March 4, 2014

Christian Community

Part of a series of articles, entitled 20 Years a Christian, recalling some of the important lessons I have learned in nearly two decades as a believer in Jesus.

I told you last week that I became a Christian in the summer of 1994, just before the beginning of my senior year in high school; and that, even before that, my parents had brought me regularly to church, even from the womb. But it wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I really began to understand the importance of all those “one another” passages in the New Testament; the importance of Christians doing ‘life together’ as Bonhoeffer put it.

It was during that second year of college that I moved permanently away from home for the first time. And so I could no longer just default to my parents’ church, and to the routine that I had always known. I now had to find a church for myself, and to seek out Christian friends of my own volition. And when I got to campus, I remembered a man in my home church, who had gone to the same university as I was now attending … and how he had said to me some years before: ‘When you get to college, go to the Baptist Student Union (BSU). It will really be a blessing. In fact, I wish that’s what I had done when I was in school.’ Good advice (as is often the case when an older Christian is willing to admit what they wish they’d done differently)!

So there I sat in my dorm room that first weekend, with the BSU already in the back of my mind. And then, in the first few days, a young man knocked on my dorm room door, passing out fliers for the upcoming BSU picnic! And so I was in. I couldn’t make the picnic, but determined to go the following week to a worship and teaching gathering on a Tuesday night.

When I arrived, there was a table set up where you could sign up to be in a small group Bible study. To this day, I am not sure why I was so ready to sign up that first night … but I put pen to paper to say I was interested. I don’t know what I expected a college Bible study to be, but I certainly got more than I bargained for (and in a good way)! The next week a very large and intimidating-looking man (the ministry’s director) walked up to me at the weekly meeting, asked me if I was Kurt Strassner, handed me a sheet of paper with a couple of Bible verses written on it, and said: ‘We meet in my office at such and such a time each week. Have these passages memorized for next week’s meeting.’ Well, he was about six-foot-three and shaven completely bald like a drill sergeant … so what was I to do? I showed up at his office with the verses memorized at just the appointed time!

That first semester I met with him and a couple of other students week by week – reading and memorizing the Bible, learning how to pray, and so on. Soon I was involved in a weekly prayer meeting, too (where I met Tobey!). I got to participate in a mission trip the following spring. And very quickly Christian friendships began forming that impacted nearly every day of my life. We worshipped, prayed, studied, and just hung out … together. We were not a local church, of course … but I began in those BSU days to get a taste for the kind of Christian community that the church was created to be: people doing life – both the obviously spiritual and also the daily and mundane – together! And I’ve had a taste for it ever since.

God never intended for us to do this Christianity thing on our own (see Acts 2.41-47!). Nor did He create the church to be simply a once-a-week meeting place where people sit next to one another in the pews. He made us, also, to sit across from one another – at tables, in discussion circles, in living rooms, and so on. We were made to do ‘life together’! And I thank God, all these years later, for how the Baptist Student Union gave me my first taste of what I would ever after long for (and hope to foster) in the local church – real Christian community.


Elvy said...

In January of 1994 Gwen, our two daughters and I drove East in a rental moving truck - towing our van behind us to Cincinnati. Recently disillusioned by some "believe what you will" teaching at one UCC church in California, I had rejected (at least that pastor) and very skeptically darkened the door of another UCC church north of town. I thank God for drawing me toward him, even in my disturbed state.

After a men's weekend retreat, my soul would no longer make excuses for "cotton - candy Christianity", and God lead us to Methodist teachings for 10 years.

Today I have made a 180 degree turn from my earliest and most muddy picture of God. The turn is from reading the Bible! Imagine that! Words like "chosen", "foreknew", and of course "predestined" leave little room for cloudiness - but for my prideful desire to own some of my salvation. Even though such a seemingly small thing it seemed so important to me that I had to somehow pull the trigger on letting God save me. Seems foolish now, but it took a very long night pacing in a meadow wrestling with why I couldn't have just a little credit for being wise enough to see God's saving reach toward me.

As problematic as it may have first seemed it might become to my faith, I am at such peace knowing God is God of everything.

A blessing from Him you continue to be.


(I'll send you a self portrait before I return home in the likelihood you greet me as a stranger because of my long attendance gaps)

Kurt Strassner said...

Thanks Dave ... for your testimony and kind words. And I'd rather see the famed picture with the big hair and the green suit!