given the opportunity.  The Great Divorce by CS Lewis.
2.  System Component
- Agricultural and industrial advancements which lead to individual accumulation and make us no longer dependent upon one another.  Luke 12:13-21.
Death of the neighborhood via technological advancement – freedom at the cost of community.
Kids raised without a consistent community – multiple identity disorder.
Modern technology is not a cause but an accelerant.  Pace of technological advancement continues to exacerbate our isolation.
God’s design for us - 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Comparing the cost of community vs. the cost of isolation.
According to the World Health Organization, people in wealthy countries suffer depression at as much as eight times the rate they do in poor countries.
Financial independence leads to isolation, isolation to increased risk of depression.
We have shifted from intrinsic values (competence, authenticity, connection) to extrinsic values (wealth, mobility, independence).  We have exchanged the things of God for the things of this world.  Maybe this is at the core of the camel and the needle!
Changes starts with a philosophical shift; we are NOT designed to be alone.  We must explore what it means to be a body again.
Conversation: Discussion Questions
1.  Jim talked about the creeping isolation of “radical individualism” in our secular culture.  Name some examples you see, noting that these might not all be “bad” in themselves.

2.  When and where do you feel most isolated?  When and where do you feel most connected or needed?

3.  We talked about the revivalism movement in the American church and it’s resulting de-emphasis on church and community.  What aspects of the revivalist movement do we want to affirm?  What aspects are (unintentionally) destructive? 

4.  What is the church’s role in your spiritual life?  In what ways is the church your family, your tribe, or your spiritual shop?

5.  Share a time when you experienced deep community.  This could be anything from a week-long trip to a life-long relationship.

6.  Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God.  If a child asked you to describe the kingdom of God, how would you describe it to him/her?

7.  What does it mean to participate in the kingdom of God, or the tribe of Jesus?  Is this more or less than showing up on Sunday mornings?

Live Well, Live Together: Class Summary

Live Well, Live Together
Teachers: Rachel Semrow, Jim Gates

Course Objectives:
1.      Explore the power of Christian community for healthy living.
2.      Understand the nature of clinical depression and related afflictions.
3.      Reflect on how Christian community can support those with depression, etc., and their caregivers.

Course Outline:
We were made for community, by the God of community.  We live in a culture that is decidedly anti-human in its isolationism.  But into this individualist culture the church can offer extraordinary hope.
January 10 – Live Poorly, Live Alone – Why Community Matters
January 17 – Live Well, Live Together – The Church as Family
January 24 – Understanding Depression
January 31 – Caring for the Caregivers
February 7 – The Church’s Role – Cure and Prevention

Recommended Resources:
There are so many excellent books on both community and depression.  We highly recommend the following:

Tribe by Sebastian Junger.  Junger’s book has been enormously influential in Jim’s life and thought around the topic of community.

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison.  Dr. Jamison’s memoir of her own mania and depression is powerful and insightful. 

Finding God: Praying the Psalms in Times of Depression by Thomas Lewis.  Pastor Lewis wrote a short and very practical guide sharing how the Psalms helped him through his own experience of depression.