I finished reading Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam this morning. This a pretty interesting look at how community declined in the US in the second half of the 20th century. A few comments on page in particuluar stood out to me:
Most evangelical volunteering, however, supports the religious life of the congregation itself–teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, ushering at worship service–but does not extend to the broader community as much as volunteering by members of other faiths.
And a little further down the page…
Thus the fact that evangelical Christianity is rising and mainline Christianity is falling means that religion is less effective now as a foundation for civic engagement and “bridging” social capital.
This is just confirmation of what I’ve been feeling, thinking, and even writing about here a bit. I think we (still have to consider myself evangelical) like to focus on serving inside the church because it is easier to measure our level of success. We can’t track what people are doing in terms of serving in the community as easily, so we are less inclined to push for it. But we simply can’t settle for that just because it’s easier and cleaner. As I posted in the last entry, the church, in order to be relevant to our culture in the years to come (and now), has to find ways to get out and make the community a better place to be for those who aren’t in our churches.