Making the Most of the Opportunity. The Eternal Vision Ministry Team at the Character Inn will be a brief experience of life in a Christian Community. If you keep your heart in right adjustment every day it will be a place of intense, focused training for life. It can be a powerful laboratory for life. As such it should be seen as a great opportunity. But you need to understand the opportunity that it is. There are rich benefits of living in community.
The Benefits of Living in Community. The book of Ecclesiastes chapter four verse nine through twelve lists four valuable benefits of living with others in community.
Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
1. Living together in community makes your work worthwhile (9) Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. Living in community you have others that you are working for. The work makes sense because it is a labor of love.
2. Living in community assures you that you will have someone to help you up when you fall. (10) For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. We all fall from time to time. It is a tragedy to fall when there is no one there to help you or to restore you. In community there are others who can help you back on your feet.
3. Living in community provides you comfort you in the hardships of life. (11) Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? It is one thing to suffer difficulty, but the pain of difficulty is magnified when you have to suffer alone.
4. Living in community provides others to fight life’s battles with you. (loyalty) (12) Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. We all have our battles to face. Christians especially are living a soldier’s life here in this world. The world is an unfriendly place. We are constantly exposed to the enemy and he is eager to destroy. We are engaged in spiritual warfare but in a community we have comrades in arms near at hand. We have someone to help us in the struggle.
These benefits of living in community are also true of marriage and family life. So your time here at the Inn may well be “marriage practice” for you. The qualities you learn and practice here will strengthen your family and the generations that follow if God leads you to marry and have a family some day.
Your service here will only be a short period of time in your life, but you will never forget it. It will become a part of who you are. It will affect you for life. It will be one of the forming experiences of your youth. If you are led of the Lord to serve and learn here the rewards will follow you throughout your life and on into eternity. If you take full advantage of the opportunities here you will leave here with a life-long eternal focus. Your time here, though short, will effect time and eternity.
Examples of Christian Community
L’Abri. In the Swiss Alps Francis and Edith Schaffer were led of the Lord with their young family to found a unique Christian fellowship. The community was mostly for students who were trying to make sense of the world after they had been exposed to the confusion skepticism in public universities. Initially it was just the Schaffer house, a rented Chalet. Eventually it grew to include a number of Chalets in the village. The community was called L’Abri, which means “shelter” in French.
L’Abri was a place of intense Christian teaching. It was also a place of rich Christian hospitality. Most of us know what a powerful combination that can be. The same will be true at RCI. You will be immersed in Christian teaching and you will both enjoy and participate in providing Christian hospitality for believers and unbelievers alike. People come to the Character Inn from around the block, around the State of Michigan, around the country and literally around the world.
Dhonavour Christian Fellowship. Dhonavour was a Christian fellowship with a ministry purpose. The fellowship was founded by Amy Carmichael to rescue little Indian girls from moral danger. Some of the greatest devotional literature ever written was formed in the heart of “Amma” of Dhonavour, Amy Carmichael’s writing was born in the context of the daily work and sacrifice needed to raise, feed, clothe, teach and love a large number of Indian orphan girls.
We expect our fellowship at the Character Inn to be fertile soil for spiritual fruit. We won’t just read and study, but we will apply and practice. We will be taking our faith to the streets. We will be looking hurting people in the face. Sometimes you will be tired. Sometimes you will be pressed to rely on the Lord. We hope you find life here filled with lessons you will take with you into life, like those in Dhonavour have done through the years.
Meet God in the Kitchen. Our learning will occur in unlikely places. Brother Lawrence found God in a unique way in the kitchen of a Christian community. It was there that he learned to “Practice the Presence of God.” He wrote about the experience and thousands have been blessed by the writing. Before you are done here you will be among them.
If you have a devoted heart you will see God in all that you do like he did. Whatever your hands find to do you will do to the glory of God. You will find the laundry room is a place of worship. You will find the dishwasher is an altar of sacrifice. You will discover God in a fresh way like John and Betty Stamm who met while singing and doing dishes at Moody Bible Institute many years ago. You will discover things about God and experience sweet fellowship with God with your face in the toilet.
Muller’s Orphanage. In Bristol, England God led George Muller to found a large orphanage. The secondary purpose of the orphanage was to care for children. The primary purpose in Muller’s mind was to show that God hears and answers prayer. People had to live and serve there for that message to go around the world and down through time. The effect of the ministry of the Character Inn on the world will not be known until it is examined in the light of eternity, but we are assured that even if all we do is give a cup of cold water in Jesus name we will never lose our eternal reward.
Contentment. For Christian community to work those who participate must not be driven by greed and a love for things. We must be content with having their basic living needs met.
Historically those who live in Christian community often raise support from outside the community. Some have engaged in business enterprise to support the life of the community.
Last summer on a drive out to the Kewanaw Peninsula which juts out into Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we discovered two communities. One of them was a bakery called the Jam Pot run by a religious order. It was situated overlooking great Lake Superior near a small waterfall just off the side of the road. The other community was one I had heard of a few times but never visited before. In fact I was a little surprised when we rounded a corner in the little village of Eagle River, Michigan and discovered Gitche Gume Bible Camp. I assume the camp is supported by donations and fees collected from campers and retreat participants.
The Business End of Things. Here at the Training Center our primary support comes from the business that we conduct at the Character Inn. The food, beverage and hospitality business makes it possible for young people to earn their way through their ministry and training experience. The Eternal Vision Ministry Team is a work, study, witness, serve, minister program.
We serve secular organizations as well as Christian groups, churches and organizations. We also sponsor our own conferences and host Institute in Basic Life Principles conferences and programs. We take in money for these programs and that makes it possible to provide training programs, and training and ministry opportunities for young people without charging room and board and tuition. This makes the Eternal Vision Ministry Team a unique opportunity.
In the case of the Character Inn we are seeking to become a self-supporting ministry training center. It is an organization for young people and families who are hungry for God.
A Showcase of Christian Character. The way we conduct business, the way we treat each other, the level of our customer service, and the state of repair of our building are all opportunities to display the Character that is in our name. Character is a direct result of the living reality of Christ in us. Where there is no spiritual reality there is no true Character. But from the front of the house and heart of the house everything about the Character Inn is a reflection of the order of hearts in submission to Christ.
In order to function in a way that is pleasing to the Lord and in order to realize the full potential of a training center. Sacrifice is needed. Commitment is critical.
Flint is the Perfect Setting. Reading of L’Abri in the Swiss Alps you may be thinking by now that Flint, Michigan is a long way from the beauty of an Alpine village. When you consider it carefully, Flint is an especially good opportunity. It is a good opportunity because of what I like to call “The Firefly Affect.” The darker the night the brighter the light shines. It is the opportunity of contrast and we are in the very heart of the city.
There is a parallel between Flint, Michgan and the cities of the Bible that lie in ruins. Flint is a city broken and ravaged by the enemy. Flint is not without its remnant but it is a waste city and as such it is a city where any light becomes a brilliant contrast because it is in the context of deep spiritual darkness. We have a chance to participate in the rebuilding of a waste city. (Isaiah 61, Ezk. 36:33)
The mayor once told me that he sees the Character Inn as the Crown Jewel of the Downtown.
Covenantal Agreement. In order to enjoy the full potential of the opportunity to live in Christian community, we need to live in covenant agreement together.
Covenant is important it community. A covenant is an agreement before the Lord. Community grows primarily from the unity that we already have in Christ. It is deepened by common convictions and common experiences. Our communion is forged especially when we face a common enemy. We are bothers and sisters already in the family of faith. In addition to our spiritual relationship with one another, we are united in love and for the time that we live here we promise a certain level of Christian conduct. This will effect the areas of Modesty, humility, relationships between men and women and the practice of servant hood. It will have our bearing on the exercise and expression of personal freedoms when we are with one another.
It really will be a challenge and an opportunity.
The Cost of Community. There is a price to be paid. The benefits and blessings of community are not free. They will cost personal effort and sacrifice. They will cost daily humblings and many yeildings of the will each day. Following Jesus always involves taking up your cross.
In the words of John Henry Newman, “Taking up the cross is no great action done once for all but the continual daily practice of small duties which are distasteful to us.”
Opportunities for small duties which are distasteful to us are all around us at the Character Inn all the time.
Two Beautiful Pictures of Christian Community. There are two beautiful pictures of living in community in Psalm 133. When brothers live together in unity it is like the pouring out of fragrant oil used in the anointing of the high priest. It is a sacred and fragrant thing. It is also like the dew of Herman falling on the mountains of Zion. It is fruitful and productive and elicits the blessing of the Lord.
“There the Lord commands the blessing even life forevermore.” The blessing of eternal life falls like rain on those who dwell together in unity. The blessing of the Lord lingers like fragrance around those who are working together in community.
The Heart of Everything. The governing principle behind all we do is love for God. Loving God with all our hearts and loving each other will make long lists of rules and regulations unneeded. Love will lead us to be careful not to offend others. That care will be reflected in many areas. These will be concrete ways of expressing love. They are our “community love languages.” They will include dish duty, kitchen policies, night desk duty for men, weekly custodial tasks, care in our choice of music, romance and relationships, and the cleanliness and order of our living and work areas. You can get a copy of the community covenant from those in leadership.
Kenneth L. Pierpont
Riverfront Character Inn
February 5, 2004