Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: community

The Day I Had to Bully My Father

Two years later we had a very dry summer. About the only things that flourished were the Russian thistles. Then they would dry up, break off at ground level and blow across the prairie landscape. Often they would collect in great masses along fence lines, becoming fire hazards. Dad liked to collect them in a pile and burn them.

One day in late summer, Dad came into the house with a big hole burned in the back of his coveralls and the shirt beneath. He told me to go across the dam and see if he had got the fire completely out. I saw that his Russian Thistle fire had gotten away on him. There was a large blackened area in the grass and here and there small flames still flickering. When I was sure had stamped them all out I returned to the house.

Dad’s back was badly burned; Mom and I knew he had to go to the hospital. He refused. “Who will milk the cows? Who will do my janitor chores?”

I told him I would do all that, but still he refused. Finally I raised my voice to a bellow and manhandled my father out to the truck and drove him to the hospital. Mom had called Doctor McCaw and he was there to admit Dad and take charge.

The chores at home I knew how to do. The responsibilities of the hospital janitor I did not know. But those were simpler times. It helped that my cousin Ron was on the hospital board and the hospital matron, in charge of housekeeping, was Barb Hunter, a friend of the family from Mossbank days. With Barb coaching me I tried to do everything that Dad had done. I stopped in to see him each day and to see how his back was healing. I think Dad spent ten days in the hospital. His work got done and he got his full pay cheque.

At home I fed the chickens, gathered the eggs and milked the cows morning and evening. I cranked out the cream on the cream separator and did all the chores that needed doing. As far as I can remember Dad never did say thank you, but I think knowing that I had taken care of things eased some of the tension between us.

[This is part of chapter 10 of my memoir. I have done a thorough re-write and rearranging of the material I have previously posted and am ready to start on the next section)

The community of believers

The New Testament depicts the church as a building which has Christ as its foundation, and as a body of which Christ is the head. In both of these illustrations it is evident that the church is much more than the sum of its members. The reputation of the church should be based upon the reputation of Jesus Christ, not on the reputation of its members or its pastors.

If the church is a building (a temple), then all the elements of the building must be linked to the foundation and joined together in such a way that each part helps to hold the building up. A ramshackle building with pieces falling off and holes in the walls would not give one much confidence that this is the church of the Living God.

If we view the church as a body, then to see this body with arms and legs flailing about because of a dysfunction in the nervous system that does not allow them to receive coordinated direction from the head would give a similarly dismaying picture.

Yet isn’t this pretty much the picture that is given by the so-called “invisible church”? It seems that every joint and sinew has a different doctrine of how the body should function. The result is frenetic activity, but very little forward movement. The world looks on bemusedly and wonders where God is in all this confusion, or if there even is a God.

Yet God is at work. Many good and wonderful things are happening through men and women who are earnestly serving God and their fellow men. May God be praised for His goodness and mercy.

There are others who have become sidetracked by the love of acclaim and financial rewards. Sometimes there are spectacular flame-outs that bring the whole Christian enterprise into disrepute. There are others zealously promoting man-made doctrines that cause confusion, discord and ridicule.

The New Testament pattern is of a close-knit community of true believers, where each one seeks the well-being of the others and none are motivated by a desire for praise or gain. The spiritual leaders are servants, not lords. Decisions are made by unitedly seeking direction from the Holy Spirit.

There are times when such a body may seem to have almost fallen asleep as it considers the circumstances before it and examines all angles and possibilities. When direction comes, the body can move quickly and God will bless and uphold the steps that are taken.

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

There is a famine – part two

Yesterday I wrote a little about the famine of hearing the words of the Lord.  Today I want to write about another kind of famine that is spreading over our land: a famine of community among those who would follow the Lord.  This kind of famine is just as deadly as the first, especially since it is more deceptive.

In all the cities of our land there are evangelical churches where the Word of God is being preached.  Yet there is usually something else added to the gospel, and it is all the more deceptive in that almost no one recognizes it as an additive.  I am talking about the pietistic belief that the only thing that really matters is to be born again and begin a relationship with God.  As long as all is right between God and me, nothing else matters.

But we are social creatures, created to have fellowship with others.  We need the community of fellow believers to share our struggles and our victories.  To weep with us when we weep, to rejoice with us when we rejoice.  To warn us when we begin to stray from the Way, to help us find our way back, to bear with us when we are weak and almost overcome by the trials and sorrows of the way.

But not much of this is available.  The big churches have ministries for every identifiable group in their midst, but this does not create a bond between individuals and families, it does not build a sense of community.  There may be considerable excitement for a time, a sense that God is really doing great things, but somehow the inner hunger for community is not being satisfied.

There is much concern in the churches today about “leavers,” those who live a vibrant, overcoming Christian life for years and then leave the faith, saying they cannot believe any more.  Where was the community?  Did no one notice the little signs that something was changing?  That this soul was starving?

It is possible to have a sense of Christian community in a big city.  But a big church with special ministries does not create community.  It takes a group of believers who are committed to the Lord and to each other.  A group of believers who make their spiritual community the focus of their social lives, who do not only gather together for worship and Bible study but find other times to visit together as families.  They may visit about many things of everyday life and it may seem that there was only a little said of spiritual things, but these everyday visits build trust and community, a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself and my family.  Bonds of fellowship and unity grow, forming a web of relationships that is not easily torn asunder.

There is yet another level to this sense of community.  There needs to be a larger community of congregations of the same faith, so that when one travels, or relocates, it is possible to find a congregation of the same faith where one can feel at home.  The bonds between congregations are as important as the bonds between individuals and families.

However, because of the inroads of individualistic pietism, many Christians do not realize their need of community.  And there is a difficulty that needs to be admitted.  I cannot be right all the time and feel myself part of a community.  It is not possible for us to disagree and yet each one be right.

The Apostle Peter admonishes us: “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).  We need to be willing to learn from one another, to bend a little when others do not see things as I see them.  I need to let my rough edges get worn smooth, yet be patient with the brother, or sister, whose rough edges are still very evident.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is not given to exalt me above others, but to make it possible to recognize the same Spirit in my brothers and sisters.  The Spirit unites us in a common purpose, despite differences in background, social status and character.  It is the Spirit that binds us together and smooths the differences between us, allowing us to draw spiritual nourishment from the community of fellow believers.

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