Monday, March 05, 2012

The Cost of Community by Jamie Arpin-Ricci, C.J.

book cover

The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis, and Life in the Kingdom
Jamie Arpin-Ricci C.J.
ISBN 978-0-8308-3635-2
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Many of my long-time readers may know that I have a long-time fascination with St. Francis and his organic mix of deep Christ-centered spirituality and a true commitment to ministries of compassion and mercy. As many of my friends I have served in ministry know, in the last 5-10 years I have also developed a little bit of a fascination with the Sermon on the Mount, and how it so succinctly and wisely shares about the power of the kingdom of God. So, when a book came along that tried to communicate how a intentional community of Christian disciples integrated these two streams of teaching into their daily life, I knew I had to have it.

The Cost of Community is written by Jamie Arpin-Ricci. Ricci is the leader of a Winnepeg community named "The Little Flowers Community". The community tries to reach out with mercy and grace in a neighborhood that desprately needs the presence of an invested Christian witness. This book, though, is not primarily about the work of this group of disciples in the difficult environment in which they live. Instead, it is about the kind of community God is calling them and us to be as followers of Jesus and St. Francis, combined with some clues on how the people of "Little Flowers" are forming this unique kind of community within their context.

The structure of the book follows the content of the Sermon on the Mount. Ricci takes the sermon section by section. He explores what kind of community Jesus is attempting to form through his words in the sermon. He then talks a little bit about how the values of St. Francis of Assisi modeled the truth of the gospel as taught by Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Throughout this analysis, Ricci shares stories about how these concepts are lived out in the community he leads. Nearly every chapter ends with a chapter or two challenging readers to bring certain values, attitudes, and behaviors into the Christian communities of which they are a part.

The Cost of Community is a neat book. It will be inspiring for many avid Christian readers. I do think, however; that this book can be best used in the following ways.

  • Read a chapter of this book a week. Ponder it. Think on how to integrate the truths of this book into your everyday life.
  • Read a chapter a week as an intentional study group. Talk about how you can embody what you learned in each chapter within how your small group does discipleship and life together.
  • Form an intentional community of disciples that share a common life. Use this to guide you as you create a "rule of life" for your community.

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