What is a Real Christian Community?

There is a lot of talk about Christian community and how to achieve it.  When the rubber meets the road, however, too often the Biblical notion of community is jettisoned in favor of close knit groups with common interests.  There is nothing wrong with having friends who like what you like and do what you do.  Such friends are gifts from God.  But, it is wrong to assign to such a group the divine status of Christian community, and in turn judge other communities that do not live up to your expectations.  Consider your best experiences of Christian community.  If you look at them objectively, were they defined more by common interests or spiritual fellowship? All of us are prone to limit our capacity for spiritual fellowship to those who are like us.  This tendency is not something to labor in guilt over.  Rather, it is something to be aware of so that we can work to counter it.  We miss so much of God's blessing in the church if we fail to see that those that have nothing naturally in common with us can have everything in common with us spiritually.  Sometimes, the common interests actually allow us to have a basis in the community other than Christ, and hinder us from true spiritual blessings.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from Bonhoeffer on what lies beneath Christian community as opposed to other forms of community.  Whether or not you agree with him, I think you will find his words challenging:

Because Christian community is founded solely on Jesus Christ, it is a spiritual and not a psychic reality.  In this respect it differs absolutely from all other communities.  The Scriptures call pnematic or spiritual what is created only by the Holy Spirit, who puts Jesus Christ into our hearts as Lord and Savior.  The Scriptures call psychic or emotional what comes from the natural urges, strengths, and abilities of the human soul.

The basis of all pneumatic, or spiritual, reality, is the clear, manifest Word of God in Jesus Christ.  At the foundation of all psychic, or emotional, reality are the dark, impenetrable urges and desires of the human soul.  The basis of spiritual community is truth; the basis of emotional community is desire.  The essence of spiritual community is light.  For, "God is light and in God there is no darkness at all" (1st John 1:5); and "if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another" (1st John 1:7).  The essence of emotional, self-centered community is darkness, "for it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions com" (Mark 7:21).