Intentional Christian community is a way of living that my wife and I have been interested almost as long as we have known each other. Some of our earliest experiences together were attending a talk by Shane Claiborne, one of the leaders of the New Monasticism movement, and visiting Dr. Elaine Heath’s New Spring Communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for three days.
As a result of these experiences, and through reading and study, we’ve always had a goal of participating in intentional, missional Christian community. During our time in Tulsa, this goal has come closer and closer, as we have gotten involved with those pursuing the same here. Recently, we have begun looking at places to live in Turley, an unincorporated town just north of Tulsa that is hit hard by poverty and blight, and where the Third Way Foundation, led by UU Rev. Ron Robinson, has begun this missional model. Intentional living is finally within reach for us, the culmination of almost seven years of searching and discerning and hoping.
So receiving the latest book from Plough Publishing in the mail a few weeks ago was an unexpected, much appreciated surprise. Called to Community: The Life Jesus Wants for His People is a compliation of essays from a variety of Christian figures across the centuries. Divided into 52 chapters focused on specific topics (for instance, “Vocation”, “Transparency”, or “Money”), the book is designed for communal reading weekly for a year.
Obviously, I didn’t go the weekly route; I read it straight through. In doing so, I came to understand that reading it slowly, topic by topic, is what I really would suggest; there is not a narrative theme, so it can start to bog down in a straight read, especially if you are running through chapters that don’t speak to you.
That said, I found Called to Community a great resource, one I intend to keep close at hand as we move into intentional community. The variety of voices represented here (ranging from Dorothy Day to John Perkins to Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Thomas Merton), writing from experience on the things any Christian community will run into are invaluable. So many new ideas and questions came to me as I read and contemplated our move.
If you are involved in a missional community, or if you are contemplating it, or if you just want to know how to maximize the sense of community in your local congregation or prayer group, Called to Community can be a priceless, and much used, resource on your shelf. Not necessarily as a single read, but as a collection you can call upon in a variety of situations as you navigate life with others. Give it a read.