A congregation is the space where faith is practiced, rather than one in which the Christian faith merely is discussed. Clearly, the Christian congregation may not become the only place that those who follow Christ express their faith. Wherever those who follow Christ go, they should express their faith in both word and deed.
Still, the Christian congregation is that place where faith is practiced. Those interested in learning of Christ can experience the presence of Christ in fellowship with believers gathered together. Those learning to walk in Christ receive the nurture and encouragement to begin, to fail, to succeed, to celebrate their growth. Those who have traveled extensively in Christ continue
to learn in community, learning to trust, receiving encouragement in their fatigue and patience in their expectations. In dozens of additional ways, a Christian congregation serves as a laboratory where believers experiment with the teachings and the power of Jesus. The congregation is that place where faith is practiced so that God’s people can more perfectly express their faith in both
word and deed wherever they go.
How clearly the Amish taught the American public in 2006, by example, the power of a congregation (as did the Amish and the Mennonites of the 1600s). An Amish congregation learned the values and the power of peacemaking and forgiveness in their exclusive community, their laboratory for the Christian faith. When tragedy struck in Nickel Mines, PA, their faith held, providing a clarion witness to faith, to forgiveness and to hope. The recent tragedy in Newtown, CT, underlines the importance of this witness from 2006, one that surely will be essential in the coming years, as well.
How do we practice congregational life today? Many seek to strengthen the functions of a Christian congregation: worship, discipleship, fellowship and outreach. Congregational leadership and congregational life are examined, studied and tested, in the light of techniques from a variety of academic disciplines. Authors write of principles learned. Consultants offer advice to thoughtful leaders. Still, the result of all this reflection seems to lose its appeal to both the practicing congregation and those who live outside it, as well.
The congregation is a place where Christian faith is practiced, even evidenced, where the Christian faith is followed, where one learns the faith so that he/she may responsibly demonstrate that faith in the world. Only through practice of the Christian faith can people complete the promise of the Christian faith. Now, our world sits on the edge of a New Year, uncertain of the coming challenges. Our country teeters on the cusp of a so-called fiscal cliff, divided by political ideologies that appear more important than the common good, than agaph. Is it time for the Christian congregation, the Christian community to learn to practice hope so that others might
see the hope which only comes in Jesus Christ?
Dr. Robert Cochran