Editor's note:

Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty is like the Chris­tian’s sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. It is a gift of God which we can­not claim. —Diet­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer, Life Togeth­er

One of the sweet­est bless­ings of bless­ing comes with­in com­mu­ni­ty life. As we serve and love our broth­ers and sis­ters in Christ, we are blessed twofold in return. Bon­ho­ef­fer con­tin­ues in the pas­sage quot­ed above to say, The more thank­ful­ly we dai­ly receive what is giv­en to us, the more sure­ly and steadi­ly will fel­low­ship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.” 

Every August, the Ren­o­varé Insti­tute begins a new cohort of stu­dents from all over North Amer­i­ca and over­seas that is based in a new host city. Every autumn, when we gath­er for the first week-long res­i­den­cy, we wit­ness a mir­a­cle no less mirac­u­lous for its con­sis­tent appear­ance: out of this var­ied group from all walks of life, strangers until but a moment before, we watch a com­mu­ni­ty form. Through the next two years, we share prayers and tears and laugh­ter as we jour­ney togeth­er toward God’s high­est hopes for us. After grad­u­a­tion, life-long friend­ships remain.

James Bryan Smith cap­tured a bit of what we expe­ri­ence with each new cohort in this short excerpt below from the Good and Beau­ti­ful God—a book that we read through in the first course of the Ren­o­varé Insti­tute. Our Seat­tle cohort will begin in August. Won’t you con­sid­er join­ing us?

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from The Good and Beautiful God

The Holy Spir­it and community. 

The Holy Spir­it is like a sym­pho­ny con­duc­tor, orches­trat­ing our com­mu­nal life of prayer and wor­ship and praise. But unlike a human con­duc­tor, the Holy Spir­it endows each of us with gifts and graces that are meant to be used for the ben­e­fit of oth­ers (see 1 Corinthi­ans 12). When we hear a ser­mon that touch­es our hearts, the Spir­it is at work not only in inspir­ing the preach­er but in soft­en­ing our hearts and open­ing our ears.

In the book of Acts we see the Holy Spir­it in every sto­ry as the ear­ly Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty learns how to live togeth­er and par­tic­i­pate in the min­istry of Jesus. One of my favorite sto­ries is about how the Spir­it prompt­ed the com­mu­ni­ty to com­mis­sion Barn­abas and Saul (Paul) to go on a mis­sion: While they were wor­ship­ing the Lord and fast­ing, the Holy Spir­it said, Set apart for me Barn­abas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fast­ing and pray­ing they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2 – 3). Notice the con­text: they were togeth­er (com­mu­ni­ty) wor­ship­ing and fast­ing (engag­ing in spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines) when the Spir­it spoke to them. The Spir­it could have spo­ken direct­ly to any one of them, but instead chose to speak to the com­mu­ni­ty. Then they laid hands on Barn­abas and Paul and sent them off. 

When we gath­er togeth­er in Chris­t­ian fel­low­ship, the Holy Spir­it is once again at work, often imper­cep­ti­bly, with the sin­gle inten­tion of lead­ing us to a deep­er love of Jesus and the Father. I was lead­ing one group through this mate­r­i­al, I fell prompt­ed to stop and use the last fif­teen min­utes of our hour togeth­er sim­ply to pray with one anoth­er in small groups of three. I encour­aged the peo­ple to share a bit about what they would like prayer for and then spend a few min­utes pray­ing for those spe­cif­ic needs. With­in only a few min­utes I looked around and heard peo­ple sob­bing. We had been togeth­er for about fif­teen weeks, but it was only when we opened our­selves up to one anoth­er and let the Spir­it lead us that real com­mu­ni­ty began to occur.

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Help­ing peo­ple like you abide with Jesus is why we post resources like this one. Always ad-free, Ren­o­varé is sup­port­ed by those who know soul-care is vital. Would you join us?

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Excerpt­ed from The Good and Beau­ti­ful God (For­ma­tio-Inter­Var­si­ty Press, 2009).