Intro to This Issue:
Fifty years ago Steve Clark wrote the book, Building Christian Communities: Strategy for Renewing the Church.Steve’s book laid out a pastoral vision for re-centering Christ in the Christian Church and the building of Christ-centered communities by an environmental approach which permits the development of a fully Christian life in all its members, and fosters the growth of a naturally emergent leadership from within.
The book, which was first published in 1972, laid out the rationale and pastoral principles for taking a holistic approach. Here is a brief quote from the section, On Forming Christian Enviornments (Communities) in Chapter 2:
When society as a whole cannot be expected to accept Christianity, then it is necessary to form communities within society to make Christian life possible.
Providing Christian environments – environments where Christianity is openly expressed and accepted and where a person can find the support he or she needs to be a Christian – is a top priority and main goal of pastoral work. The question that remains is how such environments can be formed. Our society is not Christian. Even within our Churches, Christian environments are not so easy to find. What can be done?
The answer is that we need to form “Christian communities.” A community is a type of environment – a strong, effective form of environment.
Steve’s pastoral strategy and holistic approach to building Christian communities has born great fruit since the beginnings of the covenant communities movement which began in the early 1970s and has spread rapidly around the world. The Sword of the Spirit, is one example, of the growth of charismatic, ecumenical, national and international networks of Christian covenant communities.
This issue highlights the call to live a distinctive Christian way of life together as members of the body of Christ. We see covenant Christian community as a sign of what God wants to restore for all of his people, especially as we face turbulent changes and challenges in today’s society, as well as increasing persecution in many parts of the world. It is a signpost of what God is bringing about through the gift of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. It is a visible public sign of the Lord’s work of renewal in bringing people into a revitalized relationship with God, and it is a sign of the unity he desires for all his people.
Covenant Christian community is a servant of the renewal. It is meant to be a prophetic sign to the rest of the charismatic renewal, and to the churches, and to the world. It’s a message to everybody, but not everybody is called to this particular form of community. People should be able to visit covenant communities and see how the Holy Spirit is renewing his people and restoring to them a fuller shared life together.
May the Lord Jesus, through the work and power of the Holy Spirit, renew our call and zeal to give our lives fully to the Lord and to live and serve together as an intergenerational community of disciples on mission.
Sincerely in Christ,
Top image credit: photo of people worshipping the Lord, from © Lightstock.com. Used with permission.