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Church and Community

Yesterday on Twitter I had a bit of a conversation with some friends about the relationship of our churches and the related need for community. (Randy archived the conversation on Storify if you’re interested.) In the midst of a discussion about a church “launching”, this exchange occurred:

Afterward, another friend, Jason Blair, mused that this is doing things all backwards.

This is one of those things that in my heart I sense is true, but I’ve not got the faintest idea how it would work out in reality. Let’s imagine, though.

The way it could be

Imagine if we had a small group of families who were bought into the idea of wanting to do community first, and then see how it worked out in practice. And imagine if we took all the time that right now is filled up with church programs, and instead we just existed in community together.

Tuesday morning men’s bible study could still be Tuesday morning bible study, but would be even better focused because it would be between men who were developing real relationships through the week.

Wednesday night dinner and clubs at church could instead be Wednesday night dinner and hang out at somebody’s house. Kids could play, parents could talk. Relationships would grow.

Saturday morning music practice could give way to a chance for dads to hang out with the kids and give the moms a chance to have brunch and time out, or to have a bunch of families get together to work on some project, whether that be to serve one of the families in the group or to serve someplace else in the neighborhood.

Sunday morning could still be a worship gathering, but with less emphasis on programs.

At the end of a year or two of this, you would develop significant relationships that would last a lifetime.

So why don’t we do this?

I know, I know. If it’s so great, why aren’t we doing it already? After all, it’s easy to dream about it on a blog, but in the end I’m still a member of a 400-member church. Why am I such a hypocrite? (Or, to frame it in a way that hurts less: why is this so hard?)

  1. Inertia. There are significant comfortable aspects to where we are now. We have friends here. Our kids like the programs. It’s easy to just tell people what church you go to rather than explaining something different. Change is hard.
  2. “Different” is scary. What does this look like initially, especially on Sunday mornings? Are we attending somewhere? Not attending anywhere? What will our friends and family have to say about it? Do we have vestigial legalism that is telling us we need to be at some church building every Sunday morning?
  3. How do we find like-minded people? I know where I can find one. Problem is, Jason is in the Twin Cities. How do I find such folks in my own city? (If you’re one of them, leave a comment or send me an email or something!)

In the midst of all of this, there’s another nagging question in the back of my head: how does this kind of community-first focus fit with what the church has historically done over the past 2000 years? Is it closer to the ages-long norm than what we’re doing today?

I clearly still have more questions here than answers, but I’m pretty sure that Jason has it right: doing “church” first, and then fighting like crazy to try to build community sure seems backwards.

5 Comments

  1. It was crazy ideas like this that led Cornerstone Church to plant in 2001.

    Some of these “crazy ideas” have become a reality…new “crazy ideas” have come…and admittedly though the crazy ideas might be valued, it still takes intentionality, sacrifice, and love to be Christ’s church in action.

    -proctor

    • Thanks for chiming in, Matt.

  2. Hey Chris,
    I’m wondering if your thoughts here mash up with the house church movement? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_church

    Some friends of ours live in Denver, CO and a part of a house church – the families get together two or more times each week to serve the needy, read/study scripture and live life together. The catch? no…AWANA, offering plates, archived sermons online, church bylaws, women’s ministry, or missions board. I can’t speak for them, but I inferred they did not have a desire to ever become a “church with a building.” I wonder if that might be the missing link between today’s church and putting into practice the ideals you’ve suggested here: the “landing” of the body? Is the body clearly being led to establish a permanent location or is the “location” dispersed in the midst of the community itself?

  3. Cassy Cassy

    Chris – I think you might be surprised how many people might be interested in something like this. However, I also think as Matt says, it requires that people give up a lot of things. I am a huge believer of the more simple things are, the better we are able to do them. As John Piper always says…”We are far too easily pleased.” Meaning we get caught up in so many things, good, bad, whatever. Something ends up having to give….

    • Cassy, thanks for commenting. I agree with you (and Matt), it’s so easy to get pleased / content with things as they are, especially when they’re good things. And yet there are these better things that we desire, or that we might even not realize that we desire yet.

      Figuring out how to get from here to there, and being brave enough to try – those are the challenges.

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