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Utopian societies rarely exceed thirty members. When there are more than thirty, individuals cannot share deeply with everyone else in the group. Tensions develop, leading to distrust, dishonesty, power struggles, jealousy, grudges, etc. We have been relatively free of these problems for many years. However, it now seems that it is time for us to break through the thirty-barrier, and it is turning into a fairly traumatic experience.

First, we should explain that the breakthrough probably occurred many years ago. But for several years we limited our head count to the people who actually lived with us full-time and who totally submitted to our leadership. A growing number of people have left our ranks; but they haven't all turned to a life of sin. Some tried very hard to maintain at least some of the ideals that we have preached. A few have managed to maintain friendly relations with us. It has not been easy, for they know that we consider them to be "backsliders".

Almost all of these people have had some problems with pride, which led to their separation from us in the first place. But pride is not the root of all evil; greed is. There are so few people attacking greed in today's world, that it may be foolish of us to dismiss others who share our concerns about this great danger just because they do not measure up to our standards with regard to humility. Certainly if we can call on God's grace to forgive us for our imperfections in this area, then his forgiveness must be available to them too.

So we have decided to shift our attention (marginally) away from pride, and to focus on the need for us as leaders to exercise more patience with people who appear to be opinionated, self-willed, and/or arrogant. In the long run, love and patience may prove to be more effective in overcoming pride than expulsion. If we can keep from totally alienating people who suffer from pride (and who doesn't?), then we may be able to inspire them to deal with it. And maybe in the process they (and we) will learn something about grace as well.

(Of course there will be times when pride causes a person to be so disruptive that they cannot be tolerated. In such cases, separation may continue to be the best solution.)

While we are trying to develop a greater appreciation for supporters and ex-members, we are also taking a new approach toward members. A common complaint from ex-members is that they found discipline in our community unbearable. We thank God for the "older brothers" who have stayed on despite the hardships. However, there have been growing indications that even the most loyal community members find the high standards hard going at times.

All in all, it seems that our community has arrived at a kind of corporate adolescence, where the young must leave the nest in order to grow. Adolescent independence often develops from an inbuilt aversion to being totally controlled by your parents. Good parents will naturally be concerned about every aspect of their children's development, so it is a painful experience for parents to learn that this genuine concern is resented, and to turn loose of children over whom they have exercised almost total control for so many years. Often it takes 'rebellion' before parents wake up to the need to back off.

We are trying to back off before that happens on a large scale, and even to push a few fledglings out of the nest in order for them to develop greater responsibility and independence.

Just as adolescents often return to accept many of the things that they once resented in their parents, we are hopeful that this new freedom within our own ranks will lead to a more mature form of unity and effectiveness for Christ. And just as adolescents eventually go off to raise their own families, we are trusting that each member of our community will eventually become a leader in a whole new community.

Unity between members within these new communities will almost certainly be greater than the unity between one community and another, but overall we expect to see some common principles or fundamentals being preached by the "cousins" in the various communities that this present dispersion should produce.

The areas of agreement that we hope to find would include:

o an aversion to greed,

o faith in God,

o sincerity,

o love for others

o commitment to the teachings of Jesus.

If we can agree on these sort of things, differences of opinion in other issues should matter little.

(See also Divisions - Part of God's Plan?)

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