Our Definition of Messianic Community
A multi-generational group of interdependent, like-minded people with a clear, stable identity based in YHWH, mutually defined and articulated as in a growing organism, with structure, authority, and boundaries; generally based in recognition of attained maturity, and the shared goal of set-apart living in daily interaction; an interdependent network of covenant relationships based in Echad with Messiah Yeshua.
Four Levels of Fellowship Groups Defined
As we have studied our own process and that of other individuals and groups we have had interaction with, we have seen that it is possible to categorize a group by style or stage.
We see that a group in each "stage" will have different needs and expectations of both members and leaders.
1 - Occasional Gatherings
2 - Regular Gatherings
3 - Developing Covenant Relationship Gatherings
4 - Covenant Relationships in Daily Interaction -- sometimes called an Intentional Community.
These are people who gather occasionally to study Torah, pray and/or worship and enjoy one another's company. There is no specific commitment other than choosing to attend. There is no group identity or specific leadership.
These are people who are committed to regular study, prayer, worship and fellowship together, perhaps meeting even several times a week. There is no group identity or specific leadership although there may be influential people who work together to coordinate gatherings.
These are people who have chosen to interact together on a regular basis, in a Torah based lifestyle, with intended long-term relationship; in short, covenant relationships.
People in covenant relationships who choose to live in a neighborhood setting of some kind; often called an intentional community by secular organizations.
Occasional group meetings do not constitute a community in our understanding.
The sanctification process that our Abba desires for us is strongly affected by the degree of commitment and organization in a group.
For occasional groups, there is a social connection with a sense of shared values but this is not formally established or agreed upon. This is a group of independent individuals, but not necessarily inter dependent relationships.
A Level one one or two group that has undefined, fluid leadership roles is not the same thing as an organism with boundaries and roles, such as the Body of Messiah.
Any group that forms around a gifted teacher may have an identity based on that teacher but not an agreed upon group identity that would stand whether or not that teacher remained.
Such a gifted teacher may or may not have the leadership or shepherding skills that are essential to our understanding of community and Our Father's plan for us to experience sanctification after we have come to faith.
Perhaps most importantly:
Casual or social groups will not experience the same kind of sanctification struggles with opportunity for growth that is found in a community with clear commitment to one another.
People often find it easier to walk away than to mutually resolve differences. For many, it is hard to understand that "struggle" can be good!
We further believe that the process of sanctification is nearly impossible in the earlier stages and will most fully occur in those groups that move toward the greater level of commitment of stages 3 and 4.
It is also to be expected that fears and anxieties will rise as a group moves toward greater levels of intimacy and commitment; so it is helpful to consider what level a group is in.
We do not see these levels as automatically progressive from one to four, although they may be. Our local community seems to be between Levels 3 and 4 at this time, with intentions of moving more firmly into 4.
There is a great deal more to be said to describe these levels and the implications of each, much of which is found in our third Foundational Teaching: The Importance of Echad in Community.