The Illusion of Community, Part 2

October 27, 2008 by

Church buildingThis is part two in a series about the illusion of community. Part one was about online community networks. Today, let’s talk about how we’re doing at building community in our weekend gatherings. Yet again, not as good as we should be.

Based on part one, you already know I take issue with the ‘Christian’ bubble. So it’s no surprise to see that so many weekend church gatherings are not conducive to building community. We park, we play, we pray, we partake and we say peace out before heading to lunch. I know small groups have been struggling to answer this community-building challenge facing churches, but in general, it all seems very insulating and isolating from the very people who need community with God and with others.

You’re Invited
I have visited a lot of churches throughout my short life, and in the last 10 years, I can recall only once when a couple I did not know came up to me after a service and invited me and my wife to a meal with them. Even more appalling, I have never once invited someone I didn’t know to a meal after a service. And that’s the problem folks. It’s not that I think church leadership lacks ideas or commitment to getting people to connect outside of a service, it’s that we as the church are not being the church.

I talked about ROOV in part one and how they’re attempting to bridge this divide between online community and offline community. I learned a few weeks ago that they are ideating about some things that will connect people who are in the same room around similar affinities. It’s like having people raise their hand if they play golf and then those people go play golf and connect. Friends, this is really simple stuff, but it’s not happening in our weekly gatherings as much as it should be.

Shift Our Thinking
I believe that until we get our thinking to change from church being something we go to as opposed to something that we are, we will never understand the call to community and communion. Rob Bell has a good message on the Eucharist (‘eu’ meaning ‘well’ and ‘kharis’ meaning ‘favor/grace’, together meaning a ‘good gift’) and what it means to be a “good gift” to others just as Jesus was a good gift to us through his body. We are not meant to just receive the good gift of Jesus. We’re meant to be the good gift of Jesus!

This thinking of going versus being has permeated our culture in more than just church. Gone are the days when work was something we did. We now go to work. Education used to be something that we did by learning at all times. Now we go to school. We’ve removed the responsibility of being the church, doing work, and learning by making it something other than a part of us. Perhaps this is why it’s easier to complain about church, work and school because they are places instead of postures.

Our thinking must change. Our actions must change. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “One of the great tragedies of life is that men seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying.” He was also convinced that action by a few wasn’t enough, it would take all of us. “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

4 Responses to “The Illusion of Community, Part 2”

  • Mary Beth
    October 27, 2008

    Brad – appreciate your insight and desire to see things improve. Maybe groups have different purposes? At Suncrest we see our traditional groups as one path toward discipleship – our people are starving for bible knowledge. We do encourage these groups to serve (in community and the church) to be more well-rounded in their discipleship.
    We are also working on groups that are outward focused. Breaking the bubble is so important, and needs the right leaders. Would love to hear from others how they do this!

     | Permalink
  • Jeremy Anderson
    October 27, 2008

    To be honest, I think the problem is bigger than the lack of community effort as groups. The problem, as I see it, is that Christians just don’t care any more. The majority of Christians want no personal responsibility any more than Atheists do. Atheists want to reduce their social responsibility by ignoring the existence of God. Christians do worse by ignoring the Word of God and instead show up, listen, and go home. We have small groups and bible studies because the bubble so many speak of has created generations of morons who no very little about the Word they so vehemently, and in some cases, violently defend. So how do we change this? We TEACH community. We pound the pulpit with messages like “get off your fat ass and go to work for the kingdom.” We back that up with “watch, this is how WE do community” and we demonstrate those values to our members. Then… pastors will start creating community too instead of showing up to “work” 5 days a week, never inviting people over either, never doing anything that’s not church related, and will instead start thinking of church as a body too… instead of a job. Maybe we should stop paying pastors… then they wouldn’t have to worry about it any more. They could be like me… work 50 hours… come home… prepare for this weekend’s sermon… get ready for tonight’s fellowship night… and it’s not work for me… it’s love, demonstrated by my Father and Master. You can’t make people care. But you can prove that you do.

     | Permalink
  • Britton wesson
    October 29, 2008

    I totally agree with this issue. As a worship pastor, our staff is trying to answer this question: why do visitors come and never come back? why do people leave? I propose that it is we GO to church. People are not taught to “Be” but “Do”. This has totally removed any responsibility from the people.

     | Permalink
  • Antwon Davis
    November 9, 2008

    Here’s a conversation that needs to take place in a lot of Christian homes, churches, and communities. This idea that we have become people who “go” to church instead of people who “be” the church. I see it everywhere and it’s so obvious to the world that we are no different than them when it comes to this topic.
    We shout “love” and “community” with our mouths, but scream “individuality” and “apathy” with our lives.
    I am convinced that authentic Biblical community cannot thrive in a “go to church” culture.

     | Permalink

First Impressions & Beyond