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May 28, 2011

Cult Commune or Church Community?

Lately I have been discussing my radical ideas with other Christians. The usual response is something to the effect of referring to me as the next great cult leader like David Koresh and Mr Jones. My ideas that are so radical and anti biblical? Appealing to the spirit of the Church where Christians live together and share everything in a tightly woven community. 

Many moons ago, I spent a summer with a group of Christians called Jesus People USA. They are about 400 strong, living in a big hotel building in downtown Chicago. They share everything and have everything in common. No one has need. Entire families are raised there as an intricate part of Christ's community. They do wonderful outreach projects for the community in their neighborhood.

Since then, in dreams, it has haunted me with a desire to return. The longing for such a community has never left my consciousness. In fact, it has grown stronger. 

But just to argue the opposition I get a bit. Let's discuss cult commune versus a tightly knit church community. 

Cult communes usually have the following marks: Everyone shares the exact same belief as dictated by a charismatic leader or a select few who rule over them. Arguing with such leaders is usually frowned upon. Next: Everyone is expected to give. The money is not only pooled but most of the proceeds go to the people up top, or other functions of the cult, while the rest of the people are expected to give, having very little for themselves. Cult communes usually isolate themselves from the rest of Christianity and the world, keeping to themselves in their own huddled mass.  

Church Community: Not everyone is on the same page and each person is allowed their own personal struggle, to ask the questions and challenge, but differences aside, they are deeply embraced. There is no one or a few select leaders dictating the belief or how things run, rather every member has something to contribute and things are settled with healthy discussion. Leaders act simply as referees, while they allow the freedom to discuss and disagree, they keep things Christ focused and Biblical. Everyone has everything in common. No one does without. Everyone is cared for. No one person is richer than the other, not even the leaders. Everything is distributed according to basic needs. Church community doesn't recognize divisions such as denominational labels and names. Church is church, Christians are Christians and as long as they all have the basic doctrine of Christ in common, they are accepted and embraced, encouraged and exhorted to live well. The Church community goes out into the world, doesn't expect others to come to them and just loves people. The Church community spends more time out in the world doing real good, speaking the gospel message to all, inviting all to come and partake of bread and dine together. 

In my experiences, I find many mainstream denominational churches to function more like the cult commune than the Church Community pattern that I just described. Ironic isn't it? 

I pulled up a handful of local mainstream churches in my neighborhood and looked at their statements of faith. They all seem to agree on pretty much the same doctrine. Yet I have talked to some of the pastors and they think they are the only group that teaches the Bible correctly and are alienated from pastors of other similar churches and are afraid of other congregations. 

I once had a lively discussion with one such pastor about starting a new prototype church that was different than most of what happens today and I wanted to talk to people within the congregation. He immediately got defensive and accused me of stealing sheep. I was thinking REALLY? Just whose sheep are these anyway? To me, that sounds like the mentality of a cult commune. 

Any time Christians talk about living together, sharing everything and having things in common so no one has needs, the image of a cult compound comes to mind among many Christian conservative Americans. But this is exactly what was done and practiced in the Bible! This scenario is what made the Church thrive against impossible odds and an oppressive Roman regime. I hold that the cult communes that we have which pass for mainstream Christian churches are weak and will fall apart when oppression comes. I believe that what we know as Christian church here in America will either be so watered down and assimilated into the system of secular government, or crumble under the sweeping changes happening even now. 

I believe that the true heart of Christian church community, where people share life together, and are intimately involved in every part of their lives will stand solid and strong under any adversity. 

Dear reader, I am now, as I write, seeking Christians who are tired of the Egyptian/Babylonian system that we call American Christianity and want to actually follow Jesus in the spirit of real Church community. Church isn't weekly sermons and Bible studies. Church isn't small groups. Yes, those are great at times, but those are a very small part of what Church is. Church is Christians who decide to pull out of this world and live together no matter how rough it gets as they become tightly knit through Christ's love, working out their salvation and problems in life in a fortified, safe community where grace, love, and mercy rule and division and judgment are checked at the door. 

I pray and dream and long to find such a community, who casts off the drive for isolationism fueled by the greed and materialism of the capitalistic system of the godless, who want to live in an economy and a system run by love, where Christ is the head. Any takers?

by David Backus

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  1. Gravatar
    Stephen

    "Everyone has everything in common. No one does without. Everyone is cared for. No one person is richer than the other, not even the leaders. Everything is distributed according to basic needs." I think I understand what your driving at Jim, but you're not trying to advocate wealth redistribution here, are you??

  2. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Jim??? Who's Jim??? David Backus wrote this article.

  3. Gravatar
    Ransom

    Stephen...of course I am. But if it is required by an outside entity, that is communism and fascism. It has to be done out of the spirit of love for the sole purpose of caring for the body of Christ. It has to be genuine and sincere.

  4. Gravatar
    Stephen

    My mistake Darin. I don't think the coffee had quite kicked in when I wrote that comment. lol Thanks for the further clarification Dave.

  5. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    No problem:)

  6. Gravatar
    Twin Stars

    wow oh wow this sounds like real to me ;the first jews in chrisr there in Jerusalem living this way ;gets religion and the world real pissed off. So when you find those you are calling out into the light of of babylon and church-ee-anity; get yourselves a 24/7 house of prayer and worship so the fire has a place to rest and be sustained; the community you speak of is one in real ,living daily revival(Spirit filled ,touched ,led)So may the living One bless you all with great grace and power in love and His peace to do it and I await the new songs of praise from you all up there in Washington; a lot of land to work and live on and still effect others with the love of the Messiah in truth Colossians 3: 16-17;bless you big time =)**

  7. Gravatar
    jim

    This has been in my heart for years but my wife thinks im crazy.Among white south africans a selfish form of capitalism is so embedded that we incorporated it in church doctrine ie tithing.But if a few with brave hearts can start maybe it will catch on.

  8. Gravatar
    Steve

    Interesting post. I agree heartily with the sentiment and direction. I left a denomination, where I was a pastor and evangelist, 32 years ago; and have continued to meet with others in homes, or other nondescript buildings... as local expressions of His body. I have seen, and been a part of a number of Christian community experiences. The ones that were entered into on the singular basis of love of the brethren and the desire to be together were most fruitful, while those that were structured around a teacher, specific view or doctrinal stance, without exception, became rigid and lifeless in time... merely another denominational expression in disguise. I believe that any community of believers founded on the fact on union with Christ, and therefore union with one another, will ultimately withstand any onslaught of the world and all tribulation through which it is led. Love never fails. Bless you in your endeavor.

  9. Gravatar
    RUSS BURCHAM

    I really like all this talk about love and concern for the body of Christ. But I think no one is focusing on the authoritative Scriptural statements which govern these activities. Sounds like everyone is agreeing to some nebulous form which is never really described. It's sort of like trying to draw a circle with a center (Christ) but without a circumference. Thus it seems that no one is interested in a real debate about what is the right or wrong way of doing this "body of Christ" thing. I once knew a Mom and Dad who just loved their kids so much but never gave them any discipline. Guess what happened. Do we not dare to quote Scripture here? Try Hebrews 12:7 and following. Peace with God to all.

  10. Gravatar
    Tony

    The system of which you speak, you are correct, originated in Sumer 6,000 years ago. It is best termed Archonism: Satan is the Archon, or the ruler of this age. Nowhere in scripture, except in Revelation is the word Archon associated with Jesus; in Revelation it states that Jesus will become the Archon. If you care to discuss this and more please send me an email. I believe that the Lord has revealed to you alot of truth, but there is still more. For example, true believers are not "Christian(s)"; we are the elect. All the religions of the world, including Christianity and Judaism were created by Satan. All religions of the world are connected through icons and images; the greatest image of all being "the image of the beast". There is one image that is the mother of all images; it is the arch. If you feel that the Lord wants you to contact me, then please do. If you do not, then do not. His will shall be done, for He is sovereign. Thank You.

  11. Gravatar
    MONIQUE

    I agree. That is how the original church started. If a group of Christians could buy some land and live together in a community that would be beautiful. We could take construction classes and build our own homes. People volunteer for habitat for humanity all the time. We could Share the cost of the land, share the taxes for the land and we could even have a garden. We could take care of our basic needs and then go around giving to the poor. If you think about it. Once you have food, water, shelter, and transportation (if you want to count that) what more do you need. clothes. I am sure after everyone got cloth there would be plenty of money for the poor. And if everyone just saved we could buy land and maybe build a Christian apartment building. I think it would be beautiful.

  12. Gravatar
    Doret Greathouse

    I am very interested. I have been looking for exactly what you have described.

  13. Gravatar
    Mia

    I would love to live in such a community. I share as lot with the poor. There is only one thing that bothers me, not with what you are suggesting, but with what I have observed. You get so many takers and so few givers. I do not give to get, but at times you can give until you yourself have need. Where, oh where would we find a community where God would pour His Love into our hearts that would compell us to share, love, care and the whole lot. Sometimes I think those attributes are the least shared.

  14. Gravatar
    Suzanne

    Followers of "the Way", when I read of Paul's spiritual journey from his conversion to his mature letter to the Hebrews fills me with longing and desire to follow the example of the early church how they met in homes for worship and sharing the truth. How wonderful if we could all be be as they were.

  15. Gravatar
    Polaris

    I use to belong to a "Christian" commune. It destroyed my marriage and in the end my wife deserted me and died, all sanctioned by its leaders. Christian communal living isn't even scriptural nor is it normal. Eventually ALL communes descend into becoming a cult and led by dictators. Stick with living a private life, meet with those who share your beliefs and donate your money as you see fit rather than handing it over blindly to some organisation or leader.

  16. Gravatar
    Steve

    Interesting blog, Paul dealt with some serious problems, although it normal to want to be in groups with people and it is not normal to believe in imminent deconstruction, although it is somewhat common in todays culture with some of the post structural catholic thought. Instead, we should be a light to the community, and try to witness where we are.

  17. Gravatar
    Mary

    Don't do it. It doesn't say in the bible that the early Christians lived together. It says they shared and no need went unmet. Beware, hundreds of people living together under one roof has way more problems then you could imagine or that anyone who lives at Jesus People would let on. Take it from me, I lived there 20 years.

  18. Gravatar
    Andrew Stitt

    sounds much like a TRUE Church. Here in US and abroad the pharisees and emperor wannabes have forced coin exchange to corrupt Christianity and act like described above, it's ungodly, anti-Christian, and vile. Where beside Chicago (not a bad city, loved the lakefront) can one find such humanity to interact and be common with? IT IS the WAY Christ taught, not what the cults of storyteller but not living accordingly theater of coin collectors pimps. CHURCH is people, even in a meadow or cave with only light of day or fire at night in simplistic non-covetous activity. A town designated church can be this with independent housing rather than the chaos of group shelter. The Amish are close, but GOD would be up to date for strength, equal as man, able to master all they create so standard day to day folks without these restrictions are more correct. I( never meet any because I lived the American Way, but despise it and have no greed just enjoy something of worth, the lake, beach, good people

  19. Gravatar
    Travis Cunningham

    We are actually in the process right now of getting a church community started down here in the Austin, TX area. We have been a close knit church community for a few years now and have always talked about doing this. Although I do not believe that the early christians necessarily lived in one house together, they did meet together daily, share meals, have prayer meetings, just do church. So if the people who want to live in there own private secluded homes can still do that then be my guest! We are going to purchase some land and just have people build there own houses/trailers on that property. Have a central place where we can meet daily for worship/meals or just go house to house like the first church did. Our culture now in days has gotten to where it is all about you and your family and the "american dream", it is time we start living with eternity in our eyes. Jesus is coming back for a beautiful bride, and He is not coming back for anything less than what he started with.

  20. Gravatar
    Damon Henderson

    I would love to live in the environment you just described. I believe it would draw me closer to Christ.

  21. Gravatar
    Nikita

    I would love to live with people who love one another for the glory of Jesus, how Jesus said us to do! I wish, I will see many brothers around the world living and loving together!

  22. Gravatar
    Pat

    Mr. Cunningham, I'd like to find out more about your church. Did your church ever start that type of living community that you described and if so, where is it in Austin TX and what is it called? How many families are in your planned community? Homeschooled, older children in families or mostly younger children families? Our children are mostly older. Thanks

  23. Gravatar
    Joe lesher

    Would love to hear more. Joeydart@gmail.com

  24. Gravatar
    Christine

    This is it Darin!!!!

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