When human beings—whatever their spiritual or ideological orientation—work together, there is brought into being an ambience, an ethos, a culture. This is a given, for this is how human beings have been made. Humans are culture-fashioners. And there is a feel to their being-together that in some ways is an intangible, something almost indefinable. But it is known and felt as soon as one spends time in the presence of this group of people or at their meetings. This is as true for office staffs as political caucuses and as real for astronomy faculties, law firms and churches. And sometimes the ambience is at odds with the public face of the group. One thing is affirmed publicly, but the reality of what is experienced is different. As I reflect on my experience of Christian groups, some seemed outwardly more narrow than others in their confession, yet what warmth of love within. Others projected themselves as open and progressive, yet the internal dynamics were really quite nasty. Others affirmed a commitment to God’s sovereignty, yet were paralyzed by fear.
Not surprisingly, the love and nastiness and fear were never dwelt upon publicly: but any time spent in the group soon revealed the reality. O may our gatherings and groups be marked in truth by the ambience and the culture of the Spirit!