Sustaining charisma and structure in Church

Vincent Kundukulam

For the healthy growth of any religious community two components have to be coherently blended. They are charisma and organization. The charisma gives vitality and direction to the community, whereas the organizational network gives stability to the community. They together can only take the religious group ahead to achieve the goal set by the founder. If this is true the present-day Christian communities must also keep alive the vision given by Jesus and the structural flexibility promoted by the apostles.

Normally the binding force of a movement underlies in the racial, linguistic and geographical oneness. As far as the early Christians are concerned they did not have any common land, they did not belong to the same race and they did not even speak the same language. In spite of these drawbacks the number got increased and churches were formed in Rome, Asia Minor and Greece thanks to their oneness in Christ. The need of the hour is to recapture the balance between the charisma and organization of Jesus’ movement.

Here we will reflect upon one point that would help Church to endure its original charisma against the institutionalization tendency of the present era. That is nothing else than networking. Church can manage its tension in balancing between institution and charism in her life through different ways of networking. One way will be to cultivate the culture of communion within the Church. The major problem the contemporary men face is the feeling of isolation which is a by-product of growing individualism, indifference and lack of community feeling. People live like islands. Whether it is in family, in parish or in village, we forget the other and the vulnerable. In this context, the communitarian dimension in the gospel is to be rediscovered and implemented in the Church. Strengthening the Basic Christian communities, the Basic Human Communities and the Self Help Programs will definitely sustain Church in the dynamism of Jesus’ movement.

Another means will be to develop partnership with other religious social and secular movements. The challenges of our time are really complex that Christians alone cannot tackle them. Besides, the net-working will keep Church vibrant in spite of its structural shrinkages. A matured give and take interaction between the Christian and other cultures will lead to the penetration of gospel into indigenous cultures and to the new configurations of witnessing kingdom values. In the early centuries, apart from the Church in Rome, there was a Church in Ephesus, a Church in Antioch, a Church in Alexandria and a Church in Jerusalem. None of these Churches tried to conform their ways of living one another. They assured the unity by seeking a convergence in the diversities. Only when we let the Christian communities, aided by the Holy Spirit, encounter the Gospel in their own particular culture the Church will be enriched by the fruits of God’s Spirit indwelling in the diverse cultures and become genuinely catholic.

Living the unity through the communion of indigenous Christian communities will give rise to the question of multiple forms of belongingness to the Church. At the time of Jesus, the auditors adhered to Christ in different orders. In the close circle there were the twelve who renounced everything, followed Him and lived with Him permanently. At the next circle there were the 72 disciples who closely associated with Him but they were commissioned for preaching only occasionally. The crowd who used to come to listen His words constitute again another form of adherence. Finally we see people like the pagan exorcist whom Jesus allowed to remain in His own community and to carry out the mission on His behalf. If Jesus permitted these diverse forms of belonging to Him why can’t we allow this to happen even in our times too?

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