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When discussing Christian community of goods, the term communism will inevitably pop up sooner or later. The Jesus Army, which has been practicing community for over 40 years, has many times been called communists by outsiders. They themselves don’t use the term, however, which is not so strange. Firstly, “communism” is to a large extent a pejorative in the western world, that is, a derogatory insult. Secondly, there are lots of different definitions and conceptions of what communism is about. Here are a few examples:
- That people commonly own the means of production.
- That people own property together.
- That people own property together because of coercion.
- That the state owns the means of production.
- That the state practices planned economy.
- That the state is run by a ruthless dictatorship which practices planned economy and kill lots of people.
- That workers revolt and install a dictatorship of the proletariat, which abolishes class society and make the means of production commonly owned, and then abolishes the state so that everyone can happily live in a communist utopia with no class divisions or oppression.
What all Christians practiced in the apostolic Jerusalem church was basically definition 2: “the ranks of those who believed were of one heart and one soul, and no one called any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common … None of them suffered any distress. All who had land or houses sold their possessions and brought what they had received for the sold property and put the payment at the apostles’ feet. And they gave to everyone according to what he needed. “(Acts 4:32, 34-35). (more…)
When I visited the Jesus Army in the UK and enjoyed their community of goods, I obviously wrote a lot about it on the Internet. Apart from writing on this blog and my Swedish one, I shared a lot of pictures and joyful reflections, just being happy and thankful of experiencing the community of goods I had read about in Acts chapters 2 and 4. It didn’t take long before many of my Christian friends started arguing against community of goods, using all kinds of arguments why we shouldn’t live like the apostles. Many of them were based on myths and false assumptions, and on of the most common is the idea that community of goods simply doesn’t work.
It’s quite strange how I, when I’m in a community house that has existed for 30 years, hanging around with people that have lived in community for most of their lives, get to hear from my friends back home in Sweden that community of goods doesn’t work and is doomed to fail. There are usually three arguments for this:
- The community of goods in Jerusalem obviously failed, since Paul had to fundraise money for the poor there around year 50 (2 Cor 8-9).
- Soviet! Stalin! Mao! Kim Jong Un! Communism sucks!!!!!1!
- I know of a Christian community that existed once, and people just got angry and today it is gone.
Lonnie Frisbee was an amazing Jesus freak. Being a key figure and informal leader of the Jesus People Movement in the 60’s and 70’s, his impact on Western Christianity is huge. With his long hair and beard he tried to look like Jesus himself “because there’s no one else I want to look like”, he preached on the beaches to his hippie friends that the Holy Spirit is even better than LSD and brought thousands of them to church.
The Jesus movement spread rapidly across California, US and the world, but most churches closed the door for them – after all, they were hippies. A church that did welcome them though was Calvary Chapel led by Chuck Smith, not because he was a hippie, nor because he wanted to become one, but because he liked them.
While Chuck emphasized Bible studying and evangelical values (which Lonnie thought was awesome) Lonnie himself was a holy roller. He cast out demons, spoke in tongues, healed the sick and prophesied loudly. He proclaimed himself to be a prophet and a mystic, and the whole Jesus Movement became a radical charismatic movement.
In 1980 he visited John Wimber‘s Vineyard church and released the youth into full scale charismatic renewal, which had a huge impact on Wimber himself and the whole third wave charismatic renewal. In John Wimber: The Way it Was, John’s wife Carol Wimber shares how important Lonnie was for the Vineyard, and she has some awesome testimonies from a trip to South Africa she, John and Lonnie made where they literally saw the blind and lame being totally healed when they imparted the power of the Holy Spirit to them.
To read other parts of the series, go here.
It’s finally time to end God vs Wealth. And in this final part, I want to talk about some practical implications of this teaching and adress some questions that I think some of you who have followed the series have.
Question 1: Are you really saying that everyone should have everything in common?
I think economic equality is the goal and community of goods is an effective means to reach the goal. In fact, I don’t really know any more effective way to reach equality than Acts chapter 2. The model most churches use today clearly doesn’t work, and for many of them equality is not even the goal.
Of course, community of goods requires more than one person, so start with connecting with others who has the same thoughts as you. get inspired by New creation Christian Community and The Simple Way, and start building. Remember though that Christians communities should include the really poor and marginalised. Get to know poor folks in your area or neighbourhoods, invite them for dinner, love them, and if they’re up for it, live with them.
Also urge your church to start building international community of goods. Connect with say five churches in other parts of the world, look what common budget you have and split it equally. Then, rich churches will learn simplicity and poor churches will have more resources to meet needs and spread the Gospel. Win-win! (more…)