Life in Community

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Life in Community

A Matter of Semantics or Is It Life and Death?

July 2, 2019 by

Young people from the Bruderhof engaged in a discussion

During the time of the Greeks, Aristotle conceived the idea of an “Unmoved Mover,” an entity capable of changing and moving while remaining unchanged and unmoved. Over a recent weekend, 450 of my young Bruderhof peers wrestled with the ideas of change, transformation, and consistency at a youth camp near Rifton, New York. With the Bruderhof’s centenary year approaching and society in a volatile state, we wanted to think not only about the future of our church, but also the future of God’s church here on earth, and our role as young Christians in an increasingly anti-Christian climate.

Conversations largely revolved around the urgency of mission and the concurrent need to tend to our members. It is common among Christians to refer to the tension between these two critical aspects of a church, but this is a misnomer. Instead, they balance, complement, and reinforce each other. When a church truly cares for its members, an organic and natural missional urge will grow.

 We verbally sparred over the best course of action to address this important balance. Conversations were heated, sometimes punctuated by waving arms and emphatic gestures. During the breaks, volleyball games allowed us to relax – although it was an odd sort of relaxation, due to the intense and competitive nature of the games. In the evenings, surrounded by a mixture of indigenous Paraguayan music, American songs, worship hymns, and the beat of our impressive in-house drummer, we enjoyed food and continued our verbal forays.

crowd of young people at a youth conference at the Bruderhof in upstate New York

A vision emerged from our weekend together: a vision of our church rejecting the urge to dichotomize mission and shepherding, and instead appreciating how both are critical for a church’s survival. And as the weekend came to a close, I considered again the idea of the “Unmoved Mover” as posited by Aristotle – it is constant, never changing; yet always demanding change and spontaneity; and simultaneously expecting consistency, devotion, and loyalty. Which comes close to encapsulating the wild, often bizarre yearnings of youth straining to imagine what the next decade holds for the world, the church, and each of our individual lives. Though, as is often the case with youth conferences, we were unable to compile a resolution solving world hunger or eliminating human suffering or convincing me to adopt the ideas of Modern Monetary Theory, we were able to glimpse, if dimly, a bright future – available to anyone ready and willing to live a life of love through service to others.

a group of young people from an intentional Christian community

Derek Meier is currently a junior studying at Binghamton University in southern New York State.


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  • I live in an intentional Christian community where each member (even the kids) is involved in outreach/mission of some sort almost every day; trying to reach people with the teachings of Jesus (and find those lost sheep who are also seeking the same unity with Christ and His followers) is our community's purpose, and it wouldn't even exist if that desire were to fade into comfortableness with simply being together. I hope you guys find that same enthusiasm for such evangelism as The Bruderhof has so many important truths to share that the world needs to hear (especially those hard truths!).

  • Replying to Jason Porterfield: I was moderately surprised to see people reading the post, but as it is, you raised some excellent points. Primarily regarding the importance of gathering. Too often gathering and fellowship with current followers of Christ is lost in the urgency for mission. Thank God it's Friday.

    Derek Meier
  • Thanks Derek for this reflection. I'm glad you’re all grappling with how best to balance mission and shepherding. And I agree: the two are intended to “complement” each other. In fact, Jesus’ new love command (John 13) makes this very point, though to see it, you need to know that all of the “you” pronouns are plural in the Greek. “A new command I give to you all: You all love each other as I have loved you all.” (That’s the shepherding part. It’s an inward focus. “You eleven commit to loving each other as I’ve loved you.”). Then comes the outward effect of this inward commitment: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples.” This command is new, not just because Jesus has become the new standard of love, but also because it is the first-time Jesus has commanded his followers to commit themselves to each other. Without this command, I wonder if, after Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples would have looked at each other and said, “OK, we have a great commission to fulfill. We can cover more ground if we split up and each head a different direction.” I believe that with this new command, the church was conceived. Without it, we might never have formed communities committed to forming a culture of Christlike love. There’s something miraculous about such communities. When one person talks about Christ’s love, at best, others can listen and conclude that they now UNDERSTAND Christ’s love. Two people can demonstrate Christ’s love, and at best, others can OBSERVE such love. But once you have three or more people committed to loving each other as Christ has loved them, you have community, and others can now be welcomed into such community, and they can actually EXPERIENCE Christ’s love. No longer just hearing about Christ’s love, or seeing it, but experiencing it! That’s why, I believe it’s so important to nurture Christian community. The outward (missional) effect can be miraculous!

    Jason Porterfield