What is an Authentic Community?
In the first part of a series of talks, Bishop Emeritus Dr Wee Boon Hup unpacks the meaning of "authentic community". Our writer, Janice Khoo, shares her personal reflections after attending the talk.
When I first heard the term authentic community in church, I assumed it meant a church family that expressed genuine care and concern for each other and those around us. To be honest, I did not give it further thought until I attended the special talk conducted by Bishop Emeritus Dr Wee Boon Hup over Zoom on 17 September 2020.
BE Dr Wee set the tone by stating up front that efforts by churches to reach out to the wider community originate from God. The nature of the triune God is community and consequently, God’s plans and purposes flow out of this nature. In short, God is community. God in community can be seen in Creation, redemption and in covenant.
“Authentic community begins inward, with God, with the church community, then to the larger community in which we find ourselves, and we seek to bring God into that community.” - Bishop Emeritus Dr Wee Boon Hup
God in Community in Creation
God Himself, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is community. When God declared, “Let us make mankind in our image,” (Genesis 1:26), man took on the innate need to exist and thrive in a community. This was also reflected in man’s ability to reproduce with Eve, to multiply and form a family, which would be the start of a community.
God in Community in Redemption
In God’s redemption plan for the world, God worked in the Trinity. I had never seen John 3:16 in this light before but Bishop Emeritus Dr Wee’s explanation opened a new dimension of understanding. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In this familiar verse, I learned that God the Father gave His Son, who was conceived by Mary from the Holy Spirit, to the world. In His ministry, Jesus did the Father’s will and was anointed by the Holy Spirit to act. He also worked in a community with the 12 disciples and the 72 who went on mission trips. Community was essential for carrying out God’s work in the world.
God in Community in Covenant
In His covenant with Abraham, God promised that through Abraham, and correspondingly his descendants, all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. Covenants were made not between individuals, but between communities.
So, what does it mean when we acknowledge that community originates from God?
At a personal level, being in a community involves accountability. We rely on the people around us to love us and to rebuke us, if necessary, so that we may lead lives that are pleasing to God.
Correspondingly, we ourselves ought to demonstrate love to others, allowing the love from God to flow through to those around us.
At a congregational level, community is best expressed in Lifegroups, as they are called in KKMC. When we hold to the belief that God is community, then living and growing among other Christians in church will be a natural expression of this belief.
Outside the walls of the church, we belong to communities such as our families, workplaces and neighbourhoods. At a broader level, these communities extend to society and the nation. For the presence of God to be in these communities, we should look beyond ourselves and at those at the fringes. We bring the presence of God into the larger communities to which we belong, and to which we draw others. We are not alone, and neither are the others out there.
In short, I learned that authentic community starts with God. Then it develops with my response to God as an individual in the church and beyond the church. From there, authentic community grows with my bringing God into the larger communities to which I belong. It all begins and ends with God.