Church and Community 3: Eschatology

March 16, 2014

orchardDo you have ‘stickability’? I reckon that most people have a commitment-cycle of about eighteen months to two years. I can’t prove that, but it is something I’ve observed through watching people come and go with the different things with which I’ve been involved (and sometimes that has been me too). People tend to jump into something with excitement, but once it becomes more of an every-day commitment, they begin to lose interest and eventually go onto something else.

This is Part 3 of some thinking I’ve been doing around whether the Church has anything to offer when it comes to building a sustainable local community. We might like to think we do, but too often the reality is that others are doing it better than we are, and we need to join in with them in humility and learn.

But I do think our implicit faith foundations (what we might call our theology) give us some unique perspectives that we can offer into the mix. The Incarnation is one such foundation, which I talked about in Part 2, and our eschatology is another.

Eschatology, strictly speaking, is about what is called, ’the end times’. That’s a horrible phrase, which brings to mind all sorts of weird fanaticism. What it is really about though is pointing us towards the future. It asks us to think about what sort of future God is intending to bring about and how that impacts the way we live today.

There is so much that we could talk about here.[1] For now though, I want to make the simple point that, as Christians, we are used to waiting!

We are used to not seeing everything happen as we want it right now. We are used to not seeing things being fulfilled immediately. We are used to learning how to live in patience and hope, longing for a better world and working within the limits of what we have and who we are. We are used to committing for the long term.

And that approach is vital when we are working to build sustainable communities because they do not come about overnight. And they fail. And things go wrong. And they’re not perfect. And we have to revise our strategies and change how we do things. But that’s okay – if you’ve been part of a church for any length of time you’ll be used to that.

An integral part of eschatology is the spiritual disciplines (or practices, or habits, call them what you will). Life can be a long, hard road. What keeps me going along that road is my faith and the practices that I attempt to build into my life each day that keep me rooted in Jesus and open to his presence. We need sustenance to keep going when things are tough and we can bring that spiritual dynamic into the community-building work we do with others too.

We have lived on our estate now for nineteen years. It is no way close to being a sustainable community and we have our fair share of failures and disappointments. But the long-term perspective that my Christian faith gives me enables me to keep going and looking forward in hope. I hope it does you too.

[1] If you’d like to look into all this more I recommend a great little book called What Are We Waiting For?.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply greatgrandewi March 16, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Thanks Ruth. I agree that our response to eschatology should not be ” What’s going to happen?” but roll up our sleeves, demonstrate Christian hope and make things happen. I have read that excellent book as well.

  • Reply Sarah Bingham March 16, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    I take great encouragement from this verse in 1 Peter; “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” It takes time and care to build a house or church or cathedral (or community). We are in it for the long haul, as much for our own sake as the sake of others. We won’t always get it right – we’ll do our own thing, or we’ll mishear what we think God is saying – but our foundation is solid and unshakeable. That’s why I think we are called to be those who “shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in”.

  • Reply Andy Kingston-Smith March 17, 2014 at 6:49 am

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Here is part 3 of Ruth’s reflections from the church and sustainability conference on 1st March at Redcliffe College, Gloucester.

  • Reply Júlio Reis March 17, 2014 at 9:50 am

    ‘End times’, well, that needn’t be such a bad word! Depends on your picture of what comes afterwards. An example from home, and do trace your parallels with the upcoming history of the world:

    My oldest daughter can’t wait for the eschaton of 6th grade! The ‘end times’ will not come without their trials and tribulations… two batteries of tests (the first starts tomorrow), and then the final exams… she knows she’ll get good grades, but she wonders how good they will be. The end will bring some separations, and a lot of unknown, but she knows the bliss awaiting her: picnics, swimming in the ocean, not a care in the world. Summer will come, ready or not, but there are things that need doing before then. Time is running out, but there’s a very joyful sense to it. It is as should be.

    So, in a sense we graduate into eternity, perhaps?

  • Reply evgoldsmith March 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Bless you for this, Darling. And as you pray and wait for God to reveal his will for your next step may He give you the patience and faith you need. As you say, life is often not straight forward and we just have to cling onto God’s faithfulness, and trust him to keep us from making a mistake. I know he will guide you lovingly Mum

  • Reply Does the Church have ANYTHING to offer local community? | Ruth Valerio March 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    […] Eschatology […]

  • Reply Church and Community 5: The Cross | Ruth Valerio April 1, 2014 at 11:00 am

    […] within our theological underpinnings that we can bring to the table, including the Incarnation, eschatology, and anthropology. Christians have a unique faith and, therefore, unique emphases that we carry […]

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.