What’s the point of community?

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.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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