From the Jesus Club to the Beloved Community
A B S T R A C T
Gregory C. Smith MDiv, Perkins School of Theology, 2013
American Revival: From the Jesus Club to the Beloved Community
I began a search for what has long been considered the “Beloved Community” by religious leaders, theologians, and civil rights leaders – both within and outside of the church. I used the methodology of history to view how the church itself has struggled throughout the centuries, long before it came to North America. At the outset, I suspected that many of the fraternal organizations and service clubs impacted unsuccessful attempts to become the “Beloved Community” that was prescribed by Christ most specifically in the Gospel of John.
Through the use of historical and early biblical accounts, I discovered dissention that very often prohibited the realization of the “Beloved Community.” Some of the earliest historical accounts including a Roman historian who witnessed the Christian community, ascribed their existence as more of a club than a religion. The Greek word for club – hetairia – became the catalyst for this entire project. The early Christian Community attempted to realize the “Beloved Community,” but often devolved into a hetairia instead. This pattern played out over again and again in the history of the church, as evidenced with the Desert Fathers of Egypt, Saint Francis of Assisi’s development of his order, and on into the reformation and the denominational Christians who would bring their beliefs and doctrines to North America,
The development of additional North American denominations, great awakenings, revivals, as well as participation in Christian-based fraternal and service organizations at times appeared to achieve a beloved community within the church in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, in the twentieth century, the term “Beloved Community” became prevalent primarily among social gospel and civil rights leaders and groups who looked back at Christ’s teachings and the promise that might be realized here in this life. My conclusion in this project is that the church of the twenty first century continues to strive to become a “Beloved Community,” however, until that day we the church remain card-carrying members of the hetairia/Jesus Club.
Dr Ted A. Campbell
Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles
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Smith, Greg, "American Revival" (2021). Doctor of Ministry Projects and Theses. 6.