Community is hard -- and that's a good thing

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves… - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As we’ve been sharing the idea for Le Voisinage with our students, several have made comments along the lines of, “This is a really exciting project! But I could never be part of it, because…” and then some variation of, “I don’t know if I could live with other people,” “I like living alone,” or even, “I don’t want to be around awkward Christians.”

Or to paraphrase, “Living with others is hard and uncomfortable”.

They have a point.

Le Voisinage, or, So what are we doing?

Voisinage header

We want to reach three types of people at once. Jesus promises that the supernatural love between Christians will make the world see that God sent him, that God has loved us, and that we are his disciples. What’s more, our society is experiencing a crisis of community.

It is on the foundation of these three principles that the student ministry team in Quebec City is building our plan for the coming years. We want to build a community based on this love, which will show convinced Christians, questioning Christians, and people who have no experience of faith, that Jesus changes everything.

The Model of This World : Bad Maps

USS Jeannette The eighth of July 1879. The USS Jeannette leaves California on an expedition to reach the North Pole.

Following a map created by the cartographer August Peterman, who believed that a temperate current flowed northward through the Bering Strait and would bring the ship to an open polar sea.

Peterman’s theory is false, the ship finds itself stuck in the ice, and after two years of drifting, it is crushed by the building pressure. Captain George Washington De Long, along with 20 of his 32 crewmen, die trying to find their way back to land.

What if we are following bad maps to plot the course of our lives?

The Pattern of This World : The Age of Authenticity according to Charles Taylor (Part 2)

Beyond his general description of the Age of Authenticity (remember, a period characterised by a social imaginary of expressive individualism and mutual display which allows us to make our chosen identity seen), Taylor also offers insights about its effects on faith and spirituality: The shining promise of the next new product, which always offers a greater satisfaction, is like a “stronger form of magic” than faith, which draws us away from traditional belief.

The Pattern of This World : The Age of Authenticity according to Charles Taylor (Part 1)

So far I’ve made several references to Charles Taylor’s philosophy. Taylor is a philosopher and expert in secularisation from Montreal, and I’ve taken these ideas from the book How (Not) To Be Secular, Reading Charles Taylor by James K. A. Smith (Eerdmans, 2014). Taylor has many insights about our modern society, and I would like to share a few of them as part of the theme of “The Pattern of This World”.

The Pattern of This World : Sexuality

(Note : This post is the continuation of a series. If possible, please read it in the context of the two previous posts : Do Not Conform to the Pattern of This World and The Pattern of This World. ) Last year my wife and I found ourselves surrounded by Christian couples, not yet married, who were not following the Christian model of sexuality. We work with a student ministry, so obviously questions about sexuality are always current.

Parenthesis : Cohabitat Québec, an example of community, here and now

A quick parenthesis today. I’ve recently thought a lot about the absence of community in our context, what a real community would look like, etc. So when I saw the description of this report from Pas banal, la vie, a radio show on Radio-Canada, it piqued my curiosity. It’s about Cohabitat Québec, a condo development built around living in community. About a hundred people live in apartments and town houses, with common living spaces and regular community activities.

The Pattern of This World

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2 (NIV) Last time, we spoke of our need to expose the unquestioned beliefs of our culture. The NIV speaks of “the pattern of this world” ; so, what is this pattern that we must not conform to?

A Christmas Present

I’m really exited today to release a prayer journal Android app that I’ve written! Download on Google Play I started working on it a few years ago, but once it got to the point that it met my own needs, I moved on to other things and never finished the project. But recently I realised that it worked well enough that others could get some value from it, and I’ve also been pondering ways to use prayer to help others get to know God… so I spent some time this Christmas break to fill in the features necessary to publish it.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2 (NIV) In my first post I spoke of Charles Taylor’s social imaginary – the idea that we accept many narratives, values and priorities from our society without thinking about them.

As I have loved you...

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 The last couple weeks we have talked about how Jesus connects our love and unity with our witness, in John 13:34-35 and John 17:20-23. Briefly, if we are truly united in the love of God, the world will see:

We Have Never Seen A Real Community

Last week I wrote about the fact that our society seem interested in community, even if it’s a fundamental need of our created nature. But why? I propose that the answer is that In Quebec, we have rarely, if ever, seen a real community. Matthieu Bélisle, in his book « Bienvenue au pays de la vie ordinaire » made this observation about the Québécois : « He remains persuaded that his connections with others come from a free association to which it would be possible to put an end : I am from this country because I wanted to be, but I could easily move elsewhere ; I live with this man or this woman, but I could easily separate from him or her and share my life with someone else ; I have this job, but nothing would stop me from pursuing another career ; I have these friends, but I could easily break with them and make other connections, etc.

Québécois aren't looking for community

The student ministry of Power to Change in Canada is currently pivoting our approach to evangelism, putting more emphasis on relational ministry instead of “random” evangelism in public places (cafeteria questionnaires, large-scale surveys, etc). On the one hand, this is an important and necessary change to our ministry. In the past we have put so much emphasis on randoms that we’ve neglected a relational approach which is often much more effective in the Canadian context.

Reaching Three Types of People at the Same Time

This year at Power to Change, Université Laval, we are trying to reorient our activities to serve three audiences: The committed Christian, who wants to grow in their faith and maybe even help others to know Jesus, the young adult who grew up in the church, but who is asking himself whether this faith is really for him, and the student who has never known faith. We want to offer a space where each of these people feels comfortable to share their questions, struggles, joys and victories.