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  • Writer's pictureLES HENSON

The Church as Community

Les Henson

Authentic community is vital to the life of the church and its people. For without genuine community, the church is not truly the church. Just as our lungs require oxygen to breathe, we need what the community provides to be a healthy church. We were created by our Trinitarian God, who exists in three persons living in reflective relationships with one another so that we also may live relationally together. For without each other, our lives have little or no meaning. Without a living and vital community where we encounter, know, explore, recognise and empathise with one another, we live in isolation and anguish that moves us away from that which is meaningful, joyful and loving.

In a world where the church is in severe decline, the church's future depends on our developing meaningful communities of faith. Thus, as a local faith community, we desperately need a true sense of belonging to one another. Such belonging begins by being vulnerable with one another and removing our masks so that we become a church community worthy of the name. We also need to recognise and honour the diversity of gifts within our community and allow them to flourish for the benefit of the church community and those beyond the confines of the church. Likewise, we must reject the pressures that generate conformity for the life-creating Spirit enables us to become the very best version of ourselves in Christ. Equally, we should be a community that enjoys being together and serving our neighbourhood together throughout the week. This is the direction we must take to become a meaningful faith community in today's world. Our relationship to one another is the criterion the world uses to determine the validity of the message we have been called to communicate in word, deed and through our lives.

The church is a community in and through Jesus Christ, for we belong to each other in and through Christ alone. For without him, we are nothing. Equally, it is a community of the cross, for, through Christ and his work on the cross, we were brought into existence as the body of Christ. Similarly, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer states, "Every Christian community must realise that . . . the weak need the strong, but also the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship."

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