A couple of months ago I was giving a talk about
covenant commitment to people interested in joining Antioch,
the Sword of the Spirit community here in London. We were
nearing the end of the course and I was supposed to review for them what
the ceremony would be like when they made their underway commitments.
As I spoke to them, the scene came easily to mind of that prayer meeting
in Ann Arbor 30 years ago when the first ones of us, in what now has become
the communities movement, got up and said, one by one, "I want to give
my life fully to God and live as a member of the Word of God."
I was 21 at the time and a bit nervous,
but not at all about whether I was doing the right thing. What the
Lord had been speaking to us about covenant relationship and what we had
been experiencing living as brothers and sisters made me sure that this
was just the thing I wanted to be doing with my life. I was nervous
because I sensed that this was a solemn occasion: that the Lord was
doing something of massive proportions in the world and that he had invited
us, imperfect as we were, to cooperate with him in it.
Since then I've had the privilege of living in
other communities, even helping to build some, and each time I've had the
same experience: that this business of living together in committed
relationships is normal Christianity--that it's the way he meant all of
his people to live, and that when people enter into it, even through all
the challenges and relationship difficulties and sometimes tears and sorrow,
it's not a bizarre way of life but immanently reasonable. It fits
the human person and calls out the best in us, in Christ.
In the early 90s I had to be away from the States
and saw from a distance some of the hard times of division. By the
time circumstances allowed me again to choose where I should plant myself,
I looked at the various options and realized that what I had initially
signed up for on the day of my public commitment had stood the test of
time -- to be in a long-term, covenant relationship with men and women
who wanted the Lord to use them, not as individuals but as members of a
whole people. I wanted to be doing what I had set out to do as a
young man, and the natural consequence was to fully invest myself again
in the life of the Sword of the Spirit.
I've been part of the Antioch Community
in London for over six years now, and I experience the same rich life that
was such a delight to me (and opportunity for personal growth) in the early
days in Ann Arbor -- a common way of life, a common understand-ing of how
to live for Christ with my brothers and sisters, a common mission to be
something for him in the world today. I don't experience this as
particularly easy and I don't think most of the brothers and sisters in
London do either. It's a stretch almost every day, a walk of faith
in the Living God. But I'm pleased to be traveling this road and
thankful to the Lord for his faithfulness to his word. He who invited
us to this life together is faithful and he is bringing about what he promised.
Even now we see it growing and maturing from those first commitments we
made in our youth. One thinks of mustard seeds. May all the
glory go to him.
Table of Contents
30 Years of Godís Faithfulness, by Don Schwager
Rooted Together in Godís Word, by Jeanne Kun
of Hope, by Rev. Patrick W. Egan
You Bet!, By Van & Janet Vandagriff
Out the Best in Us in Christ, by Bob Bell
in a Non-Christian World, by Ellen Gryniewicz
Distance Commitment, by Tom Gryniewicz
God at the Center, by Sue Cummins
Servants of the Word, a lay ecumenical
brotherhood in community, by Dick LaCroix
in the New Song to the Lord, by Nancy Murphy
Call to be a Missionary People, by
Christian Community, by Steve Clark
Bob Bell is managing editor of The Sword of the Spirit
Newsletter for the European Region. He is a member of Antioch Community
in London, England.