Community…friend or foe to the church?

Obviously this week’s title is kind of a trick question, most of us have already answered this multiple choice question in our minds; however it serves as a good springboard to start talking about our next item…church community.

Interestingly enough…many of you through your comments, and in conversation, cited community as one of the greatest characteristics that make a church…well, a church. I do not dispute that at all. In fact, I enthusiastically agree with you all. I believe genuine Christian community is something Jesus expected us to work at, and frankly to achieve. Think about it, who would want to be a part of anything that is not real, not caring, not making a difference in this world. Most people I know want something bigger than themselves to become a part of, and an authentic community making a difference in a community certainly has an incredible value. Even more so when you think of how many of us come from broken and hurting relationships.

So how could something so good, something Jesus himself told us to work at…how can community become a foe to the church? It happens subtly, when the very thing God wants us to use to invite people into the church becomes the very thing that is keeping people out of it. Community that is separated from the heart of Christ becomes something other than what Jesus meant it to be. It no longer welcomes those who are far from God, rather it can become a tool that isolates people from our community.

You know the feeling, all of us can probably recall a time when we wanted to be a part of something that others were resistant to let us join: a club, a clique, a tight knit group of friends. No one wants to be the person who is on the outside looking in. And this is exactly why Jesus left us the kind of community you all talked about; a community that is like a tight knit family, but has open arms and welcomes all people.

Why is this type of community important in a church?

Because the greatest example of community…Jesus…to this day still has His arms opened to all peoples. Logically, as a church we should too.

So what do you think?

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~ by Anthony Orzo on August 17, 2009.

4 Responses to “Community…friend or foe to the church?”

  1. Your comment, “No one wants to be the person who is on the outside looking in” really struck me. As much as I love our body of believers at CCC, I think one danger for the “core group” IS the fact that they have been together “from the beginning”. Naturally, they are very close, & have a lot of “history”. But sometimes newcomers perceive that as “clique-like” and feel unable to break through. There are plenty of newer attenders & members to interact with, but it’s just important to remember how they think & feel. Especially if you want them to continue to become more involved & develop a deeper bond with the core group that starts the new plant off. Just my thoughts…

    • Yes Pam you are right. The true balance for any church should be a close community that openly welcomes all people to that community. As far as I can see…cliques are not one of the marks of the New Testament Church. Truly, it is a detriment to her mission.

  2. Hey Anthony. I have been reading the responses…great dialogue. When you begin to blog about community, you strike a sensitive spot with me because small groups and the community that arises out of that is my passion. I often think, and haven’t figured it out, but often think…is community a characteristic of the church or an individual? What I mean is this, often a church becomes so close with each other that they feel community with everyone, and it becomes one big community group (for the most part). Can the “church” as a whole have community…absolutely. However, could it be that guests and new people, particulary those who have not crossed the line of faith and are not yet follwers of christ are “outsiders” because we do not see community as an individual thing. It is natural and healthy for people who have been together for so long to have community with each other. In order for that community to be open to guests or new people (especially if they are not follwers of Christ) we must see those people as someone who we could potentially have community with. We can not expect a large group to embrace new people and immediately have community with them. It must be intentional. There must be an intentional step or action whereby someone or a group of someones intentionally invites them to be part of a much smaller group of individuals who have community together. Most people, when they are guests, do not naturally “fit in” and become part of the overall community in a church. Why a smaller group you ask? Because, I may never stand up in front of the entire church and tell them my marriage is over unless I get help, but I might tell a good friend or a few people who I trust. I think people want to feel like they belong. It doesn’t take the whole church, it may only take one couple or a few couples who embrace the guest to make them feel like they belong.

    It is the same thing with someone who is not a follwer of Christ and actually has never even come to our church. For example your neighbor or co-worker whom you know but has never come to your church. Often we see those people as “goals” or “projects”. I realize that sounds a little harsh and not many are willing to admit it, but ask yourself this…When I have attempted to invite someone to church or win them to Christ and they repeatedly say no…at some point have I stopped talking to them and said to myself, “I tried but they didn’t want it?” Our sole purpose for talking to them is to get them to come to my church or lead them to faith in Christ. Now…hear me out…does God want them to know Him…emphatically yes! Does God want to use us to lead them to know Him…emphatically yes! However, why can’t we genuinley like our neighbors and enjoy spending time with them as friends. Why can’t we develop community with our neighbors or co-workers? Why do many (I know not all) followers feel like they can only have relationships with other followers of Christ? What my neighbors and co-workers need to know is that I value their friendship and I like them, and I will be their friend and hangout with them regardless of whether they ever come to my church or not! Regardless of whether they ever accept Christ or not! Don’t ever compromise, don’t ever neglect to tell them about your friendship with God and how they can have friendship with God, but shouldn’t we be their friend even if they never come to church? I think that is the love God wants us to have for people so that they may experience community with us!

    If people are going to feel like they belong, they must be connected. Maybe that is through a small group, maybe it is through serving in some ministry, but they must be connected with other people. I struggle to think it should be a guests responsibility to connect. I should extend my hand so that they can grab it, lock arms with me and walk together for a common purpose!

    So is community a friend…absolutely. Is it a foe, only when we do not intentionally invite others to belong. These are not exhaustive thoughts on community, but I know no one wants to read four pages of blogs. Thanks Anthony!

    • Joe, thanks for your thoughts. It is good to hear from you.

      You highlighted something in your comment that needs to be reiterated. As Christ-followers, we need to have genuine motives when we seek to develop intentional relatonships with people. At times, many of us have viewed people as projects, a number, an invite, however this is not how God and by proxy His people should see our neighbors.

      You are spot on when you say we should love and like our neighbors first. Why? Because love is the reason Christ himself chose to associate with humanity. Any motive we use to create community that is not based on love is a lesser motive than Christ’s. And that simply put is destined to create a community experience that is less authentic than Jesus expects.
      Sent on the Now Network from my Sprint® BlackBerry

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