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My documentary about community of goods at the Jesus Army now has over 750 views on YouTube, and I’ve received lots of positive feedback not the least from fellow Jesus people folks. Recently I had the opportunity to contribute to Jesus Army’s Colourful Church blog, writing about how the film was made. Here’s an excerpt:
My plan was not to make a second trip, but to only use the material I recorded in 2014. And that could certainly have been the case, the material was, as mentioned, quite extensive. But life went on, half a year passed without me starting the editing process. I only used the material once when I made a clip for my YouTube channel Holy Spirit Activism in which Huw describes how the Jesus Fellowship started to practice community. It was mixed with Kalimba by Mr Scruff, which was simply included as sample music on my laptop. The clip turned out to be very good and is actually included in its totally in the documentary (save the introduction I recorded in my Swedish bedroom).
But again, I didn’t find time to start with the actual documentary. Then suddenly, in January 2015, Holy Spirit inspiration hit me. For some reason I just wanted to make documentary and nothing else, and so I sat for about ten hours and edited in Windows Movie Maker, which was the only editing software I had. I delayed my school work just to edit this film. And during that session I produced what’s pretty much still the first 14 minutes of the film. (more…)
The Bruderhof is a radical, Anabaptist Christian movement that has practiced community of goods since the 1920’s. Founded in Germany, it had to flee Hitler going to Paraguay, the US and England, although new communities around the world are emerging. Their website and YouTube channel is packed with inspiration and teaching on community of goods, and I found this article by Charles E. Moore to be a brilliant apology of why all Christians should have everything in common. Here’s an excerpt:
Peter does not tell Ananias that he could have come into the Christian community without renouncing the private ownership of his goods. How could he, when Luke wrote that “not a single one said anything was his own” (Acts 4:32) and that “whoever possessed fields or houses sold them,” and that “all the faithful together had everything in common” (Acts 2:44), and so on? Didn’t Jesus say to the crowds, “Every one of you who does not renounce all he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Ananias’ sin was that he pretended be a Christian via a counterfeit renunciation. This is why his sin was dealt with so severely. The entire thrust of both Luke and Acts is that those who follow Jesus freely give up everything.
Read the rest of the article here.
New wine requires new wineskins. I sense a radicality and a passion to follow Jesus in Europe today among the Christian youth. Many are inspired by Jesus first and foremost, but also histocial radicals like Francis and Clair of Assisi as well as modern like Heidi Baker and Shane Claiborne. With the increasing awareness of the suffering and misery the Western affluent lifestyle brings, with both environmental and social consequences, there is a longing to live more simple and equal, as in the apostolic age:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
Community of goods is a necessity. We need it to eradicate poverty and promote simplicity. And that in turn is what is needed to combat the secularism and individualism that is destroying the church spiritually. Jesus said that the “deceitfulness of wealth” will choke the word of God (Mt 13:22), and that is exatly what we see in rich countries. There is already an awareness of this, what is needed now is community houses. I talk about this here:
The Maranata Church in Stockholm is probably the only charismatic church in Sweden that practises community of goods. A month ago when I visited the Jesus Army, one of very few British churches practising community of goods, I got to know two girls from Maranata: Anne-Lie and Elaine Vidén. Up to that point I had thought that no Christian groups in Sweden besides the monasteries had everything in common like the apostolic church in the book of Acts, but the Vidén sisters told me about how they had been living all their life in an extended family community. Yesterday, I paid them a visit.
The Maranata Church runs a hotel called Pilgrim’s Home close to Bromma Airport in Stockholm. Most of the community’s members work in the hotel or in a taxi firm that the church also runs. All the income the businesses generate goes to the account of the church, which pays for food and accommodation for the community’s members. On top of that, they also receive €70 every month to spend on what they want.
This system is very similar to how the Jesus Army works. They also run businesses which generate income to the community, they also pool their income into a common account and they also get pocket money – around 40 pounds a month.
We’ve now taken the train home to Sweden after an incredible Jesus Army week in the UK. One of the last things I got to do was to organize a little round table with Huw and Mike who both have lived in Christian community for almost 40 years, I brought up seven arguments against community of goods that I often hear when I discuss the topic, and asked them to counter them. You can enjoy it in the video above, and below are the seven arguments along with a brief summary of what we said:
1. There’s no command to have everything in common
Yes, the process of having everything in common – and thus eliminating poverty – starts with people selling what they have according to Acts 2:45 and 4:34. And to sell everything one has is exactly what Jesus commanded not just one rich ruler to do (Mt 19:21), but all His disciples to do (Lk 12:33)
2. Community was practised because the Jerusalem church was persecuted
They started to practise it before persecution, and the reason given was not that they excepted persecution but that they loved each other and didn’t want anyone to be poor. Besides, since “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12), ought we not to live a life like that today?
3. Community was practised because the apostles errantly thought that Jesus would come back in their lifetime
Again, there is no reference in the Bible to any other reason for community of goods other than that the early Christians loved each other and didn’t want anyone to be in need. They also clearly wanted to follow the commands of Jesus, including the one in Lk 12:33. Besides, shouldn’t we have even more reason to expect Jesus’ soon return now 2000 years later? (more…)
Back in the days, people really could write. In the patristics course I’m taking, I’m writing about early Christian attitudes toward wealth and community of goods. In my research I found this awesome sermon by Basil the Great (330-379) – a commentary to Matthew 19:16-22 simply called “To the rich”. Basil is one of the most influential church fathers, known for his defense of the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and boy he had some serious stuff to say about rich folks. I think the text is really prophetic in that it speaks directly to the unequal, consumerist, individualist society of today. Enjoy!
You call him teacher, and you won’t do his lessons? You acknowledge him to be good, and what he gives you you throw away? But, surely, he who is good supplies good things; this is obvious. Although what you ask about is eternal life, you give proof of being utterly addicted to the enjoyment of this present life. What, after all, is this hard, heavy, burdensome word which the Teacher has put forward? “Sell what you have, and give to the poor.”
If he had laid upon you agricultural toils, or hazardous mercantile ventures, or so many other troubles which are incidental to the life of the wealthy, then you’d have had cause for sorrow, taking the order badly; but when he calls you by so easy a road, without toil or sweat, to show yourself an inheritor of eternal life, you are not glad for the ease of salvation, but you go away pained at heart and mourning, making useless for yourself all that you had labored at beforehand. […]
Now, you are obviously very far from having observed one commandment at least, and you falsely swore that you had kept it, namely, that you’ve loved your neighbor as yourself. For see: the Lord’s commandment proves you to be utterly lacking in real love. For if what you’ve claimed were true, that you have kept from your youth the commandment of love, and have given to each person as much as to yourself, how has it come to you, this abundance of money?
To read other parts of the series, go here.
Early Christian Teaching on Wealth and Poverty
“Share everything with your brother. Do not say, ‘It is private property.’ If you share what is everlasting, you should be that much more willing to share things which do not last.” – The Didache, c. 90 AD, (Did. 4:8)
“Now then hear me and be at peace among yourselves, have regard one to another, and assist one another, and do not partake of what God has created alone in abundance, but share it with those that are in need. For some men through their much eating bring weakness on the flesh, and injure their flesh: whereas the flesh of those who have nothing to eat are injured by not having sufficient nourishment, and their body is ruined. This absence of community therefore is hurtful to you that have and do not share with them that are in want. Think of the judgment that will come! You then, that have more than enough, seek out them that are hungry!” … “Take heed therefore; as dwelling in a strange land prepare nothing more for yourself but a competency which is absolutely sufficient and necessary.” – The Shepherd of Hermas, c. 110 AD, (Herm. Vis. 3:9:2-5 and Herm. Sim. 1:6)
“They [Christians] love one another. They do not overlook the widow, and they save the orphan. He who has, ministers ungrudgingly to him who does not have. When they see strangers, they take him under their own roof and rejoice over him as a true brother, for they do not call themselves brothers according to the flesh but according to the soul.” – Aristides, early 2nd century (Apology 15)
“We who once took most pleasure in the means of increasing our wealth and property now bring what we have into a common fund and share with everyone in need.” – Justin Martyr, 100-165 AD (1st Apology 14)
To read other parts of the series, go here.
I wear a red cross around my neck. I got it when I visited a church called Jesus Army in the UK a couple of years ago. Many people in this church practice community of goods. They eradicate the gap between rich and poor simply through sharing all they have together in community houses called New Creation Christian Community.
This is of course very biblical. We read about the first church in Jerusalem which was led by the apostles themselves: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:44-45). This should not be surprising, they simply obeyed the commands of Jesus. He clearly told all His disciples in Luke 12:33 to sell what they have and give to the poor.
It is thus misleading to think that this command was just given to one certain rich man in Matthew 19:16-22. I have heard countless rich Christians arguing that Jesus told him to sell what he had just because his money was a stumbling block to his relation with God, and thus rich Christians with a good relationship with God can ignore this command and continue to be rich. But the gospels doesn’t say that he had to sell his stuff because they affected his relationship with the Lord, the only reason Jesus gives is that the poor will get money – something they need no matter how our spiritual situation looks like. And again, He did say the same thing to all His disciples, and they all obeyed it.
Is it really possible to share everything, like the apostles did on Pentecost (Acts 2:44-45), today? Many Christians in the Western world seem to think that the community of goods is an unrealistic utopia, and thus, they don’t even try to live like the apostles. But the Jesus Army in the UK proves that it indeed is possible to live a New Testament life. Many of their church members live in the New Creation Christian Community, where they share everything, just like in the book of Acts. They write:
Practising a radical ‘New Creation’ lifestyle in the Jesus Fellowship
You don’t have to live in Christian community to belong to the Jesus Fellowship! But many of us do! Around 700 of us share our possessions and pool our income and wealth (if we have any!) to live like the early Christians. They had “all things in common”[Acts 2:44] and “no-one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own”.[Acts 4:32]
That was the result of the power of the Holy Spirit coming on the church at Pentecost. And our community life, too, is the result of the Holy Spirit’s presence. We have power to love! Power to serve! Power to share!
We’re able to break the mould. To escape from the rut. The question we ask is “How does God want us to live?” Of course it’s to love. Of course it’s to share. Of course it’s to show that through new life in Jesus He brings into being a new way of living!
Jesus had little to call His own.[Matt 8:20] He shared a pooled fund with His disciples.[Mark 10:28] He warned of the love of money.[Mark 10:21,22] Small wonder then that Peter led the new converts at the day of Pentecost into Christian community.
Pentecost is a forgotten holiday, when even Pentecostals celebrate Valentine’s day more than they celebrate Pentecost, it is obvious that we have a problem. We have to celebrate Pentecost – not by starting some strange tradition of dressing trees with small tongues of fire and eating dove-formed chocolate – but by intensively praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, as it is described in Acts chapter 2, is repeatable, and that is fantastic news for the sleeping church in the Western world.
When the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2 there was indeed an explosion of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit – tongues, healing, prophecy etc. – but also of the sanctifying fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace etc. These fruits are not only nice feelings, they lead to a radical lifestyle. On Pentecost, the first Christians had everything in common; they put economic equalization into practice, while they were performing signs and wonders. The charismatic gifts were combined with poverty reduction.
Charismatic Poverty Reduction
In 2010, a 20 year-old woman named Teresa Jebiwot participated in a revival meeting in Kisumu, southern Kenya. She was born without a cornea, which made her totally blind, not knowing if it was day or night unless someone told her. On the revival meeting however, she got completely healed when the prophet David Owour prayed for her, and she started to see perfectly. This was verified by an eye specialist, Dr. Agnes Maiyo, at the Iten District Hospial. More information about the healing can be found here.
I find this very beautiful; it is not easy to be blind in such a poor country as Kenya, but the wonderworking power of God did what no aid organisation can do. Teresa’s healing is a contemporary parallel to Bartimaeus’ healing in Mark 10:46-52. He was a blind beggar, and when Jesus healed him, three things happened: Firstly, people realized that God exist. Secondly, Bartimaeus could see God’s beautiful creation. Thirdly, he never had to beg again. Jesus used a miracle to set him free from poverty. Signs and wonders was combined with social justice. (more…)