CHRISTIAN BROTHERLY COMMUNITY
- HISTORY AND ORIGINS
- THE ESSENCE OF FAITH
- STATUS AND PURPOSE
- ATTITUDE TO OTHER DENOMINATIONS
- ORDER AND ESSENCE OF THE SERVICE – LITURGY
HISTORY AND ORIGINS
The Community was established in 1993 and operated as an independent house Church. In 2004, it obtained legal personality, running its activity as Zbór Chrześcijan we Wrocławiu (Christian Church in Wrocław, full name: Christian Church in Wrocław, the Filial Church of the Evangelical Church “Agape” in Poznań). In 2019, the members applied for registration as a separate religious union under the name of Christian Brotherly Community, which eventually took place in 2022.
Doctrinal and organizational formation of the Community materialized in the second half of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s as a result of a twofold opposition. On the one hand, to the doctrine of positive confession, the gospel of success and new forms of stage-and-show liturgy, coming from the USA and Western Europe to communities which belonged to the currents of: Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Chrześcijanie Wiary Ewangelicznej) and Determined Christians (Stanowczy Chrześcijanie) (both of which during the years 1953–1987 belonged to the United Evangelical Church – Zjednoczony Kościół Ewangeliczny, ZKE). On the other hand, to some indigenous forms of external piety (the aftermath of pietistic, puritanical and ascetic ideas present in Christianity in general), that would sometimes manifest itself in an elaborate system of do’s and don’ts, which suggests that salvation can be achieved by specific works and that moral corruption does not come from man himself, but is a result of external factors, such as the achievements of civilization and culture, or education.
From the very beginning, the development and teaching of the Community were based on the most universal principles of piety, organizational and liturgical forms, and methods of interpreting the Holy Scriptures developed by Christian communities of an Evangelical-Pentecostal character—those operating within the house Church, and those associated in 1947/53–1987 in ZKE. However, in the process of ideological and organizational shaping, based on spiritual and existential experiences of its members, contemporary historical critique of Christian theology, and research of contemporary biblical scholars, the Community has verified many doctrinal beliefs and religious traditions present in the 16th-century movement for revival and reform (sometimes called in the literature the second or alternative Reformation), as well as in the 20th-century Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal movements. Thus, at present, it refers primarily to the New Testament Christianity, as well as to the “alternative Reformation”. It is therefore a continuator of some New Testament ideas cultivated by Anabaptists, Mennonites, Schwenkfeldists, and Christian communities of Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal character, which developed across the Polish lands.
THE ESSENCE OF FAITH
The essence of Christian faith is that salvation cannot be earned by works, but comes from grace and is a gift of God through and in Christ. It is experienced as a result of repentance and conversion through the experience of spiritual rebirth, change of thinking, through faith and obedience to the Word of God, and living not according to the carnal, old nature in Adam, but according to the spirit in a new creation, for God through and in Christ. Hence, the doctrine of the Community is based on opposition to the theory of ex opere operato—the belief that religious acts such as prayer, baptism or breaking bread (communion) are meaningful and effective regardless of the spiritual condition of the person practicing them—also manifested in the Protestant doctrine of predestination and justification by faith alone, i.e. beyond the experience of spiritual renewal and development. In other words, it refers to the idea of the “alternative Reformation” movement, for which simply practicing religious rituals and adhering to New Testament principles is not enough for salvation, since “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). Contrary, it is about the works for which God created man, that is, those performed by grace through faith and living in the new creation, according to the words: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Only works originating in Christ, i.e. in obedience to His Word and in the power of God’s Spirit, are called good in Scripture. That is why apostle Paul also exhorts: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16–25). According to the teaching of the apostles, works in the old Adam, both good and bad, sometimes also the deeds of converted people—i.e. spiritually reborn, able to live according to the Spirit, yet returning to the “law” in their relationship with God—performed not by faith, but “by the flesh”, are dead and have no meaning in God’s eyes. Perhaps: altruism, kindness, honesty, loyalty, etc. manifested within the fallen nature of man, as well as the observance of certain religious practices by those converted, but returning to “the law” in their thinking and action (“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”, Colossians 2:21), or certain moral principles (such as “You shall not steal”, “You shall not commit adultery”), are good for people and of benefit to society, but they do not count in God’s eyes, because they do not result from the saving power experienced through faith and obedience to God’s Word in Christ (cf. Galatians 3:1–12). One can be a good person, morally correct, at the same time very religious, involved in the prayer and life of a specific religious community, helping the poor and the sick, but in the context of achieving salvation and living with God, it does not matter. As a result of Adam’s fall, “None is righteous, no, not one … All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10,12). Thus, the works in the old, spiritually unrenewed Adam are performed in man’s fallen state, with his sense of his own righteousness and being like God (cf. Genesis 3:5). In the face of God’s holiness, they are like a “polluted garment”.
Christian faith is trust in God and is expressed in decisions and actions based on His Word. Therefore, it is not merely a belief “about God”, but “in God”. Nor does it follow from any movement, necessity, nature, or various other false premises rationalizing the existence of “the highest being”. Apostle Paul asks: “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:20–24). “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6–8). In other words, Christian faith is based on the experience of God’s saving power in human life, not on the human reasoning or alleged scientific evidence.
STATUS AND PURPOSE
Respecting the Church’s theological legacy based on Scripture, the Community recognizes itself as one of the links in a chain of many generations, part of the Universal Church consisting of the God’s People of the New Covenant, the mystical Body of Christ, of which He is the Head.
The Church that gathers across the history of salvation those born through the Word, of water and the Holy Spirit, Christ’s disciples who are aware of their faith and who, in the act of calling and faith, form brotherly communities, i.e. the visible Church expressing itself in external acts of faith: prayer, New Testament baptism, breaking bread, manifesting spiritual gifts, and in a moral attitude that does not want a compromise with the world, but also does not demand escape from the world, nor does it proclaim contempt for life.
At the same time, being the Church organizationally visible in these acts, the Community is not an end in itself to which all values should be subordinated. For the Truth is not where a particular Church is, but Church is there where is the Truth. The Church can neither restrict access to the Truth, nor impose its choice; it can only help to strive for it—man is responsible for himself in matters of an ultimate nature, that is, in matters concerning salvation. However, this does not change the fact that there is no salvation outside the Church; not in the sense of belonging to a formal and legally institutionalized community, but to a spiritual community of renewed people and direct brotherly relations with them based on confessing together the biblical truths of faith. There is no salvation in isolation, that is, outside of the brotherly community as expressed in the visible Church. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20).
The aim of the Community is therefore to act towards a man in such a way that his conscience would be freed from being constrained by unauthorized intermediaries and become close to the authoritative voice of God, i.e. the Word of God contained in the Scripture, and not to various cultural and religious deceits according to “human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). True faith is not of culture, but of grace, and it is being born in freedom through the Word accepted “not as the word of men, but as (…) the Word of God, which is at work in [the] believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Therefore, based on the historical critique of Christian theology and the research of contemporary biblical scholars on the content of the Holy Scriptures, the Community strives to purify itself from unbiblical views through teaching the New Testament content and implementing the doctrinal and organizational ideas from the apostolic times. It is also deeply aware that the development of every religion, just like culture, is of no return; it is impossible to get back to the era of primitive Christianity, nor to recreate it in its original essence. This does not mean, however, that the ideas contained in the New Testament cannot be the basis and inspiration for the religious experience on which the contemporary structures of the Church and the relationship between the faithful and God should be built.
ATTITUDE TO OTHER DENOMINATIONS
No religious community referring to the truths contained in the Holy Scriptures can ignore the fact that in the mystical and spiritual dimension there is only one Church in terms of its essence and the expression of biblical acts of faith: “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (1 Corinthians 3:11–13).
Therefore, amidst the diversity of contemporary Christian denominations, regardless of their distinctiveness shaped under different historical conditions, in the face of referring to biblical content in personal, social and liturgical life within biblically acceptable heterodoxy, the Community recognizes them as brothers in Christ in both mystical and temporal dimension, expressed in direct personal relationships and in visible forms of worship, such as the New Testament water baptism, moral attitude, breaking bread, prayer or baptism in the Holy Spirit.
This does not mean that the Community, relating to the content of the apostolic doctrine and the idea of universal Church as the body of Christ, does not perceive the differences between “gold, precious stones” and “wood, hay or straw”, visible in unscriptural attitudes of many Christians, or various abuses by certain teachers (bishops, priests, and deacons) who have an ideological and spiritual influence on certain denominations, churches, or individual congregations, and against whom the apostles and Christ himself have warned the Church.
However, the community is deeply aware that “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2) and that the Word of God did not come from us, and we are not the only ones it has reached (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:36). This, in turn, fills us with fear lest we refuse brotherhood to those who, although they “are not following us”, but at the same time, in the name of shared faith, “are not against us” (cf. Mark 9:38–40). Therefore, the Community does not refuse brotherhood to all those who, as a result of an act of faith, have converted, confessed their sins, received the New Testament baptism and are declared members of a specific Christian community referring in its teaching to the content of the Holy Scriptures. Thus the Community breaks the bread with the “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2). For they too are Christ’s, since, on the basis of the biblical truths of faith, they have experienced “the grace of God (…), bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11–12).
THE ORDER AND THE ESSENCE OF THE SERVICE – LITURGY
Unlike many contemporary Protestant Christian communities associating reborn people, the Community during its services does not practice new forms of stage-and-show liturgy, which in the second half of the 1980s began to dominate in Polish churches, displacing traditional forms more or less similar to those of the New Testament. The community tries to implement the original New Testament liturgy of the first Christians. Its general principles were outlined by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians in the following words: “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Thus, the members of the Community, like the first Christian communities, gather around a table, which forms a kind of presbytery. The ones seated at the table are function holders of the organizational units of the Community (bishop, presbyters, deacons, deaconesses), as well as spiritually mature brothers, who serve with the Word of God, and sisters (cf. Acts 13:1; Ephesians 2:4–6). The table and the room in which the service occurs become a space of mutual, as if in a transcendent dimension, dialogue both between individual participants and between the whole community and God. This is due to the fact that it is around this table that, basing on the biblical text, catechetical (oral) teaching, community prayer, manifestation of spiritual gifts and their substantive and spiritual evaluation take place.
This form of worship requires a brotherly atmosphere in a shared experience of Christ’s presence and a deep awareness of personal relationships with Him (Matthew 18:20), as well as faith and a sense of responsibility for the transmission of the word of God to one another with the help and power of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16–17, 26;16:12–14; Acts 1:4–5, 8;2:1–18 ;8:4–8,14–17; Romans 12:3–8; 1 Peter 4:11). Attendants must be aware of their participation in the universal New Testament priesthood of the faithful (1 Peter 2:1–10) and, consequently, their role towards God and their brothers, not only in the context of transmitting the content of the Holy Bible in serving with God’s Word (i.e. catechetical teaching) and manifesting spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3–8; Hebrews 10:19–25), but also the resulting personal responsibility for the proper order of the service (1 Corinthians 14:6,12–16,26–30, 37–39). Responsibility that is expressed both in the proper interpretation and teaching of the Word of God (1 Peter 4:10–11), derived primarily from reading and exegesis of the biblical text with the help of the Holy Spirit, i.e. from His inspiration resulting from obedience to the Word (John 8:31–32;14:21,26;16:12–14), as well as in the content of the prayers of individual participants (1 Corinthians 14:12–16). These prayers generally respond to the content of the preached Word of God (Hebrew 3:7–8) or the hymns and songs that individuals either chant or propose to the congregation to sing, in line with the New Testament idea: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:16–17).
 Isaiah 64:6. This phrase refers to a garment that is not suitable for temple worship, that is, to be in the presence of God (cf. Isaiah 6:5f.).
 M. Czajko, A. Bajeński , T. Gaweł, M. Kwiecień, M. Suski, O porządku naszych nabożeństw (On the Order of Our Services), ed. S. Lotta, “Chrześcijanin” (“A Christian”) No. 12/1982, pp. 11–16, A. Matiaszuk, Liturgia – służba Boża (Liturgy – A God’s Service), ibid., pp. 8–10, 18.