Several times in the last couple weeks, I’ve been involved in a series of similiar conversations. They were people who didn’t know each other very well, and for the most part, they were people unaware that I’d already had this conversation.
These conversations have lead me to thinking about the topic a bit. And they’ve lead me to the realization that it’s worthwhile to post on the topic, as maybe other people are wondering about the same thing. (And even if those people aren’t among the 3 people who actually read this blog, I can always cut and paste or link from this post in an email, or I can send them a link to this post.)
O.K. Enough with the boring back story. The conversations have been about community. More specifically, the questions have boiled down to:
Is community a means to an end or is community an ends by itself?
Is being focused on creating community optional for the church, or is it mandatory?
Does being strategic mean that a church is being manipulative?
First question first:
In some of my earlier discussion, I told people that community is a means and an end. I had some good reasons for saying this. The point I was trying to get at was that even if we took away the positive benefits of community, community would still be worth doing.
Community creates authenticity. It calls members out to hold each other accountabality. Feeling a sense of community leads collections of people to be more effective as they reach out to the world around them. Being in a community is the best place to take care of people. Belonging to a community is the best way to learn biblical truth.
But even if none of those things were true, community would still be worth pursuing. Because of this, it originally seemed to me that we don’t just “do” community as a means, we also seek it out as an end. But as I’ve reflected on this, I decided that this isn’t quite right.
At Fellowship Church, we express our ultimate goal as “To lead people in a growing relationship with Christ.”
If somebody could wave some evil magic wand, and make it so that community did not lead to this growing relationship, then we would have to give up on community. Even if community continued to do all those other things.
Leading people into a growing relationship with Christ is the end. Community isn’t.
The other two questions are so intimately connected to this one. Because if we realize that community is a means to the end of relationship with Christ, the follow-up questions become: “Are there other ways to reach this end?” And this question is really the same thing as “Is being focused on creating community optional for the church, or is it mandatory?” The next natural follow up becomes “Should this community just be allowed to pop up naturally or should we plan for it?” This question, really, is the same thing as “Does being strategic mean that a church is being manipulative?”
So, in the next couple days I’ll be getting to those questions. Stay tuned.