Spiritual Community

Back in June, our small group finished up reading through Larry Crabb’s Becoming a True Spiritual Community. Larry Crabb is one of my favourite devotional authors.

The book is centrally about how the church is ultimately called to be a relational people, a familial community. And this is something dear to my heart. The church is not foremost an institution, a product to be consumed, a social club, or a bunch of programmes. It is mainly a family, a people, a body in relation to God, in relation with one another, and looking to draw others into that relational family as well.

In the book, some of Crabb’s thoughts might get a little psychological at times, and you would expect such from a psychologist by background. But, nonetheless, there are some beautiful, stirring and challenging words in these 184 pages.

I share some thoughts from the introduction of the book and then from the final paragraphs of the book, to give you some ‘book-end’ thoughts from Larry Crabb on the church as a true spiritual community.

Every Sunday morning we stand, then sit, then sing on command. Some of us raise our hands, most of us sit still while someone talks to us. At some point we reach into our wallets and drop a mixture of green and silver into a big soup bowl with a velvet lining to keep the silver from clanging.

We’re doing a lot. But I wonder if the Spirit, who lives in a circle with two Others who are always relating, sees us as Rachael [his wife] and I [recalling a recent occurrence in their lives] saw the retired folks on the Miami Beach porch: lined up in chairs facing straight ahead with no life passing back and forth among them. Is that what we really look like?

A pastor who ministers to small groups in a sizable church recently told me, “People in our home fellowships do what the manuals instruct them to do. They tell personal stories, share prayer requests, discuss interesting things, reflect on biblical texts, worship together, sometimes even weep for one another. But something’s not going on that should be, something everyone wants. I don’t know what it is, but it’s missing.” (italics his)

And the closing words of the book:

The church needs many things. But it will properly prioritize its needs only when it gets its purpose straight. Its puropse is to draw people into Christ, to mirror Christ to one another, to show Christ to others by the way we live.

That happens only in a community of people on a journey to God, only in a group of people who turn their chairs towards each other. Spiritual friends and spiritual directors are people filled with Christ’s energy who have turned their chairs, who pour their passions into each other and invite others to join them on the porch. But not many people, particularly not many men, have one truly spiritual friend. Even fewer have access to a spiritual director.

If the Spirit is stirring you with thoughts of community, and you’re wondering what we can do to develop spiritual communities filled with spiritual friends and sprinkled with spiritual directors, I invite you to join me in prayer to hear the mind of God, to see what He would have us do. I pray this book provides some help.

The church is meant to be a community of spiritual friends and spiritual directors who journey together to God. We must become that community. Prayer is the starting point. (italics his)

I want to be the church that Jesus had in mind as he bled on that cross. I want to be the church that Jesus had in mind as he burst out from the grave with resurrection life. I want to be the church that Jesus had in mind as he poured out the gift of his Spirit.

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