Twelve Exemplary Christian Communities in Europe (1st of Twelve)

(Did I Say Twelve Exemplary Christian Communities??? I am Going to Need Your Help to Find Five of Them).

What is the Christian way of living? To answer this, we must study the Bible, especially the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian way of living is praying always [1], self-denial [2], obedience[3], forgiving one another [4], thanksgiving [5], healing [6], faith, hope and love, and doing greater things than Jesus did [7]. This “upward calling” is more likely achieved in small communities of Christians. Small communities are secondary to the entire worshipping congregations where we worship on Sundays. (At this point, I must forewarn that some will say, “Why do you need to meet with other Christians apart from church? Do you think that you are better than the rest of us?” I think nothing of the sort). Everyone should join a congregation; not every Christian wishes to join a smaller community. We live in a time when many Christians are leaving the congregation. I do not think this falling away is a good idea; however, church leaders should examine their assumptions of what we normally call church; what we normally call church has become somewhat worldly and prone to divisions. Therefore, renewal must be our prayer. Renewal does mean that we simply wish to refill our emptying pews; Attendance is falling as much because of church worldliness as their own lost faith. Church leaders! Look at the log in your own eyes. and It is our theory that Christian renewal is “on its way” from God the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41). Readers, Watch and pray! Renewal is coming, but not in in the way most people think; Renewal, if it comes as it has in the past, will come like a wind from unexpected places. Renewal is “already coming” where Christians are joining the smaller, secondary communities.

We have seen this before, for example in the Wesleyan bands of men and women. These small meetings helped their members live as Christians. You can read about the Wesleyan bands here. A weekly “method” meeting was required of all the members. Members also attended Sunday church, but their personal renewal took place in the meetings that happened in homes. In this way all of England was changed; the “Methodists,” took up the humanitarian issue of their days: public hangings were outlawed; the slave trade was denounced; sale of alcohol collapsed in the face of public outcry over the ruin that liquor inflicted on families. John Wesley and his “Methodists” spoke against the cruel prison conditions, and brought about prison reform.

Benjamin Hartley, professor at George Fox University, wrote:

The Wesley brothers and their friends even accompanied condemned prisoners on the wooden cart as prison officials drove them to the gallows. They hugged them, spoke with them, prayed with them, read Scripture with them, sang with them, and otherwise comforted them–often amid jeers and refuse thrown from the crowds. Early Methodists were bold enough to get on the cart. The way we today choose to address the problem of incarceration will involve a similar boldness, even though our “cart” may take many different forms.[8]

Renewal came to all of England, but it came through small communities of Christians who knew they needed one another to live the Christian way of life. And not only in England; here is a thesis written by a Filipino, Armando C. Arellano, brimming with thanks for the influence of Wesleyan humanitarian reform on the Philippines.

The Methodist triumph was long ago; do we have any examples of voluntary Christians associations today? I have a few examples that I will feature soon. However, truthfully, I know of too few examples, too few by far. Dear Reader, I need your help to get the word out about voluntary Christian communities today. Write to me and tell me what groups you are part of or admire. Joining smaller communities to pray for one another is how renewal, or revival, will likely come. Our deflated version of Christianity will not do anymore, and many people in the pews want to start over. Let us renew ourselves; church renewal will follow. Renew yourself by confessing to yourself and a few others, “God, be merciful to me a sinner; pray for me.” Renewal will appear, a cloud on the horizon the size of a man’s hand! We have to find like-minded souls who want to live a godly life, but know they need a few others to pray for them. I am looking at a picture of celebrity pastors, many of whom you have heard of. Get this: all but one of whom are wearing expensive watches. It’s pretty interesting. Let’s be glad for the one who is wearing a $10 watch. But do we really expect renewal to rise up from church leaders who wear watches that cost as much as a used car?

In the next blogs I will feature Christian communities that are making a difference in their members’ lives. These communities were started by regular Christians. And thank you for reading all the way to the end.

[1] Jesus taught them a parable that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18:1.

[2] Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

[3] Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” John 14:15

[4] Jesus said, “’If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15

[5] “Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.” Luke 24:30

[6] Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Matthew 10:1.

[7] Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12.