Perhaps it might seem that I am spending too much time on this word, but I think it is important that words such as this, if adjudged genuine, are responded to.
This second part deals with possible practical responses, which for us is very much a work in progress. So look on this as a very local response – your mileage may differ:
• We (that is, my wife and I) think the two main things to be drawn from this message are :
(i) A need for a deeper loving community of believers,
(ii) A fellowship where possessions are to be used for God’s, rather than our own glory.
• The question for us is how to actually accomplish this? How do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? So, here are some of our loose thoughts on the matter. The beginnings of a conversation, certainly not a blueprint!
• Our initial thoughts were about a physically centred community setting – a place where people could come and share common life, worship, possessions etc. However, we have expanded on that concept. We want to know also how we can be community, be church in the geographically dispersed places in which we live! After all, geographically centred physical community is not something that may actually be possible for many people, and possibly not accessible to many. We have to be salt and light where we are.
• We also have considered some kind of register of possessions, and of talents that people are willing to freely share, for example fixing computers (my tent-making ministry!), lending transport, gardening etc – your imagination is the limit! (I would be interested to know if anybody’s church actually does something like this at the moment?)
-This would serve 4 purposes
1) We would use what God has given us in a more efficient and graceful way.
2) We would begin to possess our possessions less.
3) In so doing we would build fellowship and trust with each other.
4) We may begin to trust God more.
Note that this is not about giving things up, denying ourselves in an ascetic way; it is more about reaching out to others, and discovering the joy of giving.
• We also initially thought about the concept of some kind of common purse (see Acts 2.42). Basically, not only holding our possessions in common, but all our money too – where all earnings would go into a common pot out of which every person would be given according to their needs. So those who were earning could support those who weren’t, or who were struggling financially. I think it’s true to say that most peoples wallets are less converted than they would like to believe (ours included). Would you dare to give and receive in that way? It might help move us to a whole different place with God and each other.
• However, on considering this common purse idea further, we wondered whether this would allow all the freedom of generosity? That is not to say that it is an idea to be dismissed. Rather, that there are other ways to achieve the goal. What would be the goal? Our thought is that the goal of a common purse is not one of sharing money for its own sake. It’s more about sharing ourselves, entering into deeper fellowship, firstly with God, and then with each other. This is all about being relational, not functional, about faith and trust.
• So, common purse is entirely valid. However, equally valid is generous giving and distribution from something like a discretionary fund. This would allow those blessed with financial resource to be able to help those in need – both within and outside our immediate Church. This concept also allows for Godly generosity from each person, which could be in danger of being stifled within a common purse.
• Indeed, why could we not consider a discretionary fund type idea as replacing some of our insurance policies? Perhaps we rely too heavily on this insurance? Perhaps we could move to a place where we could joyfully meet each others needs?
• Nobody should feel pressurised to do this sort of thing; it should only be a free option to those who want to enter into this kind of covenant relationship.
• Also, how about the concept of some kind of daily office – such as they do in many Anglican (and other) churches and religious communities throughout the world, such as the Northumbria Community? A simple liturgy of a few moments, with a different bible reading at each office. This could be done either at home, and/or at the church itself. The purpose? To bind us together in worship of Him and in reading His Word. We would know that we shared something – literally that we stood before God alone together. Again, this should never be forced, only an option for those who wish it.
So – is this all a hopelessly naive pipe-dream? Yes, possibly. More on that as I wrap up these thoughts next time round…..