what does church look like? part three

September 5, 2004 | 11 Comments

Great thoughts here. Seems that many churches have tried to create community by lining people up in affinity groups — that is, with the people who are most like them. The problem is, these are probably the relationships that require the least of us. I see this mainly as community for a consumer culture — give them what they want. True community or intimacy or whatever we want to call it should require that there is tension and we are with people we don’t always enjoy being around. We create groups for recovering addicts etc so we can shuffle them out of sight and keep the ‘messy’ people out of everyone else’s hair. When we do this, don’t we rob people of opportunities to give of themselves to others — isn’t this what true ministry is? (Sorry…bit more of a rant on this one, but I’m sure there’s a coherent thought in there somewhere.)

  • Is this based on assumptions or actual experience? The community I’m in doesnt operate like this, and actually the tight knit intimacy is what binds us and helps us be more effective helpers to those who need us.

  • Lucy,
    This entry is pretty clearly more a critique of how many ‘institutional’ churches have structured their small groups than anything. It was certainly not a statement of your community which I know nothing about other than the numerous comments you have made here.

    I’m not sure what your goal is in being here. Instead of adding to the conversation, you seem more intent on using this blog as a platform to defend and lift up your own experience. I don’t mind disagreement when it is constructive, but your comments often don’t seem constructive. A wise person once said: “Enjoy where God has placed you and allow me the same freedom.”

    I can say that we share a love for the Violet Burning so there is some common ground, but I’m not sure you’d be happy even if I posted that. 🙂 I’ve elected to moderate your comments from here on out.

  • John, you are asking about church in the shape of community, and as I have experience of that, I corrected your assumptions.

    Dont worry John, Im harmless, but I cant be bothered with censorship, so Ill leave you to it.

  • Hey JC,

    i find this to be quite interesting. As one who has been recently removed from a wonderful comminityand then “grafted” into a new surrounding and a new comminuty i often think about this. This is great stuff though… i was a bigger fan of the orange. 🙂

  • You know, this reminds me of a book by Elizabeth O’Connor… heheheh 😉

    Seriously though, I think you would enjoy these two articles, which you should be able to find pretty quickly in a google search:

    Jason Clark – Missional Communities

    Tim Keller – Missional Church

    Both great reads, and some good food for thought. Happy hunting!

  • An interesting discussion. I would have to say though I thought that Lucy had a point. If it is intimacy that we seek then this is probably best found in relationship with those who have shared experiences and understanding.

    However if it is community in the broader context of church relationships (bible study groups, home groups etc) then in our diversity we find the true richness of Christ and can come to realise our own potential.

  • I tend to agree with John on this one that we learn the most from others that are not like us. I mean–there are the basic seperations of small groups (singles, youth, marrieds, widowed, etc), and then there are the more in-depth seperations like I saw a couple weeks ago over at Mosaic (artists, writers, actor small groups to name some).

    There are “accountability” small groups with grievence, and recent divorce, and on and on. I don’t know if we’re on the same track here John, so forgive me if I deviate a bit here. I’m thinking we have turned support groups and ministry groups into accountability groups?? That’s what I’ve seen.

    I we can certainly have support and ministry groups, but I think actual small accountability groups need to be a mixed bag. When I’m hanging out with my best friends, it takes very little challenging effort from me then when I’m around people I’m different then–we clash sometimes. I don’t think that clashing is always bad, and even though I sometimes hate it, I usually grow from that. Most people are the same way, maybe.

  • david the rambler

    i’d love to be a part of a small group, where I could be face to face and heart to heart with old men, young men, middle men, fat men, tough men, smart men, artistic men, simple men, savy men… I would love to see a church that had more than ethnic or generation representation in the attendance, but actual representation in the worship/teaching/expression. Most diverse churches i know allow everyone in, but proport and practice one very homogenic style of church. Would it work to rotate: one week a silent ASL service with lights, one with afro-cetric style, one with latino, one with hymns, one with contemp, one with urban… where everyone has therie familiarity but also committs and grows to learn grace and acceptance of the beauty of difference in Christ while being united inHis glory, discipleship, truth, ordinances (baptism, communion, offerings) Should we separate the explicit scriptural definition of community wholeness as diversity in the large group format from that principle in small groups. Maybe the beauty of the kingdom that we see now is the very diverse extents of humanity united under one God in glory, worship, and purpose. I like me a rainbow.

  • jamie

    I like what Yancey says in “Church, Why Bother?” : “I have seen glimpses of what can happen when community forms aound what we hold in common. A family of God emerges, one in which unity does not mean uniformity and diversity does not mean division. How easily we forget that the Christian church was the first institution in the history of the world to bring together on equal footing Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free. The earliest church broke down barriers.”

    My most meaningful worshipful experiences in “church” settings that come to mind are the ones where I have been traveling in order to be with other believers…One Day in Tennessee, a mud church in Ethiopia, a Sunday service with the staff of Operation Mobilization. There have always been others like me, but the starkness of “strangers” worshipping God together always highlights the moment for me. We can be so intimate and transparent with one another only because of who Jesus is.

  • Jamie,
    Great quote from Yancey. I too have had some pretty amazing experiences coss culturally. Seems like the more foreign a culture might feel to me, the more I feel at home with my fellow believers in that culture. This was quite apparent to me in Nepal…

  • david the rambler

    i completely agree. when i have been in various cross-cultural situations with only christ in common the unity there is so transcendant so perfect… is it the concept that of such foreign blatent diversity that allows the truth of unity in christ to shine so brightly? It seems the community is never more beautiful and worshipful to me at least. i consider this blatent harsh diversity unified as a slice of heaven, quite literally. and as a side note… as homly as yancey is, the brother sure can articulate, eh?