Recently some thoughts by Elton Trueblood were passed on to me. They describe the kind of community for which the world longs. They are thoughtfully and articulately written, so I pass them to you with the prayer that they will help you better understand the plan that Christ left for His disciples.
“Jesus was deeply concerned for the continuation of his redemptive work after the close of his earthly existence, and his chosen method was the formation of a redemptive society. He did not form an army, establish a headquarters, or even write a book. All He did was to collect a few unpromising men and women, inspire them with the sense of His vocation and theirs, and build their lives into an intensive fellowship of affection, worship, and work.
One of the truly shocking passages of the gospel is that in which Jesus indicates that there is absolutely no substitute for the tiny redemptive society. If this fails, He suggests, all is a failure; there is no other way. He told the little-bedraggled fellowship that they were actually the salt of the earth and that if this salt should fail; there would be no adequate preservative at all. He was staking all on one throw.
What we need is not intellectual theorizing or even preaching, but a demonstration. There is only one way of turning people’s loyalty to Christ, and that is by loving others with the great love of God. We cannot revive faith by argument, but we might catch the imagination of puzzled men and women by an exhibition of a fellowship so intensely alive that every thoughtful person would be forced to respect it. If there should emerge in our day such a fellowship, wholly without artificiality and free from the dead hand of the past, it would be an exciting event of momentous importance. A society of loving souls, set free from the self-seeking struggle for personal prestige and from all unreality, would be something unutterably precious. A wise person would travel any distance to join it.”
(From “Alternative to Futility” by Elton Trueblood)
The longest distance we can travel could be from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness, which will lead us to true community. My prayer is that we can really grasp the power of this idea and give ourselves to the development of such a fellowship. As I see it, our mandate is for vital, loving, Christ-centered communities rather than crusades. Instead, we have a tendency to place greater value on speaker-centered events. We think we are successful when we gather a large number of people to hear someone talk about Jesus. Jesus had another plan. He said folks would understand the reality of the incarnation when we love each other. (John 13&17) Crusades and other events may have their place if they surface out of a Christ-centered community (Day of Pentecost, Acts 2) but it is in a fellowship of believers that souls are healed and nurtured. Trueblood is talking about the power of an idea, which was left to us by Jesus. Alcoholics Anonymous have a phrase that fits this idea perfectly. They talk about “Attraction Not Promotion.” That’s it; if our fellowship were more attractive, we would not need to promote so much. People are starved for love and acceptance but rarely find it in an event, so let’s commit ourselves to working together on a demonstration project. Let’s be a network of people who refuse to allow doctrinal distinctives, racial differences, worship styles, denominational allegiance or methodology to divide us. It will take much work and even reconciliation, but the idea is to develop a band of people who love Jesus and love each other. Then we will be participating with the Father as He answers the prayer of Jesus in John 17.