'Writing an article about growing interest in community living among evangelicals. Care to offer a few lines from your perspective about why people from an evangelical background are interested in either community life?'
It was from my old friend Simon Cross. Great chap, Simon, and I was at a lull in the working day, so I replied straightaway.
Here's what I wrote:
Evangelical Christians often emphasise the importance of individuals having an authentic relationship with God - 'knowing God personally'. This is indeed important, but it's not the whole story.
Christianity is essentially a communal faith (after all, the command to love one another is at its heart). I think many evangelicals have found an over-emphasis on individualism has left them hungry for more. For some this leads to exploring what it means to be 'church', to be 'the body of Christ' - in ways that go beyond just meeting together once or twice a week. Some read the early chapters of Acts, with its daily fellowship and sharing of possessions and find themselves thinking 'Why not now?'
Certainly it was this kind of exploration that led members of the Jesus Fellowship to start a residential community, forty years ago. Now about a quarter of our members (600 or so people) live in community. Of course, sharing homes and possessions is a fairly 'full on' and strenuous expression of community - it's not for everyone.
But it is also true that you get out of community what you put in. By definition, 'community' has to be more than just a fad or phase if you're going to experience it truly. To paraphrase Jesus - it's in losing your (independent, self-centred) life that you find real life.
Tonight, most of the sixteen who live in our house are having a meal together. Maybe I'll read out to them what I wrote to Simon.
After all, it's good to remember why we're doing what we're doing.