The Spirit’s Presence in Community


The Early Church spoke of the reality of God’s reign in terms of the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit. The role of the Spirit is to form a loving community: “to create a people for God’s name, who bear God’s likeness in their character, as that is seen in behavior.”[1] This is more than simple human virtues; the fruit of the Spirit is that of bearing fruit in and through the believing Christ community’s witness to that which characterizes God as revealed in Jesus Christ. As John Howard Yoder suggests:

The church is God’s people gathered as a unit, as a people, gathered to do business in His name, to find what it means here and now to put into practice this different quality of life which is God’s promise to them and to the world and their promise to God and service to the world.[2]

Church congregations become the Spirit’s formation chambers. These congregations shaped by the Spirit become workstations, i.e. households, providing a platform in which He cultivates human hearts in the ordinary ebb and flow of congregational life. These Formation Chambers are usually a tightly connected group of 5-20 people who are committed to one another for the duration and distance of the spiritual life journey. This small size reinforces an environment of full participation of all members in exercise their spiritual gifts. Each believer receives at least one spiritual gift (charisma) benefiting the entire community (1 Cor. 12:7, 11; Rom. 12:3; Eph.4:7) Not all have the same gifts, and some are granted more gifts than others. (1 or. 12:29-30; Rom. 12:3;Eph. 4:11) These gifts are not distributed equally by the Spirit, but as He wills. At gathered worship times, Formation Chamber participants are encouraged in the exercise their gifts, believing that in the group there exists intricate connection between each member. The exercising of spiritual gifts occurs at individual (one-on-one) and corporately, depending on the level of group dynamics present when assembled in communal life. In referring to this type of dynamic, Ray Stedman coined the term “body life.”[3] In this environment, the Spirit is given opportunity to form and fashion Christ-followers into a spiritual community. The community becomes the Spirit’s “formation chamber,” which patterns itself like a family.


[1] Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 370.

[2] John Howard Yoder, The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism (Scottsdale, PA: Herald, 1977), 30-31.

[3] See Ray C. Stedman, Body Life (Glendale, CA: Regal Books, 1972).

 

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