Panel discussion among Matthew Milioni, John D. Martin, Dean Taylor, and Ernest Eby. How can and should community serve as a catalyst for discipleship?
Panel discussion moderated by Curt Wagoner.
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Brother Dean Taylor will share a prepared presentation on Historic Examples of Community. When he is finished with that then Brother John D. Martin will speak to us about Biblical Foundations for Community and Brother Matthew Milioni will present Examples of Community. Then Brother Ernest Eby will speak to us on Principles Necessary for Community.
Historic Examples of Community – by Dean Taylor
Given a topic of historic examples of community, and then given 5 minutes to do it is interesting. I have been interested and have always been a student of revivals. I love studying revivals, histories of revivals. When studying revival, many times you see experiences where clearly God has broken in to a place and revived people. Souls were saved, things were changed, sin was put a way. But every now and then when you read through history, you read not just an individual being converted and radically changed, but you hear the entire congregation. From that there is something that happens that gives birth to something extra ordinary. That has always been something that has been very interesting to me. I have seen that in the early church several times. Particularly the revival that happened in 1525 with the Anabaptists, and of course I was very interested in it.
Also I am very interested and became a student of the Moravians. I do have a documentary that Mike Kitnap and I did. It is for sale back there. I went into detail. I was very impressed with the discipleship that I saw amongst the Moravians. When I lived in Lancaster County, right up the road was Bethlehem, PA which was a mission community. As I studied those brothers there was something special there…how they shared their life in everything they did, their businesses, the things they did went to prosper the kingdom of God. The more I study that in groups like that, I just get inspired.
So I guess that is part of my vision and dream to see that in reality today. But the goal of what I have to say of historic discipleship and communities comes from just reading the account in the book of Acts. If I could bring it down, I would love to say something about the Moravians, the Anabaptists, the different ones. But I am just going to read in Acts 2:43:
“43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
The Holy Spirit poured out again when they prayed for boldness in Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
The beautiful thing we read in the Acts account is that this is not a command. We don’t see anything in there that is a command. You have to do that. But don’t miss it because it is not a command. It is a testimony. What is it a testimony of? It is a testimony of a church living out, in a radical way, the teachings of what came before it which were the teachings of Jesus Christ. In my opinion, it is the only church that we completely see that was started by no man. It was started by God.
It was like the Holy Spirit saying “everybody step back and I am going to show you what it is supposed to look like”. As we see different radical expressions, we see in the book of Corinthians, we see different brothers doing these things. The point is this. The point is Jesus. Jesus came to establish a kingdom. He was glorified when he established a people and sanctifies them in the midst of an unjust nation. When he does that He is glorified and I am blessed with the example that we see here in the book of Acts. I am blessed as I have been a student of revival that every now and then you see a group to be able to lay down their differences and become one and walk out those kingdom principles together to show the whole world what the whole world should look like if it only followed the king.
So amen. Thank the Lord for those examples in history, and I praise the Lord for them.
A Biblical Foundation for Community – by John D. Martin
John the Baptist and Jesus both began their ministry with one word. REPENT! Now a common understanding of what should have followed that is – Repent if you want to go to Heaven. That is what most people hear after that word, or if you don’t want to go to Hell. I don’t want to minimize those two realities. I believe in both of them. But Jesus specifically said – Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Now Jesus always called the gospel the gospel of the kingdom. You go through and read it. The seed… if you ask most people, what is the seed that is sown in those four soils? Most people say the word of God and that is correct, but in Matthew it specifically says the word of the kingdom.
And we have these kingdom parables. We have a prayer that is just saturated with the kingdom. We will talk about that in just a moment. So Jesus’ message was the kingdom. He said, he was sent to preach the kingdom.
Now his audience, when they heard that – What would they have thought? Well, they were Jewish people, and I think in their minds a kingdom of heaven, that would be an ideal kingdom. Oh Yes! our prophets spoke about a time like this. They said there would be a day when there would be no war, there would be no poor, everybody would have what they need, children could play safely in the streets, old people would be taken care of, it would be the ideal community. This must be what Jesus is talking about. If you look at what He says right after that in the sermon on the mount, that is indeed what he is talking about. A community where property accumulated to oneself is not the norm. It is sharing and giving. A place where there is no violence. Evil is not resisted. A place of purity, a place of prayer and then you go to the prayer. The prayer has all plural pronouns. There is not I. There is not me. There is not mine. There is not my. It’s our. It’s us and ours.
So it is obvious that Jesus had in mind a redeemed society. The emphasis today is on redeemed individuals. That is good. You can’t have a redeemed society until you have redeemed individuals. But if that is as far as the gospel you understand goes, you have only part of the gospel. God’s purpose is to redeem individuals because He wants to make up a redeemed society, present to the world what God intended originally before sin came into the world. He has always wanted a people.
In the Old Testament he wanted a kingdom to show all the other kingdoms what His kingdom looks like. It was not the perfect kingdom that Jesus came finally to give us. But it was good enough that the queen of Sheba came and she said, in my country, I heard about this, but now I can see that the half wasn’t even told me. This is a blest people. They have blest laws. It is a blest society.
God has always wanted that. What makes us think he wants anything different in the New Testament? In fact, Peter says, You are a chosen generation, a royal priest hood, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. So it is the same ideal as in the Old Testament.
Now the early church took this seriously. Our brother just referred to it. They took the teachings of Jesus and you read Acts 2 and Acts 4 and that is what it looks like. It says they broke their bread from house to house. Their possessions were freely shared. It was at least a partial realization of those OT prophecies.
We live in a time… I answer the billboard number for CAM and when I present this ideal to them. This really resonates much better than if I just stuck to individual salvation. When I paint a picture of what this is supposed to look like finally when God has them redeemed, joins them with others who are redeemed, and the society that they can enjoy and present to the world, it is indeed a very appealing message.
So the biblical basis for community is right there in the first words of Jesus. Repent for the kingdom of heaven has arrived, is here. God help us to present that to the world.
Examples of Community – by Matthew Milioni
When I was asked to speak on present examples of community, my initial impulse was to give you a one minute bio of five different communities. I could talk to you about Dean’s community. I could talk about my community. Different ones that we have seen, maybe the first community that I came into. I realized at some point that is just a short cut. That is not what I should talk about here.
In this short time what I would like to convince you of is that community is a ubiquitous term. There is no command to be in community in the Bible because you are in community. Community is a spectrum of that. There are all kinds of communities that are nested inside of each other.
Community means the group of people that you have things in common with. What we are talking about when we are talking about biblical community is doing that on purpose and finding things in common, like making choices to have things in common. I am in community just because I was born in America, an immigrant family, because I was raised in a certain part of the country. Because I live in a certain town, because I have certain interests, hobbies, professions, all these things are communities.
What I want to present to you as present examples of community, especially those are not the ones we are talking about. I live in Boston. In Boston there are four major sports teams. I hate sports. But my life revolves around them because they clog the whole city. We have a football team, a baseball team, a basketball team and a hockey team. It clogs the whole city.
I see people that have a community in Boston all the time. They wear their colors. They do their chants. They do their things. It is fascinating from a sociological perspective. What is it that is motivating all these people to have all these things in common? What are they getting out of this present example of community? They are getting a shared sense of value. They are getting a place of belonging. They are getting common goals and achievements. A sense of story, all of these things are what we take out of our notions of community.
Just like Dean was talking about when he was first coming out of the US military, my wife and I had a similar experience coming out of our gang on the streets. We had an initial impulse that we had come from a group of people who were deeply concerned about each other. Who were deeply involved in each other’s lives.
For my wife and I when we came into the evangelical church under this individual salvation model, it was just about us and what we found was that everybody was just about them! So we had this longing and this lack. I saw a brother Bob on Sunday morning and on Wed. evening and I didn’t know Brother Bob from Adam. All I knew was he was a guy that shouted “Amen” from the pew. I didn’t know anything about him.
We longed to be a part of a people, and I was so glad when I found out that the gospel wasn’t about me, that the gospel was about being a part of a community, that God had taken me out of my horrible wicked place and made me a part of a people. That is the present example of community.
Now I looked long and hard for that in a lot of different places. The places that my wife and I found it was when we came into Mennonite churches and we are so grateful to our Mennonite brothers and sisters for being an example of that. For the first time I came out of the evangelical world, I had a lot of radical ideas about what Jesus’ teachings and the Word of God but what I saw with mine own eyes, for the first time was a group of people who knew each other apart from Sunday and Wednesday. A group of people who shared tools. They shared life. They knew each other. They were extended families together. They lived in the same area together and they knew about each other. That was so refreshing to me.
So what I have learned since then is that our present examples of community are spectrum. There is not any one thing that is community. What I would say to all of us here is that – How are you doing that on purpose? What about your experience in community? What is more important to you? People that fish in the same place that you fish? Or hunt in the same place that you hunt or the same way? Or people that do the same trade as you? Or people that you are involved with in some other place? Or are you purposely making decisions in your life to become to have more in common with your brothers and sisters? One of the early Christians said, if we are heirs together of the grace of life, how much more the things of this life.
We don’t find the specific command – thou shalt live in intentional community. But what I always ask myself is – What would drive us the other way? What motivation would there be in separating myself out of the community? What biblical concern would lead me to a place where I wanted more of my own life? More separation? More autonomy? more independence? That is where we should evaluate our spectrum of present community.
Principles Necessary for Community – by Ernest Eby
We will focus on principles necessary for discipleship in community. Prior to the New Testament era there was much focus on family lineage and family loyalty. We see this all throughout the Old Testament. Often when a person is introduced in the Old Testament his father’s name and, or also his tribe is mentioned. This pattern changes abruptly in the early church after the early church got started. All these family dynamics were greatly diminished and the family concepts got applied to the church, the family of God.
Many people in the early church joined the church at great costs. Their family members did not often join with them. So the church was their only family.
The first principle necessary for community to happen is for the church to become our family.
In a healthy biological family each member is more interested in the success of the family than in their own personal accomplishments or interests. The same must be true in the church family. In a healthy family discipling and spiritual nurture take priority over ministry projects or financial accomplishments. In a healthy family individuals listen to each other and learn from each other, and they care about what the others are thinking and feeling.
Can you make parallels to a healthy church family? Can you imagine if all of our churches were like a healthy family? You could contrast this with an immature or dysfunctional family in America in which each person does his own thing independently of the others.
Nearly twenty years ago, I volunteered at a discipleship training center and ministered to broken and dysfunctional men, men who found it difficult to love or be loved. Our goal as staff was to disciple these men in a healing, healthy Christian community. This environment was the closest thing I ever experienced to what these brothers have been talking about today. Talking about spiritual things, personal needs and praying for each other was as natural as talking about the weather. Each day during the week we gathered early in the morning to pray with each other and to give each other advice, encouragement for the tough challenges we would be facing that day.
Next we shared what we had learned from the Lord that morning. The men discussed their past twenty-four hours with their mentor. Once a week we looked each other in the eye and said, brother, I love you. I like how you…. And then we would go on and mentions some things that we appreciated about them as a person. Also each week we had a time when the men would look each other in the eye and say, Brother, I love you, here is a weakness I see in your life. Here is an example of the weakness that I saw just the other day. Even this was very difficult to do, and very difficult to receive, the men in the program that made the most spiritual progress would say that this exercise was probably the most helpful part of their time at this discipleship center.
The rest of the day we worked together in a wood shop that had scripture verses painted all over the wall. It was in this wood shop that I got a real vision for what a community could look like. It was not uncommon at all for a brother to go to another brother in the shop and talk about an intense struggle that was going on in his heart. If a man was struggling severely or being attacked by Satan, we would shut the whole shop down and gather around this man and pray with him. As I lived there day after day, this seemed really right to me. Having previously worked in a business that was geared towards proficiency and profitability this wood shop seemed to have the kind of atmosphere that God intended for all Christian work places to have.
But good things like this come at a cost. It costs somebody or some church about $25,000-30,000 in donations in order for a man to spend 8 months at this discipleship center.
For some reason our western culture has lost the principle of discipling each other, but we are willing to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to non-profit organizations to do this discipleship work for us. Then life goes back to the normal fast-paced life style that doesn’t take time for people. I think there is something really broken about this system of living. In fact, I think it is so broken that I wonder if we can even call it living.
Many of the broken men who came to the discipleship center where I served would have never ended up in the broken state they were in, if someone would have mentored them earlier in life.
All of us can benefit from discipling. But discipling is especially effective with people who are in their teens, and twenty’s and thirties’ and forty’s. So the principle here is that an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure when it comes to Christian discipling.
For some reason we think people in our churches should be willing to disciple others for free. But then if those same people go to work for a non-profit organization then they deserve to be supported financially.
So another principle for discipleship is that those who labor in behalf of the church especially where you do not have community of goods. These people need to be supported proportionately. Otherwise people in the community are going to get missed and they are going to get neglected.
So in conclusion, I would like to call the church of Jesus Christ to create healthy communities. Communities that are a safe place, a place where children and adults can experience the same kind of spiritual nurture that many of us experience in a healthy Christian family.
The Panel assembled
We have some questions we want to address to the panel and we are very anxious and waiting with anticipation the responses, the insights that they have to offer to us. God bless you with insight, and grace as you minister to us.
I would like to ask you brothers this question—Different times today we have heard the term used “Anabaptist” and perhaps you could give us a little insight as to what did the Anabaptist and others believe about the call to discipleship within close accountable brotherhood relationships following Christ, not merely individual commitment?
Dean Taylor – Great question. One of the biggest differences when the Anabaptist revival started was the contrast with the state concept of the church. The very idea that you were forming this church of believers automatically made them separated from the state church system that they were finding themselves in. And from the very beginning you see this coming out when revival started in Zurich right over to Zulacone, the next town, they just automatically broke into sharing. They were accused of automatically going into having all things common. There just seemed to be something natural and whether it is the Hutterites or the Swiss Brethren and particularly more the Swiss groups both of them had radical expressions of helping each other built into their gospel.
I take it down to two principles – the reason why I am with the Anabaptists today. In an early letter from Conrad Grebel, he said two things that I think are fundamental in our understanding.
He said the Word of God is intended to be without complicated interpretation and out of that I speak. Simple word of God. The next thing he said, the words of Jesus were meant to be put into practice. Those two things made it different than the state church system. It had within it a sort of family that the early Anabaptist had. I still think we see it in all the Anabaptist churches.
Brother Matthew said, when you come from an evangelical to any Anabaptist church, you automatically see that sense of community, that we knew nothing of in the evangelical world. I thank the Lord for that.
John D. Martin – The Anabaptists had a tremendous emphasis on what they called the rule of Christ which is Matthew 18. You have committed yourself in an Anabaptist setting to speak to a brother who needed your admonition and correction. They referred to that as the means of continual revival in the brotherhood. So the discipleship was a real thing with them where each person took responsibility for whatever needs they saw in their brother.
Ernest Eby – Just two quotes here, one from an early Anabaptist and one from a more present day Anabaptist. The first one is from Michael Sattler, “Can the church really be demonstrating the new life in Christ if there is not discipline, if there is no fencing in of the Lord’s table, no demand for purity of life?”
One from a more modern writer goes like this. “ Corporate worship, mutual aid, fellowship and mutual accountability characterize this community. An individualistic or self-centered Anabaptism is a contradiction in terms.”
Here is another question – How can we cast vision for and promote the biblical model of community that we see demonstrated in the book of Acts?
John D. Martin – Well, it is very hard to have community if people are living miles and miles apart. I think one of the down sides of the automobile was to scatter our communities to the four winds. I think if we are really going to have community, we are going to think in terms of what we can do. It will be a very intentional thing to bring our people geographically together. It is just a reality that you are not going to be a part of your brother’s life if he lives a half-hour to an hour away. You are going to see him on Sunday morning and that is about it.
So geographical proximity is a real issue. I don’t think since the acceptance of the automobile we really have given much thought about what the automobile has done to us and how we should address this issue to bring our communities close together.
Matthew Milioni – I would say in academic studies of communities in the broad sense, not just in the Christian community, communities are broken into three main categories. One main category is geographical communities. A second category is communities of life style or shared value systems. And a third major delineation of community is shared goals…you would find political action communities in that category.
Christian community properly understood is all three. It is a geographical community with a shared life style and common goals. It makes it a very dynamic community when all three of those things line up and there is a synergy between that. For my own purposes, community has fulfilled the function the way I implore other people to be more intentional about their expression of community. I recognize that some where along the way when I abandoned my nationalism, my national identity and forsook it to Christ that there was a judgment coming of the nations, of all the nations. And I happened to be born in this one. There is a lot of very specific judgments that are going to come on this one. What I determined early on is that I have to do something with my life to distinguish myself to God as not being a part of that community, but being a part of His community.
There are some very good reasons why we should be forsaking the status quo that some of us were raised in. We see all around us and imploring one another to have more purpose with each other. Those three categories of geography, life-style and goal are a good way to think about that.
Dean Taylor – The question how do we get back to the Acts model or something like that… The one thing I will say that needs to be done is give the Acts model a try. In some of the casual discussions that I have had, it seems like immediately a reason surfaces why that doesn’t work. We can’t do that because of this or the other. It kind of goes back to that example of the Bach manuscript. There is something beautiful about this expression and I think it is exciting when I see groups just giving this whole thing a try. I think once we do that we will see the reason why the Holy Spirit did that.
Without any kind of legalistic way of looking at it but expressing it just like we see it in the beautiful pages of the symphony that we have before us.
John D. Martin – I will speak from a Mennonite stand point in my experience through the years. When the discussion got to Acts 2 and Acts 4 most of the discussion was on why those should not actually be practiced. Really what we should have done, while part of it we thought Hutterite, that’s the way that is done and we don’t believe in that. What we really should have done is looked at those and said, There may be many ways for this to be worked out, but here are some ideals. Let’s move toward the ideals represented in this passage rather than x-ing out the whole passage and not even considering what might be there for us in ways we can actualize…what we see pictured there.
Is it possible for true discipleship to happen using this term to speak about a personal decision to follow Christ and teaching others to follow Christ in a special building one day out of seven? Can that really be called the body of Christ?
John D. Martin– That is a yes and no question and the answer is NO.
Earnest Eby – I think the simple answer to that is yes. Many people have been discipled with far less interaction with Christians under duress. Maybe if we ask the question like this—Can true discipleship happen if a person chooses to limit his interaction with other Christians to one day in seven then I would say the answer is obviously no.
John D. Martin – Point well made.
Dean Taylor – My experience would be that when discipleship gets real it is about real stuff and we people in general happen to be very good at keeping the parts that need the most work away from the most possible people. What I find in my community, one of the ways that we are trying to shape our life together is that it is formed by this perspective. I have some of my favorite saints, some of my closest brothers, people that I have loved and respected the most tend to have this one glaring inconsistency in their life. It is a very common thing that people that I have loved dearly have one kind of niche in the armor that makes them weak and vulnerable. I have to assume after having all those experiences that I respected were better men than myself having this kind of weakness, this fatal flaw. We see it even in David, if all these men that have respect have these problems, these issues that they need help seeing, I have to be humble enough to say that I must too.
The biggest problem that I have in my life is the one that I am least apt to see on my own. So recognizing that principle is the spirit of wisdom, because wisdom loves correction. Wisdom sees correction as an opportunity to be more like Christ. If I don’t have my life in the middle of people that I have loving relationships with, that I trust and know are serving God with me, then I am not being open enough and vulnerable enough to let people see that part of me that needs grace and healing and repentance. That is what is at the core of this question, I think.
How does the culture we live in militate against true discipleship? We see things like capitalism, individualism and materialism, which we believe are not of the Father, but of the world and all that is in the world is passing away, but the kingdom of God will last forever. Have these things affected we western Christians in far greater ways than we realize? How can we escape from being a frog in the kettle in the 21st Century context that we find ourselves living within?
Dean Taylor – Yea, amen. When Jesus came in He brought an entire new way of life, a new humanity. In this concept of new humanity He gives us the grace to live out this kingdom that he wants to establish. You are right, Jesus spoke of the war of the world in very caustic ways. He spoke of it coming from the evil one. Revelation sums up all the different systems of the world with the attractive term of beast.
We see Jesus giving us this kingdom of God, His design is for us to defeat this beast. What is this beast trying to do to us? It is trying to destroy the things that Jesus wants. So it wants to break us down. We see through history things that have happened like in the French Revolution, we see it now, breaking down groups of any kind, breaking down church, breaking down associations to get people into individuals and then the nation runs the whole thing.
Matthew Milioni – Jesus wants for us to be able to come together, be a people of God, that He can be glorified in that people of God. That is going to affect everything in life. I think everything in this modern world and perhaps has always been has dictated war against the Lamb and against His church. From individualism, to the way we use our money, to the way we spend our life, to those sorts of things. The Holy Spirit creates a new humanity that makes something beautiful that glorifies God on this earth.
That sounds a bit like anarchy, that which you described. Sounds like a statement in the book of Judges where every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Ernest Eby – So in every age there is this idea, we want to be influential. We need to really stay up with the times. So society starts to use pencils, we need to start using pencils too. Society markets their things in a certain way. So Christianity needs to market its values and goals the same way.
I think one response to this is that if someone simply promotes a christianized version of what the world is doing, and what everybody else is doing, it is only going to have a limited appeal. If something is genuine, people will notice it and go to the ends of the world to find it. They will hunt it down even if they can’t find a phone number for it. And they watch and they observe it.
I don’t think our goal should be to be relevant. I think our goal should be to follow Jesus. Ask questions like – What did He take time for? What was important to Him? Who did He spend His time with? Who did he say we should invite to our house for dinner? Those kinds of questions. By pursuing that we will be relevant in whatever way He wants us to be relevant.
Matthew Milioni – If the question is, we all know, I think intrinsically, these systems of the world are contrary to discipleship. You know the markets of the world are pulling us away toward bubbles and greed and successful business and the lusts of the world is pulling us away. All of these things are pulling us out of the discipleship of the church into the mold of the world, Romans teaches us that.
What I would say is something John D. mentioned earlier is that what we should be doing is not just us rejecting those things, but providing new solutions. It is not enough for me to say that capitalism is a way of the world and it is dragging people away. I have to follow that up with saying – Look how we live. This is a different way to do things. The society of Jesus has an alternative way of being that we don’t have to follow the world in those things. There is another option available to us. But instead of being self-interested and self-involved and self-consumed and self-isolated, we can have this different way of living that really represents the society of Jesus. Employing creative applications of the teachings of Jesus that are relevant, that speak to people. The people around us see the same kind of emptiness in their lives. I come across a lot of these people on the streets of Boston. People that are just trudging along, stuck in the machinery of the world and feeling disillusioned, disaffected, depressed and alone. What they need is the same thing we need. We need a people where we belong where we are finding the fulfillment that Christ planned for His people. We have got to do that in a way that is both challenging and showing a new way.
John D. Martin – What was interesting to me in the last century was there was a group of people that said our concept of economics – from each according to his means, to each according to his need. That was Marxism. Where did that come from? But the interesting thing is they won the imagination of one third of the world with that slogan. They never delivered on it because they couldn’t and that is the glory of the Christian church. When they say, it doesn’t work – It doesn’t work. A hundred million people died because of that philosophy applied by men who were selfish. But they should be able to see in the Christian church that things work that don’t work elsewhere. That is the glory of the Christian church.
What does group discipleship look like outside the family for young fathers and mothers who are already very busy with their own families?
Matthew Milioni – There are a lot of answers to that, but the one that comes immediately to mind is again an issue of proximity. So if I have ten children, still young and my oldest is sixteen. We have a very full life with the things we do in the church, the things we do for business and the things we do for family. I have often prayed to God in gratitude for the opportunity we have to live close to my brothers. I have often told my brothers that live in my community cluster, our lives are so busy with good, right and holy things that if we didn’t live next to each other, we would never have access to these things. Because the way that that kind of discipleship works in my community is that when the children are playing and you have a minute because my children are playing with Jeremy’s children and we are sitting there watching them together. We have the opportunity to share our lives in spiritual ways.
It is those unplanned aspects of community that I find yield the greatest and the deepest fruit in my life because we are immediately accessible to each other. We have opportunities to share our lives in ways you just can’t plan for.
John D. Martin – I think I know what was meant by outside the family, but my immediate response is a lot of discipleship can be done right inside the family. People out there are looking for family. They are looking for people. I heard somebody say to me, I am looking for a family to take me in to show me how it is done inside the family. So I think we need to also think in terms of bringing people into the family, and actually have them live and see how it is done in the family.
Dean Taylor – Amen. One of the things I notice about the earlier discussion both about discipleship individually and now the ones with the family. There is something that goes on when you live close together. Every day unconscious discipleship goes on just from being a people together. Now that is a double-edged sword. What I have seen is that community is a tool. It is a very powerful tool. But it is a tool that can be used for good, and a tool that can be used for bad. It must be very intentionally used. I appreciate Matthew’s use of the word intentional.
When you are there, there is a sense that God has given to us of coming together. I watch the young people. We were a city people, and we moved into a farm community. The next thing you know, I see my son driving a big tractor down the road and this type of thing. From that to other practical things there is just something about living together that it is … you don’t even know … like it is now we are going to have discipleship class. There is something that just happens with everyday life even for my self and for my children.
We are going to go back to Acts 2 and 4 now for the next question. The quote from scripture is one heart and one mind and no one said that any of his possessions were any of own but instead they held everything in common. There was not a needy person among them because of all those who owned lands or houses, sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold and laid them down at the apostles feet. So the question is a two part question.
I will ask the first part initially and then we can kind of jump off of the first part into the second.
Do Acts 2 and 4 demonstrate how Luke 12:33 may actually be put together and into practice? Now Luke 12:33 is the passage that says Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. Lay up your treasures in heaven and so forth.
Do these scriptures demonstrate how Luke 12:33 can actually be put into practice?
Dean Taylor – Yes, I think it does. I think what we see is a first example of applying the teachings of Jesus. Coming from an evangelical world, usually makes so little of the words of Jesus, it almost seems strange to read what happened in Acts. So that is why we come up with all these strange commentaries. Why did that happen? There must have been some bizarre need or something like that. But if you are a church that looks at the words of Jesus and tries to find some way to apply those, suddenly Acts 2 and 4 make sense. When you see that and what they did with that, they were a community just for the sake of a community. They were meeting needs, going out evangelizing and doing those things in the church that was growing. They were able to lay that millions of dollars at the apostles feet, but the next day the apostle was able to say silver and gold have I none. Because none of them owned those things of their own but yet everything was used for ministry. I see that through history, the early Anabaptist, the Moravians, some of the early Methodist societies. Just a total sold out group applying those teachings of Luke chapter 12. So I would say yes, it is a blessing. I long to see it some day in our community too, just like that.
John D. Martin – I think we have to change our whole concept of giving. I know I had to change mine. I guess I owe Roger Hertzler this insight that giving is an investment. It is not like paying the telephone bill that when you paid it, you will never see that money again. The money you give is the only money you will ever see again. And if we ever got that through our heads, you know how misers act? They save every penny to put it in that investment. If we really believed that the investment we made in the kingdom is an investment we will enjoy through all eternity then we would be liberal givers. The Bible says, God loves a cheerful giver. The Greek word for that is hilarious. God loves a hilarious giver. Then after that you have that verse that says that God is able to make all grace abound toward you. It’s predicated on that verse. If you are a hilarious giver. God then is too. He is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: Unlimited grace, unlimited service based on unlimited generosity.
I think once we get that through our heads this whole idea of what we do in relation to our brothers need and the needs of the world will change.
Ernest Eby – So our brother, now in the Anabaptist world who was formerly a Baptist preacher, said once that in his church any two sermons they had one was salvation and the other giving. They did one the one Sunday and the other the next Sunday. They had to keep this up in order to keep the church budget up to par. I think that idea of giving a portion of our goods to the Lord needs to be done away with. That does not accomplish what these passages are talking about. The New Testament concept is sacrificial giving. Sharing everything that we have with others in what ever way we can.
There is a brother who has gone on to his reward. Some of you may know him, his name was Duane Tucker. He literally did this. He would give about anything he had. He said the only thing he didn’t share was his toothbrush.
The follow up question to that is this: Is community of goods the practical way of doing what Jesus told his disciples to do?
Dean Taylor It is a way. I see even in scriptures, even in the gospel accounts, certainly throughout the New Testament very clear obviously different ways to do this. There is no way you can read it in Timothy and in II Corinthians 8&9. But what you see behind Paul’s teachings and the book of Acts teachings are these radical teachings of Jesus. I am afraid of what happens when we get into these community debates, someone argues for community, the other one says, aha, we can see there is not a common purse here. Suddenly the communitarian loses the Jesus teachings to his community and the non-communitarian goes off in his finances and also loses the teaching of Jesus. But behind all of that must be Jesus and his teaching and then it comes out in a beautiful and creative way. We serve a creator God. I think He is going to do that over and over in our generation as long as we just keep being faithful to the words of Jesus.
This question comes from one of the young brothers here in this audience. Let’s think about his question and see what we can do to provide some insight for individuals caught up in this scenario. When your discipleship options are excessive, how do you prioritize them? How do you decide which one to do first? You have so many options as to how you might disciple individuals.
John D. Martin – I am thinking I wish we had that problem.
Dean Taylor – I like mother Teresa’s answer. She says how do you count to a million? Somebody said you can’t feed all these people in India. She says, how do you count to a million? One. Two. Three and you just do it one at a time. Keep going.
Matthew Milioni – I think too it is important to keep in perspective if we are talking about where we are spending our ministerial efforts that we are much more interested in quality than quantity. If we are talking about making disciples and discipling people intensely the way that Jesus and the apostles model, then we are looking at long term projects. If we do that thoroughly and well with a few people there is much more opportunity for that to expand. We don’t have to disciple a million people. We don’t have to disciple twenty people. If you are in a place where you have something to offer to younger brothers, to new disciples, even older disciples to spend that time in a few people and to do it well and thoroughly and to really train up lives to do the same that is a much more profitable way to spend time.
Ernest Eby – And that is the model that Jesus left with us. He worked really hard with twelve. Less with a bigger group but with those twelve – They impacted the world.
Dean Taylor – And perhaps that is a part of his teachings when he said first in Jerusalem then in Judea then into Samaria then into the uttermost parts of the earth.
Matthew Milioni – Brother Finny would tell us that into Jerusalem = into the next big city.
We have a question here that at least one of the panelists could give us a lot of insight on. Perhaps all of you could. What are some Christ honoring practical ways to learn from the military’s successful methods as we seek to be a brotherhood of warriors for Jesus? It has already been addressed a little bit today.
Dean Taylor Amen. I think Matthew is the same way with his gang. The same thing is the military is a gang. The biggest thing I see in 8 weeks, you have people coming from any background coming together and the end of eight weeks- bark like a dog, jump when they are told to jump and march to any place on the earth to serve the mission and expand the empire.
With that common goal and common dream, the common orders you are marching under is something that is actually very impressive. If we could learn to be a church that has the kind of commitment, the kind of solidarity being able to come together as a people and drop some of our idiosyncrasies, drop the little things we disagree with and go into battle with that kind of a purpose. I think it would be very effective and we can learn that from the military and hopefully be something like it.
Matthew Milioni – In both cases the military and the place I come from, what makes those communities effective is the same thing that Paul is mentioning that we should fight like good soldiers that to abandon my own self to the greater cause is what is common to all soldiers. That I am a piece in a plan of something much greater than myself and every soldier in my experience in our gang in the streets. Willingness to sacrifice your self for some greater cause is the ultimate lesson to be learned from those institutions.
It is fairly rare in our circles. I don’t see that in the same level among us by and large as we do in those worldly applications. The children of this generation are wiser than the children of light when it comes to sacrificing yourself for a common goal.
John D. Martin – I think the problem has been all of us are trying to get to heaven. I think that is really why this kingdom concept needs to really get hold of us that our church is a cause. It is a kingdom. We want our church to succeed and we put everything into it.
A young person is struggling with all his difficulties as a young person trying to get his life together but his goal is way out there in the future. He probably in his mind is going to live another 50-60 years. He doesn’t have an immediate cause. If our church is to be kingdom churches with the cause – it’s the kingdom, not my personal salvation. I think we have given our young people something to live for now as they fight their own personal struggles.
Very good, now let’s move from that focus. Let’s go back to the business arena, our occupational arenas and let’s think about this question. Can and should business be structured as a context for discipleship? Is it safe and effective to combine the rules of economy and profitability with the needs of spiritual growth?
Dean Taylor – I think I understand the question. It is amazing, I will say living in the community that I live in and seeing the businesses and everything working for a common goal. It was something that I frankly thought about even being in Lancaster County that would have been impossible. I remember one time, I was speaking at one place and a man who ran a restaurant had just got in some huge problem over the finances with his brother that he was a partner in business with. He said to me, I guess I have come to the conclusion that Christians shouldn’t go into business together. You agree with me? He said.
I said, No I don’t. I think that somehow God should be sovereign as well. I sort of inherited, I plucked from the grapes that I didn’t have to plant. Our communities have been obviously been doing this for hundreds of years. But it is amazing to watch what happens, and be able to work that out, decade after decade, century after century and all that just go for the common good. It can work and it has happened. I do find it to be challenging and a beautiful expression.
Ernest Eby – Brother John talked about this common goal that we can all have to build up the kingdom. I have run into a few business men who have worked together with the purpose of providing discipleship in their business. That was their goal and because of that goal a lot of the differences that employers and business partners deal with didn’t deal with because the purpose of this business is to disciple people as much as we possibly can with the resources that God has given us.
One example that I am thinking of is something I heard about a couple of years ago. There was a business man, who decided he wanted to use his business as a way to help losers in this world get a start in life. Most business owners are not looking to hire losers, but that was what this man’s goal was to use some of his profit for that purpose. He got his employees to get on board with him and they were all eager to get started with this. So the first man came to work and he never did know anything about packing a lunch so it came lunch time and they all sat down to enjoy their lunch and he went off and bought his lunch. He was complaining about not having enough to make ends meet. So his fellow employees said, well, why don’t you pack a lunch like us? Well, how do you do that? You go to the store and you buy some lunch meat. You need to get some bread and you lay it like this and put some butter on… They are discipling this man in just how to make a lunch. They had other things coming but this is step one, you know.
So the next morning he shows up with out a lunch. They said, What happened? Well, he said, He got this stuff home last night and he was so hungry that he just ate it all.
Some of these are really just elementary things. If you are going to disciple people, you have to start where they are and build up from there. Amen!
Very good. This will require some listening. Think about this and try to give the best response you can. There appears to be an asymmetry regarding the topics of community and non-accumulation. Doesn’t it devolve into a case of many who give away all, and a few who own the assets, property, etc.? Someone needs to have the large investments, hold the major assets and be liable to the bank for the loans to make community possible. I want to believe in community but I want to see it for everyone, not becoming a society of the surfs and the peasants. Any thought?
Dean Taylor – Yes, just a little bit. In some ways our communities are very mature communities. And some little ones have started and sometimes it started on one person’s farm. And they say, hey, and they are very generous. They say everyone else can come move on my farm and the next thing you know they are getting us in trouble. And the whole thing falls apart.
We have noticed that it is better from the beginning to have that ownership to truly be communal. To have that thing owned by everyone. I could see that as being very dangerous. The way we worked it out in our communities is that is something that is owned by all the brothers equally, all the families equally through out the whole church. So I could see that would be very dangerous.
Some people by just trying to be benevolent having everybody living on their farm or there are the ones that have it could have it work out in that way. So I would say caution to do it that way.
Matthew Milioni I could certainly see the danger. Our community doesn’t function the same way. Our community functions on providing properties and things for others. We are a young community so what I found, I have been a part of a few communities and what is often lacking in the initial desire to have some kind of commonality and communalism is a catalyst that makes it possible.
Those catalysts that make it possible are rare and unique. People, the Zinzendorfs of the world, and there just aren’t a whole lot of them. When they are there, they can be very dynamic and powerful in being a catalyst in starting things. I don’t know that it has to end in that way. I think there are many different safeguards to that. I think brotherhood and shared life, there are a lot of things we can put in place in brotherhood that help keep those things in check as well.
Thank you! Different times during this discussion there has been comments made about our community. The way we do things. I am wondering if maybe the audience would just like to have perhaps each of you just real briefly describe what kind of community you are a part of and give us a little insight in that. Each one two minutes.
Dean Taylor – Our communities are very interesting. Basically some revivals came through some Old Order Hutterite colonies about 20 years ago. Through some of the preaching of Charity, Mose, and Zac Poonen and some of those, through different things and different growths in the Spirit have experienced revival.
That revival eventually led to some trouble dealing with the Old Order bishops and things like that. Wanting to do simple things like baptism on your faith and preaching in English got them excommunicated. Through that there has been several different colonies that have come out of the Old Order system and now are trying to say okay, What is God’s calling on our life as a community? Through the years, I know particularly our community in Elmendorf. I am in Altona Christian Community in Elmendorf, for years like we were told – It’s wrong what you are doing. Give it all up and you go from one extreme to the other. I think through about 20 years there has been some maturity there. The idea is to not throw out the baby with the bath water but to say, What is God’s calling in our life as a community?
So we are trying to do that. Trying to go forward. Trying not to have community for the sake of community which tends to be the way in the Old Order system, but to try to put the teachings of Jesus Christ into reality and express that the way we see it in the book of Acts and the gospels. I am very blessed to be there. It has been an encouragement for me.
John D. Martin – Our community’s vision was not Hutterite community. It was geographical proximity. We started out with everybody living within about three miles of the center of the community. That has changed some. Our vision was- each person had his individual business but he would not accumulate wealth to himself but put his extra money into the general treasury and out of that would be paid hospital bills and the kind of things that the individual finds difficult to handle for himself.
We also had vision for a community where everybody was involved in all major decisions, if you were going to buy a property that was discussed by the whole brotherhood. We tried to be accountable to each other. We tried to have a common purse. We tried to live in geographical proximity. But I will say this. All of that has to be very intentional. It is very easily lost. Shippensburg Christian Fellowship.
Matthew Milioni – I am in Boston at Followers of the Way. I started towards community because of very close experiences with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We started making economic decisions together, fairly small ones, buying lawn mowers together, doing things together. That set us on a path towards community. I was a part of a few different small groups in and around Anabaptist communities. Along the way I developed a burden for urban community because as I experimented with community, I saw more and more that the increase in our resources both spiritually and economically had somewhere to go, and the fruit of those experiments were most useful in the clearest view of the most people. So if there is something to be gained out of community life, it is gained best in front of the most people that can see it. This city on a hill view of community was a real important notion. That was gleaned through a lot of my time going into cities and street ministry and finding a little efficacy in those things.
So I find difficulty in people that are interested in the same thing. The few people that I came across that were interested in community were not interested in urban community until I came across Finny Kurruvilla and I had some mutual friends in Pennsylvania. When we met each other we were both talking about the same thing. So we decided to start in Boston and it is interesting to hear the different impetus for these different applications of what God is trying to do with community. We knew that coming into Boston urban environment, we don’t have the same resource that your community would have – land and space is the ultimate premium. We knew at the outset that we would have a vision for growth that didn’t mean being able to have 40 families on one piece of property.
So we have decided our vision and hope is to grow in community clusters. We have multi-family, three of us families live in one place and about a mile away there is a family that lives with single brothers and a mile away there is a sister that has a house for some people there. We are growing as clusters of community within our area and hope to continue to expand that.
Ernest Eby – I am part of the Followers of Jesus church community in State College Pennsylvania. We are about two and a half years old or so. Our goal for community came from several different sources. My interest got sparked early on like I told you earlier on with my little talk there with the discipleship center. But more recently I visited Homestead Heritage in Texas which is a huge community but they have the same cluster mentality. So in State College we are all within one mile of the center. We can bike to the center if we want. We have a community garden that anybody can participate in if they want to. Most of our things are opt in. It is not required to be a part of these different activities. We try to eat a meal together at least twice a week and interact with each other closely that way.
Thank you for that. Now I want to address the audience. I do have several questions that I wasn’t able to get to this evening. I tried to pick out the ones that might be of broadest interest and might be the most stimulating. But I want to give you the opportunity if you would like to address questions just from the floor to the panel. We would be glad if you would like to ask a question – try to ask it succinctly and clearly and we will see what we can do with it.
Last night Brother Joe was quite enthusiastic about the Millennials and the technology of the day and how exciting this is. I am wondering how to build community, not necessarily common purse but discipleship, accountability et cetera through conference calls, social media like that?
Matthew Milioni – I would say they have a place but they have a very limited place. I personally use social media to reach out into broader categories because I have a lot that I used to be in my gang with, people from my Baptist church, I can connect with some people and have some stimulating conversations there. But I would say those mechanisms, while they can have some profit especially with some people who are somewhat estranged or isolated, they don’t do the same thing as being in life together.
So I wouldn’t diminish the value of those thing, but I would say they are a far inferior substitute for actually living with people and having a life shared in common.
Dean Taylor Yea, amen. Maybe like in a teaching thing that was done specifically for evangelism we actually found it to be such a distraction in our community that we completely eliminated social media. I know there are some good things that could be done from it, but we felt the problems from it out weighed it. We felt we just needed to eliminate it. It is a challenge in this millennial age.
Matthew Milioni – I would say that one thing we have thought a lot about in utilizing those things is the dissemination of materials and resources for primarily for groups that are together. Not everybody is going to be writing literature and giving teachings and not everybody has the resources in every group for those things. To use those mechanisms to spread materials I think it is something that we should definitely be pursuing.
I have appreciated the announcement on more than one occasion in this meeting these days that we welcome people who are not of the Anabaptist tradition. We appreciate their participation and we can learn from them and they can learn from us. A few months ago, my wife and I were in an Anabaptist Mennonite church and we were welcomed and we were asked to speak briefly and did. But then the preacher got up and for an hour warned the flock that there is false doctrine and heresy being spread among some of their fellowships and went on to identify it specifically as holiness doctrine of Wesleyan Armenian tradition and not to even eat with them. Now my question is How much diversity may we have in community? Whether at Roxbury just for three days or can it actually last longer than three days and how much diversity can we live with?
Dean Taylor – Bill’s question is so far overthat they would kind of laugh at our community, I think at some of those questions, maybe they shouldn’t but I guess it goes into those ideas of the ministry when we are doing the things that Jesus told us to do we tend to ask different questions than the Armenians and the Calvinist argued over. So your group would probably deal with more of those tricky questions.
Matthew Milioni – It’s a huge question with huge answers, how much diversity. It’s the thing… here’s the ultimate answer that I would say so… it’s the thing that has to be worked out in the context of the brotherhood who is in the context of loving trusting relationships to determine together what spectrum of diversity they can have amongst themselves and still feel like a cohesive brotherhood.
John D. Martin – All of us must remember when the church began there was not a Bible, there was not a New Testament, there was no printing press and so all these theological issues that got down to real systematic logically constructed theologies where verses were very, very cleverly put together to make some very, very (as far as I am concerned) abstruse point was not even possible. Their concept of Christianity was to follow Jesus. And when areas came up with concern, now what is this about the trinity? Is Jesus eternal and of the same substance as the Father, or was He a created being? That was really a stupid question that should have never been asked. His bishop told him that but he wouldn’t listen. And so all of this theological stuff is sort of irrelevant. There are many questions. God is sovereign. Man has a free will. Why do we have to reconcile those two? Why do we even have to answer that question? Why don’t we say God is sovereign, Man has a free will? Let’s let the unity of those two things be somewhere in the mind of God and go on inviting people to Christ and understanding that all of them are responsible in making a decision.
Dale Heisey – I sense what you are saying is – Let’s remember that the early church were made up of individuals where the common people heard Jesus gladly.
John D. Martin – They were followers of Jesus. They weren’t worried about most of the theological questions whether there was going to be a millennium or whether there wasn’t, whether a man had free will or whether he didn’t. All these questions have been argued for two thousand year,s but have never been satisfactorily answered for the unity of the church. Why don’t we just lay those aside and be followers of Jesus?
I will just make a statement and you can yea or nay it, but in any context or conversation about the kingdom is the first thing that comes to my mind is where is the king? Because the whole thing is irrelevant with out the Lord Jesus Christ. The way I have come to the conclusion over the years, we have worked in home churches and things is that people have often come to us who don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. They are attracted by community. So I think we need to remember Jesus’ words in John chapter 10 that He is the gate into the sheepfold. There is no other way to climb up. In other words, if people are knocking on our door because they like the idea of community that is a beautiful thing, that is what drew me here in 1990 out of an evangelical past. But the question has to be asked, Do you know the King? Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior? Jesus said, I am the door into the kingdom and there is no other way. You can’t climb in through a window, you have to come by Me.
So in any conversation of the kingdom we have to beg the question, Where is the King? And hold the King primary. I agree with community that we live out the practical Christian life and grow in our maturity as believers in community. But there have been times when my wife and I haven’t had a community. In different places where we have been where a community we were in had failed or what have you.
But I am just making this statement that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but by Him.
Do we have a yea or a nay guys? YEA.
Perhaps the term community that is being used, may be contributing to a little bit of confusion. I don’t know if it is or not. We have used the term kingdom as well. Would the terms kingdom and community be very closely aligned to each other?
Dean Taylor – In our minds, yes.
John D. Martin – Actually you find the word kingdom in a lot of Anabaptist literature. They used the word guminda. How would you translate? I don’t know German. In their mind that was synonymous with the kingdom.
Matthew Milioni – I would see localized community as outposts of the kingdom of God proper. I see them as cities in the kingdom of God.
Brothers, I appreciate your time. I know one of you, a couple of others, I have shaken your hand this afternoon. I have a question though. This whole community thing sounds very intriguing. I have driven here from Oregon. My trailer is packed. Can I join you? I say that somewhat sarcastically to load it with a question. How do you become a part of one of these communities? How do you start this? How do you screen and say well who joins? And who doesn’t? How does this work when you have a stranger who might want to come in and become a part of you?
Matthew Milioni – I have some answers to that. I think there are a couple of ways to look at that. First, the biblical principles of community that we talked about are for all of you right where you are when you go home on Monday. There are all kinds of things that everyone of you can do to have more life in common with the people that you fellowship with. You don’t have to go anywhere.
I was told, I was frustrated at one point in my life that I didn’t have as much of an intentional community where I was as I wanted as my ideals were expressing. A faithful brother told me, Matthew if you believe in community then live it where you are at and God will give you opportunity to live a fuller expression of that when you are ready for it. I think that is good sound advice. It is the advice that I took then and it has brought me to a place where I am very, very fulfilled in the expression of community that I get to experience. But there were a lot of steps along the way where it was just a matter of being faithful to my ideals to having these principles worked out in shoe leather that no matter what everyone else around me is doing, I am going to invest my life. I am going to find places to share. I am going to find places to be involved, no matter what even my brothers around me are doing. That has led to more and more increase.
Well said. The question was addressing though if an individual wanted to be a part of State College or Followers of the Way or Shippensburg or whatever, How would that happen?
Dean Taylor – Our communities through the years have had a lot of people come and go. One of the things they made a policy in is some people get this infatuation, they get a community bug and they will show up. In their wisdom they have not allowed people to just give money to them or that type of thing. They will set that aside. Mainly it is just coming along and being there and usually just daily life of dying to yourself and living in community weeds out most people. So you think somebody had all this way of life, it would just be filled with people. There are challenges to that. There is a reality in being exposed in a way that tends to do the weeding for itself.
Yes, those people are welcomed and when they learn to live that everyday life, we see if they stick around. Kind of like the way Jesus did.
Matthew Milioni – For us we have a long range vision that there should be groups like the Followers of the Way in a lot of places. We have a desire to help foster that goal. We also have a goal locally in our congregation that we want to have a focus on making a local church and making local disciples. I have seen already where moving a bunch of people in, a disproportionate amount of people are transits takes the churches eyes off of local ministry. Depending on what the purpose of the church is in a given place. We have to weigh these issues of – what is our main focus as a people? We want to see everybody have a full kingdom expression in their life. But we also want to make sure for us, we think of our obligation being to the lost people around us and to the needy people around us. We want to make disciples of the people that we are around. I don’t know if there are black or white answers to them but they have to be held in pension. So it is something to consider when moving people into a community.
How do we foster community in other places if we have a few brothers in the same area that say, Hey, Why don’t you guys start working together and making decisions that increase these things in your own lives.
Would you speak a little bit to the issue of the persecuted church? How does community play into that whole thing if we are persecuted? We are here in a country where we have the liberties to set up these communities. It might be somewhat simpler here. How does community prepare us for almost certain persecution that is coming? Is it necessary?
Dean Taylor – I think the principles are very important. As we get into an area that the world is attempting to scatter us and to distract us and to make us follow after their creeds and their understanding, the concept of being able to come together and lay your life down one for another is absolutely essential as we come forward into persecution. I think obviously the way we have our models of living arrangements are maybe going to have to be creative. Certainly mine and even Matthew’s would even have to have some modifications if persecutions were really intense.
When I read of the Hutterian Chronicles there was a time when they intentionally broke up, went into different areas, still had secret times when they came together and then when the persecution lessened they would come back together in community again. They amazingly did that through the centuries in incredibly intense ghods of Muslims coming in against eastern Europe and such. So it has historically been done and lived through and encouraged the saints through those times. I think we are getting to some time when in different ways and creative senses of seeing that need to learn to trust one another, depend on one another and encourage one another as we see the day approaching.
Do you have any final words that you would like to share for those in attendance? Any final thought on this topic of community and discipleship?
Dean Taylor – I really like what Matthew said. We are talking about something that Jesus gave for everyone of us. That is a perfect take home. Our churches are pretty full and we are not trying to gather everybody up to move to Minnesota or to Shippensburg or to Boston. But what we want you to do is to take these teachings of Jesus Christ. I challenge you to do this when you get home, take the gospel of Matthew and look at the 13th chapter. In the 13th chapter he goes through several examples of the kingdom of heaven is such and he gives the parables, the parable chapter. And in each one of those he starts with something small, a mustard seed, some yeast, a coin that collects interest and each one of those, that seed grows and it grows and it grows. I challenge you go back with all that you have heard during this conference, read Mt. 13 and I believe that the gospel of the kingdom will set in you like a tiny little seed in a way that maybe you have never experienced before. And it will grow. Don’t think you have got to get up and move or something. Give that to your communities. Give that to the people where you are. Express the practical and real following of Jesus Christ where you are. Amen. I appreciate what you have brought us there.
Ernest Eby – So Christian communities are one of the most powerful ways to influence the world. When it is done well, it has a tremendous impact on the world. When it is done wrong it also has a very bad, tremendous impact. I would say one of the worst things any of us could do is to become an independent community. You can have independent individuals and you can also have independent communities who can’t hear from the broader church. My encouragement is if you are interested in moving more towards community, talk to some people who have learned a few things. Learned a few things the hard way and see what advice they have.
Matthew Milioni – My final thoughts would be that I was frustrated for a lot of time and I referenced it, going into the streets and trying to work with people and trying to preach the gospel and investing a lot of time, energy, effort, tears, a lot into trying to live out my commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have come to believe that that message that Jesus came to be King and to establish a society of people is incomplete without these visible manifestations of these people living together and doing these things. So what ever you can do to make more of that where you are is aiding the kingdom of God. However you can divest yourself from your own life and add yourself into a people, the more commonality that we can have, the more of one heart, the more of one life, the more of one people we can be in every place where we are the more effectively we are witnessing a living epistle of who Jesus is to the world around us. It is absolutely indispensable to the gospel. It is also absolutely indispensable to my own personal discipleship. We are here, the whole theme of this weekend is discipleship, and I don’t know about other people. I know for my life, I need the insights of my brothers and the access that they have to my life to refine, to change and to shape me into what God wants me to be. I am just not enough to do the job. My family is not enough to do the job of becoming like Christ. I need my brothers. The more access I can give them to me, the more of myself I can give to them, the more holistically we are the body of Christ.
John D. Martin – I would give just one caveat. The devil knows the potential better than any of us. He would love for us to keep our individualistic, save me, if I could just get myself to heaven. He would love for us to just stop right there.
In the book of Acts when they did what you hear described in those two passages. It says great grace was upon them. With great power they gave testimony, and great fear came upon all the people around them. The devil knows that if he can keep us individualistic in our concept of what it is all about he can keep us powerless.
So having said that, you can expect that any attempt you make in this direction will be fiercely opposed by the devil. He will develop attitudes in you, attitudes in people and you are going to have to learn to have forbearance and forgiveness and lots of space for your brother because he doesn’t want this picture ever to be seen.
So there are many people who get together, start a church and they love each other so much they’d eat each other and low and behold about two years later they are doing just that. So there were hundreds of communes started during the hippy era. All of them failed. The only ones still going are the Hutterites and your community and Shippensburg still working at its vision. But this is a very hard thing to do. I don’t want to discourage you, but I want you to realize when you come against it that is to be expected. The devil will do everything he can to make this impossible.
Thank you brethren, I do want to express appreciation on behalf of those in attendance tonight. I sensed that there was a great deal of appreciation for the insights that you provided. God bless you for the way you are living this out. God bless you for the way you shared with us this evening.