The Church Connected

I have a growing and nagging concern for the Church. I love the Church. I believe in the Church. It is the bride of Christ and I have given my life to her, yet I feel there is something important missing.

We have done a great job of pulling off great programs and ministries. We know how to preach persuasive and compelling sermons, and we know how to produce great worship experiences. Yet as much as I enjoy all these things, I am left with the feeling that there is something missing. The element missing ... community. Vital to the health of the Church is a deep sense of Biblical community. We meet together on Sunday's and various other times, but I wonder, do we really know how to experience the depth of community that Paul describes in Acts 2:44-45? The kind of community that says, I am here for you, really. It's the kind of community that strips away pretense and calls us into a life of openenes, acceptance, and vulnerability. The kind of community that says, I want to do life with you.

While most churches, mine included, have encouraged and fostered small group ministries, I am still left with the thought that there is more to it. I love the small group that my wife and I are a part of. We are learning more and more what it means to connect with others on a more meaningful level. We have enjoyed the journey and look forward to much more, yet the more I experience this kind of community, and consider how God desires the Church to be lived out, the more I am left to believe that living in such a manner, is what the Church should be all about. It's not the programs, sermons, and music, but rather the community. What would it look like if small group community was where the Church placed it's emphasis and not on the Sunday experience? What if community was the big deal?

There are many books, seminars, and conferences espousing how to do Church. There is a plethora of plug and play, "church in a box" programs that are available, all promising a healthy growing church if implemented. If only it were that easy. Community is not. It takes time. It takes work, commitment, sacrifice, and is at times messy.

On his blog, Mark Oestreicher has posted his thoughts on a new book he is working on under the working title "Youth Ministry 3.0". He recently posted a portion of chapter 6 dealing with community. He uses the word communion.

• Communion is small. Communion rarely, if ever, occurs in a large setting.

• Communion is slow. It’s not rushed. It’s doesn’t happen overnight – in fact, it’s annoyingly patient. Communion doesn’t happen on our timetables at all, and will internally resist all forms of quantification.

• Communion is simple. Not simple to “create”, but simple in it’s DNA. It’s not flashy. It doesn’t flourish with booster shots of technology .

• Communion is fluid. It won’t be boxed and sold as a resource or presented as a 40-day plan. It shies away from being defined. It beautifully morphs into variant vibes, seasons and shapes.

• Communion is present. It demands face time. It hungers for listening. It salivates for shared experience. It lives in the hear-and-now.

• Communion is Jesus-y. It places high value on the expectation of God showing up. It notices Christ in our midst. It seeks to live out a shared experience of joining up with the redemptive work of Christ.

Larry Crabb in the forward of Randy Frazee's book, "The Connecting Church" says,

"The future of the church depends on whether it develops true community. We can get by for a while on size, skilled communication and programs to meet every need, but unless we sense that we belong to each other, with masks off, the vibrant church of today will become the powerless church of tomorrow Stale, irrelevant, a place of pretense where sufferers suffer alone, where pressure generates conformity rather than the Spirit creating life - that's where the church is headed unless it focuses on community."

What are your thoughts on community? What might the Church look like if we lived in such a manner? Join me in my journey of discovery. I welcome your thoughts and would love to delve deeper with you, in this conversation.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

what's up bro, this is j@red your Pagan Christianity buddy. Its good to hear your thoughts. I really liked the sentence (paraphrase) "what if community was the big deal?" that's where we need to go. In fact the Sunday meeting needs to be absolutely incidental to church. Right now community is incidental right? But it's an erroneous to say that community and church aren't tied at they hip. In fact they're synonymous, so how is it that we even got into this conversation about how to get community back into church?

Jon Knapp said...

Hey Bri,
I have thought similar things before . . . want a good book on community read Jean Vanier's community and growth.

The only thing, however, is that community is not an end in itself. If we make community the end goal we have lost our calling. The Mission of God is our calling, community is needed and exists to fuel the mission God has given us.

And again our mission is not excellent program, nor is it great sermons, but when those things are done well, they too can fuel the mission we have been entrusted with. Then again at times they can also just be great programs.

But if they are just great programs we have to again ask ourself if they are truly great.

That's deep.

Tony Myles said...

It is these line of questions that are leading many people to do House Churches instead of Sunday morning programs. Maybe this is a good step, or perhaps it's just a trend. Either way, there are a smattering of books being written on this as well.

Ironic, eh?

Maybe this shouldn't be an either/or deal.

Bill Blackrick said...

It is true that we can neglect one aspect of the purpose of church by either focusing inward or focusing too much on the community. There needs to be a balance of the two. As far as planning all the different programs and events a quote comes to mind, "we can get too busy doing church work that we neglect the work of the church"

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