Their Concept of Community
One distinctive feature of the Holic Group is its emphasis on community or congregation. According to their opinion there are certain criteria in the Bible which distinguish the true community of Jesus:
- A community of committed Christians, in which each member has personally decided for Christ.
- No officers in the congregation: the officers would misuse their positions for the perpetuation of personal power. The group absolutely insists that “a pastor does not have the Holy Spirit.” Pastors are actually unnecessary, because every Christian can and should do what’s necessary for the congregation, such as being a leader, an organizer, a preacher, etc. The elders, bishops, and various other offices of the early Christian congregations, which are mentioned in Paul’s letters, were merely a feature of that culture. Back then, the congregations consisted of converts from Judaism and from Paganism, which is no longer the case today.
- Daily meeting and Bible reading. Any division or planning of the community’s activities into prayer meetings, Bible studies, youth activities, or worship services is rejected as unbiblical and not according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Only daily gathering of the Christians for prayer, Bible study, sharing, and singing, in a formless manner led by the Holy Spirit, are accepted as Biblical. The celebration of certain Christian holidays (Easter, Christmas) contradicts the ideal community pattern.
- Sharing of spiritual and material possessions. That means that one also discusses personal problems, doubts, and one’s own misconduct with the other group members. It is thereby possible for the group to purposefully influence the individual and to react quickly to changes in the individual (e.g., doubt).
- No sinners in the community: there must be a radical division between believers and nonbelievers. For the group, even most other Christians are nonbelievers. Because they’ve mixed with ‘impure’ people and tolerated sinners in their ranks, the existing congregations are unusable for God. In practice, the group asserts the possibility of a sinless life, even if they admit in conversation that they sin. Stubborn sinners should, however, be expelled from the congregation. One implication of this thought is the rejection of any close contact with ‘non-Christians’ (i.e., people who aren’t members of the group, even one’s own previous friends and relatives).
They reproach the Christian churches because they fail to meet these criteria. People can become members, too, of such churches through mere formalities (infant baptism without a personal faith decision), and can remain members by similar formalities (e.g., financial contributions), without one’s personal life being shaped by the faith. Individual positive traits are acknowledged among those who believe differently, but then they are immediately relativized, because these would, after all, really be based on the wrong foundation, and could not have God’s Spirit. Therefore, prayer in common with Christians outside their group is not possible for them.
They see themselves as an elite community of the only true Christians, who actually live according to the Bible. For this reason, their attitude toward other people appears arrogant and contemptuous. In conversations with them, one detects again and again how they speak with a sense of superiority. Others are considered to be weak people, in the grip of materialism, who can’t manage to raise themselves up to the high moral and religious level of the Holic Group.
Only an encounter with the group, and the attitude that one has toward it, will reveal whether or not somebody is a real Christian. People who’ve never had any contact with their group could be real Christians. But after the first contact with them, people must quickly decide in favor of the group. If that doesn’t happen, then they’ve shown themselves to be reprobates with the mere appearance of Christians.
The individual member can be certain de facto of his salvation only in connection with the group: the confirmation or rejection of the group is finally the deciding criterion.
Acts 2:42-46 forms one foundation of their concept of community: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers … And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.” However, they usually leave out verse 47 (“praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved”). It is here, as well as in Acts 4:32-35, in Paul’s letters, and in Matthew 10 (the sending of the disciples into the mission field), that the group finds much of its own self-concept: the sharing of property, daily meeting (to the extent that one doesn’t already live in common) and strong missionary zeal. Likewise, the passages of radical discipleship are very favored (where Jesus demands that one give up everything else for His sake), and especially emphasized with new members.
Other models of community also found in the Bible, but which don’t fit the group’s pattern, are not examined, or are found to be specic to ancient times and cultures, or are rejected as inferior.
A morally pure lifestyle is demanded of the members (cf. the section titled “lifestyle”), because the way the individual lives shapes the image of the community. Therefore, there may be no sinners in the community, because the community’s pattern of operation would be distorted. Because the lifestyle is part of the evangelism (the practical implications of the Gospel), a false Gospel would be preached. A former member expressed the experience of the extreme overemphasis of the community this way: “The community is their idol.”