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BONHOEFFER & THE IMPACT OF LIFE TOGETHER

There are certain areas of the thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) with which I strongly disagree. But he is among my favourite authors of the twentieth century. I shall never forget the summer meditatively reading his Life Together at the beach of Port Elgin, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron, where I was vacationing with my wife Alison and her family. It has shaped my thinking on many aspects of the Christian life, especially those that deal with the nature of Christian community.

Bonhoeffer wrote this work out of his experience of leading the Confessing Church’s seminary at Zingst by the Baltic Sea. This seminary was later relocated in 1935 to Finkenwalde, Pomerania. Finding myself now as the principal of a seminary, the book takes on added significance.

As I have noted, it is a excellent guide to the nature of Christian community. For Bonhoeffer, the students under his care had to be men who knew how to play formative roles in the Christian communities to which they were called. We live in different times with different challenges, but we have the same need: how to teach potential pastors to take seriously the call to be pastors and not only preachers. The Word is central. Of this there is no doubt. But its centrality is not only to be found in the context of weekly worship, but in the lived-out experience of the Church. It is only in such that genuine Christian community can be formed—and transformed.

Michael: After listening to the talks at the T4G conference, it struck me that there had been no presentation on pastoral care. The impression is easily given that the work of the pastor is only to preach on Sundays.

You are correct, I think, to point out that the preacher must pastor. The challenge is to know how in a culture in which the church is no longer conceived as a community in which we do life together. Will someone organize a conference on pastoring?

Yes, Peter. There was no direct address about pastoring per se. Of course, they do plan others and I am sure that they will get around to this.

Do you know Mark Dever's The Deliberate Church? That is a pastoral manual if ever there was one.

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Dr. Haykin, I was so pleased to find your blog it is truly refreshing. I too have been deeply influenced and challeged by Bonhoeffer's Christ centered view of community. It is something I have heard spoken about in the church but Bonhoeffer articulates it beautifully. I considered sharing a meaningful quote but then realized I would have to quote chapter one in its entirety. I was deeply convicted in that opening chapter for my superficial judgements of the church.

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