Movement thinking destroys community

Christina Fuller, the Kansas Milkmaid, offers some wise words about the divisiveness of labels in her 11/24 post entitled “Christian agrarianism and community.” (You’ll have to look at the home page of her blog, for some reason directly linking to the post does not work.) And her conclusion is powerful:

I am hesitant to recommend tying Christian agrarianism to a specific church or denomination. One wise pastor told me churches get in real trouble when they are known more for a movement then for the gospel of Jesus Christ. While I realize there are exceptions to this rule, I think there is wise council to be considered. Our churches should not ascribe to methods, movements or lifestyles that upstage the gospel of Christ.

In summary, tight knit farm communities are a reality. I have lived it out. I expect that once I am back to farming that we will experience this again. I imagine I will meet, serve and fellowship with many great Christians as I farm. I expect I will meet those who don’t know the Lord too and my hope is to share the gospel as we farm. [Emphasis added]

You can read my own thoughts on how movement thinking can destroy community in this post, and in the posts mentioned there where I review Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together. Although I refer to “agrarianism” often, I do not view it as any kind of standard by which we should measure ourselves, certainly not a biblical one. As I’ve studied the agrarian life I’ve come to think that it is a good way to live, and perhaps even normative, in the sense that it may be the best way to live provided that God has not called you to some other way of life.

But I’ve met too many faithful Christians who have been called to a non-agrarian life to think that agrarian-mindedness can be used in any way to measure a Christian’s faithfulness. And I’ve come to a much deeper understanding of Christian brotherhood as I’ve been compelled to confront—and even rejoice in—the very different approaches to life that I’ve found among the brethren.

3 thoughts on “Movement thinking destroys community

  1. Thanks Rick for this kind review. My experiences in seeking an agrarian community tied to a church were incredibly painful. The timing was equally as challenging as we were/are in the middle of rebuilding our lives. My experience with this was not isolated as I discovered a number of people came before me and had similar and actually more devastating experiences. I have done a lot of soul searching related to this experience and so have the many others impacted by this church.

    I was reminded of other situations across the nation that found a host of problems when striving to bring together Christian agrarian communities. It seems that anytime people come together for this cause that it just doesn’t work and the fall out is horrific.

    While I sought this community in a church, I overlooked the community that already existed and continued to build momentum around our farm. Strange thing, there were very devoted Christians of every denomination involved in our farm ministry in meaningful ways. God seemed to be working in spite of my efforts to seek a Christian agrarian community. With all circumstances good and not so good, I am reminded that all things happen for his glory and the good of his people. So the question remains: How is it for his glory and my good that Christian agrarianism fails when it is church sponsored? I have many thoughts on the topic and may share them over time. However, I am having a number of problems with my site. It has been that way for some time. Hopefully, I can discuss this more once my site is repaired.

    Thanks again for your thought provoking articles,


  2. Dear Rick,

    I am assuming (maybe wrongly) that most people would equate movement thinking to very conservative Christian movements, such as agrarianism or homeschooling circles, but it has been my experience and maybe that of others that there are just as many liberal Christian movements that destroy Christian community.

    The seeker-sensitive movement has driven many Christians out of churches that used to be very strong on preaching the gospel, but as many churches delve deeper and deeper into this movement we have seen the leadership actually move further away from the true gospel, hurting believers who oppose the watering down of the message and often forcing them to have to look elsewhere for true Christian community while the church body they loved and served in for years takes a radical shift becoming at best syncretistic.

    The question in my mind is whether or not some of these liberal movements whose very motivation claims to be to win more people to Christ have actually lost the message of the true gospel. I’m currently reading “The Gospel According to Jesus” by John MacArthur which addresses this issue as well as some of what is going on in the emergent church movement.

    I hear and agree with where you’re coming from and am learning much in this area of life myself, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this angle and if you’ve heard from others (we know dozens of families) in this position, and the difference between overlooking differing personal convictions for the sake of the body versus ecumenicalism and syncretism.

  3. Lisa,

    What you say is very true. I think that the most well-intended of us are prey to movement thinking of any kind, conservative or liberal, secular or Christian. Wendell Berry has written in several places that he refuses to align himself with any sort of movement, agrarian or environmental or whatever, because of the dangers that such thinking presents (as well as the danger, I suppose, of becoming a figurehead for a movement).

    I don’t know that I have any useful insights about the movements that are currently out there or the people who champion them. Mostly when I think about this issue I come away more convinced than ever that I need to be very careful to aim my own writing at doing nothing more than helping people make up their own minds about things.

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