Editorial

Community Development Needed. Apply Within.

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Common to all the world’s cultures is our need for community. We build communities around beliefs, passions, advocacies, causes, interests, hobbies, social structures, nationality, gender, family, friends, common good and common notso-good. People find community in temples and in taverns; on benches or barstools; over burgers or baklava; face-to-face or Facebook-to-Facebook.

Regardless of what unites us, we long to be in community with one another. Our deep need for social interaction is trumped only by our need for safety and survival.

As Christ followers, we hope to find our greatest sense of community as members of His Body, the Church. “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16).

We are also united by our common passion to fulfill the great commandments (Matt. 22:37–40) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20). But these uniting factors introduce the great paradox of the community of Christ: its primary commitment is to its nonmembers. We follow the example of the One who surrendered His own rights to prove His love to those who were hostile toward Him. We must similarly surrender ours if we hope to extend His inviting and invading love—particularly to those who share disdain toward His Bride, for whatever reason.

An Inviting Love. Jesus was not as interested in posting the do’s and don’ts of Kingdom behavior as He was with displaying His Father’s radical love, setting captives free and offering peace and rest to the weary and burdened. This is why people were (and are) so drawn to Him.

To win over a culture that has become increasingly untrusting of the faith community, churches must become more hospitable and self-sacrificing than ever before. This may be harder in practice than it looks on paper. Are we truly willing to abandon any notion of self-preservation? To surrender any tendency to protect ourselves and our families from exposure to things from which we’d much rather be insulated? To relinquish our senses of comfort, entitlement and moral superiority in favor of offering the only true alternative to the hopelessness and brokenness our world offers?

A. B. Simpson’s Thirteenth Street Presbyterian congregation in New York City fought hard to maintain the status quo by keeping out the “riff-raff ” of shipyard immigrants that threatened the tranquility of their “faith” community. But Simpson shared Christ’s “wedding banquet” concept of community that invites weary travelers from the highways and byways—and anyone else in desperate need of a divine feast. So Simpson left his lucrative and promising pastorate and established the Gospel Tabernacle, a church in the heart of the city, where all—the poor, homeless, sick and displaced—would be welcome.

In last month’s “graphic novel” edition of alife, we got a glimpse of a vagabond church in Turkey that invited a desperate and angry Iranian refugee named Daniel into its fellowship and introduced him to a Savior who transformed him from a Christian hater to a Christ lover.

Jesus’ love is also an invading love. He invaded the complacent lives of two stubborn fishermen and bid them to follow Him on an unmatched journey of faith and discovery (Mark 1:14–17); He invaded the inner turmoil of a Samaritan woman at the well and called her to repentance and freedom (John 4:7–26); and He pursues us, His Bride, with invading love and unconditional acceptance—even in our unfaithfulness.

As Alliance people, we’re not content merely to sit back and wait for opportunities to be hospitable. Our DNA dictates our need to be much more proactive. As L. L. King, U.S. Alliance president from 1978 through 1987, wrote: “The Alliance is a unique missionary denomination—a maverick movement into whose soul the Head of the Church breathed ‘Go!’ from the very start.” We have a long, rich legacy of pushing back the darkness in some of the most oppressive communities around the world and here in our own American backyard.

Two months ago we reported on how members of one church decided to “invade” an adult entertainment industry trade show—not with “weapons of war” but with unexpected gestures of Christ’s love—and transformed a porn producer into a seminary student who now helps others to escape the porn industry’s tenacious grip.

In this issue you’ll read five practical expressions of Christ’s inviting and invading love through churches and individuals in the greater Alliance community . . . from inner city Pittsburgh (p. 9) to remote villages in Burkina Faso (pp. 6 and 16). In each case, these “inviters and invaders” surrender their rights to protect personal turf, preserve personal comfort and promote personal achievement.

Community development starts here. The Church’s only hope to transform its outer communities is to first transform its inner community. We can’t hope to apply outside of our walls what we fail to apply within.

Past Alliance Life Issues

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