True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia. Bridges is a well known and generally respected author and community is a topic that I ponder and blog about a lot so this seemed like a natural fit but also one that could easily turn out to be a disappointment.
I was not disappointed.
Without hesitation I can say the True Community was one of the most engaging books I have read in the past few years. Accessible but thought-provoking, it is not a terribly deep treatment of the topic but given how far we have strayed from the Biblical principle of koinonia it is critical introduction.
One of the real strengths of this book is how little time Jerry spends talking about the formal gathering of the church. Community is not found in showing up to church, it is a reality of our new lives in Christ and we find community in sharing our lives, our time, our burdens and our material possessions with one another.
Another area I found extremely positive was his treatment of the idea that our community in Christ is a reality whether we acknowledged or not. We are in community with one another by virtue of our regenerate heart and adoption, how we live that out is where we run into questions.
An area that Jerry spends a lot of ink is on sharing materially. This is something of a taboo subject in the church at least in America. We give what we choose to "the church" and most of that money is used for our own comfort and convenience on Sunday. As he points out, sharing materially in the early church was not an afterthought but a critical part of koinonia....
One of the most common usages of koinonia in the New Testament is this sense of sharing material resources with others. For example, Paul urges us to “share with God’s people who are in need” (Romans 12: 13). In 2 Corinthians 9: 13, he speaks of “your generosity in sharing with [others].” The writer of Hebrews urges us to “not forget to do good and to share with others” (13: 16). The word share in these passages is a translation of koinnia in either its noun or verb form. A willingness to share our possessions with one another is a very important aspect of true biblical community.
Bridges, Jerry True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia (Kindle Locations 154-157)
That is so important for us to understand. A community where "what's mine is mine and what's yours is yours" cannot function as a true community because it denies our oneness in Christ or at least relegates it to a subordinate position behind our American right to private property. That doesn't mean that material sharing requires the Hutterite model but it does call into question acceptance and encouragement of the American evangelical love of money, possessions and financial security.
If there was an area of weakness, it was the very brief and kind of clunky chapter on Supporting Your Local Ministry. This chapter, just a few pages long, deals with the importance of giving at your "local church" for the purpose of sustaining that local church. The chapter was very perfunctory and seemed to be tacked on for no real purpose. It could easily be dropped from the book entirely.
All in all this is a great introduction to a neglected subject. True community in the Biblical model of koinonia is tragically absent in the church and it hampers our walk together, our maturation as Christians and our witness to the world. Grab this book and give it a read!