You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘christian community’ tag.

“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when He called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called–the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Life Together

“He who loves community destroys community; he who loves the brethren builds community”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Image result for life together

“It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together17.

lifeWriting from Germany on the precipice of war, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a classic on Christian community. In Life Together he called attention the grace of Christian community, calling it “the ‘roses and lilies’ of the Christian life” (21).

In our country, where freedom to worship remains unchecked, his words provide a needed corrective to any laissez-faire attitude we may have towards biblical community. While church membership and attendance are generally affirmed by Christians, I don’t think we see how much grace there is in our ability to gather. By contrast, Bonhoeffer watched the Third Reich run over the church and the Church in turn to compromise with the state.

In such a context, he came to see just how much grace there is when brothers dwell together in unity—true spiritual unity. Consider his words and give thanks for the community of believers he has given you. May his words spur us on to press deeper into the life of our church, or to start such a community of spiritually-minded believers, if one is not present.

Christian Community is a Profound Gift

He introduces his book with the idea that Christian community is a profound gift, but one not experienced by all Christians alike.

It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. (17)

So between the death of Christ and the last day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing. They remember, as the Psalmist David, how they went “with the multitude… to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude the holyday (Ps 42:4). But they remain alone in far countries, a scattered seed according to God’s will. (18–19)

It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the kingdom of God that any day maybe taken from us, that the time that still separates us from other loneliness maybe brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: it is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren. (20)

Christianity Community is Covered with Warts

While adamant about the importance of Christian community, Bonhoeffer is no idealist. He makes it clear that the church is a place for sinners, warts and all. While Christ died to beautify his bride, that beauty is still forthcoming.

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung up from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But god’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. … He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. (26–27)

Bonhoeffer stands against what he calls “wish dreaming.” The church is not a utopian club for the well-polished. Rather, God intends for us sinners to abide with other sinners, to look to the cross for our daily justification, and to be polish with the friction that results. He writes,

Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words or deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together—the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. (28)

What a strong antidote Bonhoeffer provides for Christians seeking self-satisfaction in the church. God aims for our eternal holiness, not our immediate comfort.


from chapter 4 in Paul House, Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision.

1. Bonhoeffer believed that seminary is a time for students to learn how to lead a faithful Christian community.

2. “Let them thank God on their knees and realize: it is grace, nothing but grace, that we are still permitted to live in the community of Christians today.”

3. Without Christ, students’ egos would keep them from loving one another.

4. But the greatest danger to Christian community is a wishful image.  Only when all such images are broken, and disillusionment sets in, can the community begin to be what it should be in God’s sight.

5. Students did not always stay at Finkenvalde.  Bonhoeffer himself wished to get away.  People grumbled.  The Confessing Church did not always live up to its promise.  Visions of the future got crushed.

6. “God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious.  Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves.  They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly.”

For the rest of the post..


imagesLast Friday (April 9, 1945) was the 70th anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The German theologian and dissident, was hanged for opposing the Nazi regime. He is not just remembered for his death, but for his clear articulation of the incarnational faith, ministry, and community.

Though never fancying myself as much of a theologian, I do enjoy the likes of activist theologians such as Lesslie Newbigen and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. You could say they had “street cred” in the neighborhood. They not only talked of God, they lived out the missio dei (the mission of God).

An introspective question I often ponder is this, “Do I”? Or, am I simply a person who talks a good God game, but when it comes to living it out in my neighborhood, do I really?

I hope I do…I pray I do…and even more so, I pray WE do!

Bonhoeffer was the real deal when it came to living incarnationally and engaging the world around him. These are a few of my favorite (and convicting) thoughts from his writings:

“The Church is the Church only when it exists for others…not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.”

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”

For the rest of the post…

Original Posting At
Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and given an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting God’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called. “The challenge of death comes to us all and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone…. I will not be with you then, nor you with me” (Luther).

But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.

For the rest of the post…

Devotional column: Worship requires community

Hebrews 10:25: “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other.”

There is no denying the reality that we need each other. “Ubuntu” is an African word that captures the concept of the need for community: “I am who I am because you are who you are, and I have what you need and you have what I need.”

When we come together unified in corporate worship and small group settings, we affirm the “ministry of presence.” Not only do we seek the presence of God, which is primary, but we are drawn to the presence of each other.

We can find words of wisdom on the theme of community and unity from two men from the past. E. Stanley Jones, lay missionary and evangelist, puts our need for each other this way: “Everyone who belongs to Christ belongs to everyone else who belongs to Christ. You do not have to seek for unity. You have it — in Christ.” We become brothers and sisters in Christ when we allow Christ to live in us.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran priest martyred by the Nazis, suggests in his book, “Life Together,” that Christians have words from the Holy Spirit that need to be shared among them. These words may be convicting, encouraging or instructive, but they need to be shared.

Bonhoeffer wrote, “The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged; for by himself he cannot help himself… He needs his brother and sister as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”

If we believe that Christ is the cornerstone of the “building” called the church, and if we believe that Christ is the head of the “body of believers” called the church, then the analogy that Jesus gives us in John 15:1-8 takes on a deeply personal meaning. When a branch is cut from a vine, it soon dies from lack of nourishment. Jesus says that can happen to the believer who fails to find nourishment in community with others and fails to stay connect to him.

For the rest of the post…

Encyclopedia of World Biography | 2004

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) had a major influence on post-World War II Protestant theology. Executed because of his part in the German resistance to Hitler, through his actions and writings he called for Christian involvement in the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on Feb. 4, 1906, in Breslau, the sixth of eight children. His father was a leading professor of neurology and psychiatry; his mother was the granddaughter of a distinguished church historian. When Dietrich was 6, his family moved to Berlin. He was educated at the universities of Tübingen (1923-1924) and Berlin, where he was awarded a doctorate in 1927 at the age of only 21.

Early Career

Bonhoeffer’s doctoral dissertation, The Communion of Saints (1930), introduces some of his most characteristic emphases: a passionate concern that Christianity be a concrete reality within the real world of men; a wholly Christ-centered approach to theology, grounded entirely in the New Testament; and an intense preoccupation with the Church as “Christ existing as community.”

After a year as curate of a German-speaking congregation in Barcelona, Spain (1928-1929), Bonhoeffer spent the academic year 1930-1931 in the United States as Sloane fellow at Union Theological Seminary. In fall 1931 he became a lecturer in theology at Berlin University, and his inaugural dissertation was published that year asAct and Being. Two collections of his lectures were later published: Creation and Fall (1937), an interpretation of chapters 1-3 of Genesis; and Christ the Center, published posthumously from student notes. The latter work foreshadows the central idea of his last writings—Christ’s whole being is His being-for-man, and His powerlessness and humiliation for man’s sake are the fullest disclosure of the power and majesty of God.

Resistance to Nazism

Bonhoeffer was one of the first German Protestants to see the demonic implications of Nazism. After Hitler came to power in 1933, Bonhoeffer helped organize the Pastors’ Emergency League, which became the nucleus of the Confessing Church of anti-Nazi German Protestants. While serving as minister to a German-speaking congregation in London (1933-1935), he sought support from international Christian leaders for the German Christians who were protesting Nazism.

In 1935 Bonhoeffer returned to Germany and founded a clandestine seminary to train pastors for the illegal anti-Nazi church. The seminary, located chiefly at Finkenwalde, continued despite Gestapo harassment until 1937. Bonhoeffer organized the seminary as a living workshop in Christian community and developed close relationships with his students. Out of Finkenwalde came The Cost of Discipleship (1937), a clarion call to active obedience to Christ based on the Sermon on the Mount, and Life Together (1939), a brief study of the nature of Christian community.

As war became increasingly inevitable, friends arranged an American lecture tour for Bonhoeffer with the hope that he would remain in the United States indefinitely. But only 6 weeks after his arrival in New York, he decided to return to Germany to suffer with his people.

Bonhoeffer became a member of the German resistance movement, convinced after much soul searching that only by working for Germany’s defeat could he help save his country. From 1940 to 1943 Bonhoeffer worked on a study of Christian ethics, which was grounded in the biblical Christ as the concrete unity between God and the world. The sections he completed were later published as Ethics (1949).

For the rest of the article…

December 2019
« Nov    


Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.