An awesome example of living in community

In the late 70s and 80s, Tony and I lived in the East End of London, an area of London where people ended up when there was no place lower to go. (The PBS series, “Call the Midwife” took place right where our medical practice was. We were there a couple of decades later, but most of the same socially deprived conditions still existed. That part of London has since become gentrified.)

We experienced a remarkable move of God while we were there. It was characterized by community. We lived “from house to house.” Most of us with homes had other people living with us as part of our families. We shared cars and lawn mowers. I never knew how many people would turn up for our evening meal and so usually cooked for around 10 people–it was rare that we didn’t have that many. We had different home groups meeting on many streets in the area–at one time or another, 17 contiguous streets had home groups. When one of Tony’s patients became a follower of Jesus, there was usually a group within a street or two of where they lived to refer them to. You couldn’t leave our house and walk to the nearest subway station without meeting other believers. And people became followers of Christ.

I’ve never experienced community like that again.

Until a few weekends ago, that is.

I had been invited to do a Black Swan Effect round table for a network of house churches called Common Thread in Birmingham, AL. What Tony and I experienced there was hugely encouraging–especially since I’ve been asking the Lord what he’s doing with simple/organic/home churches around the nation, and sensed him telling me to look at the situations where we were invited to speak.

A group of around 150 people live in the inner city, sharing their lives together. Most of those with homes have others living with them as part of their family. They have more than 25 “micro-churches.” Some of these are in homes, others in businesses, others out in the community. They share their faith in an incarnational way on a daily basis. They have started businesses like lawn care and house cleaning to help those who cannot find employment–a great way to disciple new believers. They have homes for single guys who need help getting off drugs. They are about to start a home for pregnant unmarried women. They have a coffee shop, which is now the number one coffee shop in their city, with an associated coffee bean roasting business. They use fair-trade coffee which has necessitated them visiting the coffee plantations in Indonesia, and they are about to send their first “missionaries” to work there. The “Hub” is a shared space for several of their businesses.

Their sense of community is awesome! Although two or three families live in the suburbs, some of them live in the very poorest area of town. They hang out and play football in the local park, getting to know the local residents who now accept them as part of their community.

We felt right at home. An awesome expression of the body of Christ.

And, by the way, the round table went great too.

Common Thread Coffee Shop

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  • http://scilla.org.uk/ Chris

    Felicity, that is awesome indeed – and very, very encouraging. You and Tony will have been encouraged for sure, but by sharing the experience you have also encouraged me and undoubtedly many, many others all over the world.

    What is really delightful about this is that it shows what can happen when we stop focussing our energies on church programmes and organisations and begin to focus instead on living the life that is inherent in the nature of church. We are the body of Christ. Hello… Do we organise our own bodies and set up programmes for breathing, using the loo, or drinking coffee? Of course not, we just live our lives and all the other things get done with very little conscious thought or planning. And surely, if my body works like that, so should the body of Christ.

    And it seems to me that’s exactly what you saw in Birmingham. Hooray!

    • http://simplychurch.com/ Felicity Dale

      Amen, Chris! It was a profoundly refreshing ()and challenging) experience. I’m sure they are not without their problems, but they are addressing the needs of that community in an inspiring way.

  • traviskolder

    Felicity
    Thanks for sharing. I’m hugely encouraged, not only by the sense of community on display, but also by the ways this house church network has managed to integrate discipleship with real answers that address poverty. Until we really engage in mission that reaches broken lives, I’m not sure the importance of this is understood.

    • http://simplychurch.com/ Felicity Dale

      Agreed. They are doing an amazing job. We met many who have opened their homes and their hearts to the poor. They are in the process of transforming that community.