Half a year ago I cofounded an association here in Sweden called the Jerusalem Project, which promotes Christian community life and aspires to make community of goods like in the book of Acts more common in the churches. I and the others in the board have been planning for some months to start an intentional community if our own next year, and as a preparation we follow a common rule that outlines a simple lifestyle, prayer routines, Bible reading and ethics. We also read The Intentional Christian Community Handbook by David Janzen together and discuss it over Skype.
In Janzen’s book, Brandon Rhodes has contributed with some great chapters on how modern culture impacts the prospects for increasing Christian community life. In the West, people are more individualistic than they used to be, which is both an obstacle to community since such a life is very communal, as well as an opportunity since it may stir a longing for an alternative social way of living.
Rhodes also point out that more people than ever before come from divorced families, that the line between youth and adulthood has been completely blurred, and the fact that people are online more than ever. These things, and many more, pose challenges to community life that need to be taken seriously.
Overall, Rhodes describes a high degree of ambiguity, indecision and rootlessness among the younger Western generation which I am very familiar with. I can see it in my own life as well as in the lives of others. A lot of Christians love the idea of community of goods: how it eliminates poverty, bonds brothers and sisters together and provides a great platform for simplicity and serving others. But when it comes to actually committing to a community for more than just a few years, many are very hesitant.
The first step of helping Christians, both young and old, to deal with this is to provide the wineskins – communities with common purses – so that their vision isn’t merely abstract but an actual lifestyle possibility. Secondly, we need to teach more on apostolic community of goods and our Christian calling to simplicity, equality and sustainability. And thirdly, we need to equip those who choose community life to break the individualistic bonds they have been brought up with as well as being able to evangelize and plant new communities that can have a ripple effect across all churches.
And again, what is an obstacle can also be an opportunity. I myself come from a divorced family, but that has obviously not made me skeptical to communal living and lifelong commitments. As long as we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, we can provide the radical alternative way of living that the world so desperately needs.