CATALYST: A Priesthood, Living In the Light, Together, Daily
Tuesday, July 23, 1996
The following is an answer to some questions folks had in another city, and a transcript of the answer (which I didn’t realize was being recorded). Hope it is Helpful. It is, amongst other things, a discussion of the value of living close together—while avoiding a “religious” counterfeit!
One mistake that I’ve seen people make is thinking that something one might call “communal living” has great spiritual value. I’ve seen enough attempts at “church life” on five continents to say that communal living is not the issue. What is the issue? If you really, really want to grow spiritually, there is much value in having people very near you in physical living proximity—true disciples of Jesus with whom you can interact spontaneously—those who can “see” into your life as they see into the eyes of Jesus.
While “communal living” is neither biblical nor valuable nor advisable, there is value to living in such a way that “things” can happen that you don’t plan. There is powerful Opportunity in those times when you are seen when you don’t plan on anyone seeing you (as opposed to “putting on your Sunday best” to go do “fellowship” or “bible study” or “Worship” or “home meetings” on some scheduled basis). If you really want to grow spiritually, proximity or geographic closeness in our living situations is of great worth. Yet, that is a totally different animal than “communal living.” One is very much in danger of being religious, and the other is (if invested in, with the right motives) spiritual. One says, “This is a neat way to live! Let’s hang out together. Let’s do spiritual stuff all the time—like a never-ending retreat or christian campground!”
Well, most folks get pretty sick of that after awhile. And even if it’s somewhat sustainable, most of the saints’ lives don’t change measurably when “lifestyle” is the focus rather than Light. A true disciple of Jesus isn’t much interested for very long if “externals” are the focus and the glue that holds “the group” together. But I’ll tell you what you’ll never get sick of if you are a true disciple of Jesus. That is bumping into people constantly, night and day, night and day, night and day that want to help you become more like Jesus. That can help expose things in your heart. That can essentially, be a catalyst to the Journey we are on toward Jesus and “on earth as it is in Heaven!”
A catalyst in a chemical reaction is when some chemical is added to another chemical reaction in order to speed up the process. The chemical reaction is going to happen anyway. It may take three years, but it’s going to happen anyway. If you put these certain chemicals together, things are going to happen. When a catalyst is added, the whole process speeds up. Something that would have happened in three years, now takes perhaps five minutes. That’s what living close together, and attempting to get employment together, and doing the “mundane” things of life together does for us (amongst several other wonderful things). It is a catalyst in our growth toward the Father, as well as precipitates a glorious opportunity to show all men we are His Disciples by the love that they observe that we have for one another. This physical proximity in daily living (neighborhoods and workplaces and evenings and travel and errands and _____!) brings us into situations every day (Hebrews 3:12-14 commands it anyway : )) that are a catalyst toward all that we live for anyway: “We make it our goal to please Him” as we “live for Him who died for us.”
The “communal” thing? We could live close together for years, and if we are not about the Father’s business, if we don’t cherish and value Christ’s character, if we won’t do the Work in one another’s lives and families, it is only a fad for our entertainment. If we can “fellowship” with something other than Jesus (allowing unregenerate or unconsecrated flesh in the individualistic people’s lives around us), and it does not bother us, we are serving only ourselves. If we’re not going to apply the Word of God and do something about it every day of our lives, then living close together is but a religious commune, and little good can be said of it. On the other hand, if what you really want is the Word of God to fill and be applied to your life every day, then living close together, and having employment together, shopping together, or anything else you can think of, will lead to “contending as one man for the Faith,” “one heart, one mind,” “of one accord,” “counting none of your possessions as if you are an owner rather than a slave.” If you cherish and value fellowship with God and you love others enough to want that for them too—and are willing to help them overcome the sin that limits their relationship with Him—then living close together and meeting “daily in public and from house to house” has great value. If you want to magnify Jesus in those that are part of the Church Jesus has placed you in, and are willing to “wrestle to present them perfect in Christ”—if that’s your goal, then proximity is an incredible catalyst toward that end. If it’s not that, we’d all be better off sitting in a pew.
If WE’RE not going to be the Royal Priesthood, putting men’s hands into God’s, then we’d be better off listening to someone give a speech on Sunday morning and singing some pre-arranged songs than to think that Ephraim’s cake in a home meeting or innovative “service” is of any lasting value. The adrenaline “rush” from “group therapy,” or the new dynamic of, “Now I get to have a turn saying something in the meeting” will be fleeting and not particularly life-changing as the years roll on. But we speak of something far greater. Not of informal, creative meetings. Not of a neato-keeno lifestyle of hanging out together in some sort of religious throwback to the 60s flower-child movement, where health food and home school are substituted for tie-dye and bellbottoms. But we speak of every person that wears Jesus’ Name being actively about the Father’s business—“in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed” in their brothers and sisters.
Unto “the full measure of the stature of Jesus Christ,” “no longer infants tossed to and fro.” That’s what we need to be after. Not a “movement” or a fad or an “alternate” way of having “church,” but “everyone members of one another, loving each other with God as our Father, Who loves us as a mother loves her newborn child.” The things that happen as we rise up, as we sit down, as we walk along the way (because we have chosen to get close and lay down our lives for each other every day), instead of the religious events that are on our calendar every Sunday or Wednesday or Friday, have great value in speeding up the maturity process in each of us. Being close to each other geographically has great value if you’re looking for opportunities to do God’s Work in and with others, and if you really want personally to become more like Jesus. If you don’t want to change and you don’t want to do the Work of God, then do not move close together, because it will be intimidating or intrusive or annoying to you. If you do want to do the Work of God (and the Standard is that everyone that calls themselves Christian does—[1Jn. 2:6]), then a commitment to being close together through every process of living will speed up the process of your maturity. That mutual commitment to the daily lives, the hopes and dreams, the marriages and child-rearing, the personal character and priorities of all those “the Father has given” you, those fellow “members” of the Church you are a part of, that mutual commitment will be a catalyst that will multiply your personal growth, and theirs, times TEN, easily.
If your only goal in life is to be more like Jesus, and to help others to know Him better also, why wouldn’t you pour the catalyst in? Why wouldn’t you set aside your comfortable, convenient living situation and determine that GOD will determine the exact time and place where you should live? Why wouldn’t you determine to live in a place, and in such a way as to “seek first the Kingdom” (His Kingdom is where His People are!) and experience the catalyst that will speed your fullness of Him? Why not put aside the reasons you live where you do and how you do? Those reasons are typically to be in some certain school district, or close to a job, or near parents, or in a nice neighborhood, or near a park, or in a city where you can make the most of your career or enjoy the weather—motives born out of self-life and love of the world. If you have other goals in life, other than to be joined to Him, then seeking the Kingdom first (rather than after you have what you want) could be an annoyance to you. And you’ll do fine attending something in a religious facility or in a house. If you just kind of want to meter it out at your own pace, that’s man’s religion, and you really don’t want to live close to people who care passionately about Jesus and His body. But if you don’t want to meter it out, if you want to abandon yourself into growing as fast as possible, and everyone else in the Church does too, then it can be really, really special. Not inward-looking. Not chumming and warm fuzzies. Not a “pooling of ignorance,” or an amateur talent show on Sundays in a house. But a Holy Tool that will change, first the universe inside of you, and then the universe around you for the Glory of the Living Christ of God. A catalyst to your destiny and for those He has privileged you to care for. Please consider all of this? So many know “what ‘it’ isn’t”—but few have found yet “what ‘it’ IS.”
Why should you devote yourself to being involved in the very details of each other’s lives on a daily basis? Isn’t that “nuking the proverbial gopher hole”? It is, as mentioned, a clear command from the Master, for one. But, even more, it is motivated by His desire to win others. How does “wrestling to present one another complete in Christ” leave any time to try to save others? Isn’t having our own independent “ministries” the best way to use our gifts and do the Work? Nope. All of 1 Corinthians 12 is clear about the need for mutual dependency if we’re going to please Him and serve Him well. How do we reach others? “This is how all men will know you are my disciples…” By the good things you say? By your gift? Or by the love that they see you having for one another? They can’t see you having love for one another if you are always out there someplace doing your own thing, and then you show up for a meeting, formal or informal, and sing real well. For Jesus’ sake, people need to see you loving each other. “This is how all men will know you are my disciples.” It has great outward value to love on each other in your daily lives, and for men to see you loving on each other in your daily lives.
So again, I want to distinguish very clearly between communal living, which is generally appalling to unBelievers, and “wrestling to present one another perfect,” and using every available tool to do that, which has great value in God’s sight and in our experience. So Acts 2 was not simply a cultural phenomenon for then only. It was the product of people wanting to be like Jesus. It also was not religious mandate to live close together, and share money and possessions in a communal way. You need to know the difference between those two. (Peter was clear with Ananias that the land and money that was his, it was his—not shared. It was simply that those in the first century did not value material possessions as the world did, and “counted” those possessions, case by case, as of less value to them than to serving God.) It’s about your heart and your intent to be a priest on a daily basis, not about externals.
Don’t mess around with all of this as a fad or a way to be “heard” since the “pastor” wouldn’t let you before. Unless you intend fully on being exposed and doing the work of God in each other’s lives, you’re better off in a pew. Don’t move close together—you don’t want that catalyst in your life. It will annoy the daylights out of you if you don’t really love the Light, and want that level of involvement, and want to grow to be like Jesus in a rapid (and always humbling!) way. Hey, you guys are not young puppies anymore. For the most part, you guys have used most of your available man-hours already—a lot of you guys are getting older. The fact is, if I can dare to say this, you may have actually wasted a good portion of your allotted days by not doing anywhere near what God intended for you to do with your life. Why not, if your sole purpose is to KNOW Him, be more like Him as a result of knowing Him, and to do God’s Work…why not pour in every available “catalyst”? Why not spend the rest of your years available for something that’s far more useful to God and others? It will show you who you really are—like little else can. Are you ready for that? There is a price, for sure. But, OH, HOW IT’S WORTH IT!!