There is a growing sense among many within the church that there must be more. Futurists including George Barna suggest that there is a significant number of believers choosing to go underground in their faith --- forming home groups in an effort to foster the kinds of relationships that can’t naturally happen during a few hours on Sunday morning.
In BECOMING A TRUE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, Larry Crabb addresses the heart issues behind the changes taking place in the church. He points out that most people who choose to follow Jesus assume that they’ll find a spiritual community of friends, a kind of family that will enjoy each other’s company as they encourage one another to spiritual maturity. More often than not, though, they are sorely disappointed. Though Christians hunger for a community of deep rich relationships, both new and veteran believers often find themselves frustrated that these kinds of connections don’t happen naturally.
The relationships among believers often can be compared to a series of rocking chairs on a front porch lined up side by side. Though every seat may be filled and cordial dialogue exchanged, the real hunger in people’s hearts is to have the chairs placed in a circle facing each other. In the same way, we long for our souls to be turned toward each other.
Rather than offer four magical steps or three quick ways to community, Crabb takes readers on a journey to explore the nature of life with the Trinitarian revelation as a backdrop for the longings of a relationship. He invites readers to turn the focus inward and examine the weaknesses that short-circuit their own ability to enter real spiritual community.
Crabb explains some of our core struggles with intimate relationships in the context of the Lower Room and the Upper Room. The Lower Room is the place of our own flesh --- where our passions for self, control, defining our own lives and performance tear us away from each other and who God designed us to be. This stands in dark contrast to the Upper Room, where the passion to worship, trust, grow and obey reshape and renew who we are to look more like Jesus. When we as individuals abide in the Upper Room, we are better prepared to partake of the true spiritual community God intended.
Crabb is incredibly vulnerable and honest about his own shortcomings throughout the book. He isn’t afraid to look at his own failures, sins and faults in an effort to uncover our own. The transparency is refreshing and moving. Beyond being a brilliant thinker, he is also a great writer. His descriptions dance, and his insights pack a punch.
BECOMING A TRUE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY is like a balm for those in the church who keep thinking There must be more. Crabb assures us that there is more --- much more --- but it’s going to have to take intentional decisions and movement by every individual to get there. The journey isn’t easy, but it’s well worth it.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on July 10, 2007