The last couple weeks, I’ve found myself involved with a number of conversations that were quite similiar. Each of them was really about community, and the role of the church in cultivating community.
(Church here meaning both the global church in general and Fellowship Church in particular.)
I identified three questions that were worth looking at. The one I’m focused on today:
Is community optional?
I think the answer to that question is “No.”
In one of the conversations I’ve had about community, the other person said, essentially, that they felt like a community-oriented church is o.k. for people who are into community. But they suggested that others might prefer a church that wasn’t focused on community. Perhaps they’d be into a “Spirit-filled” church. Maybe they’d prefer a church which was more doctrinally-driven.
First off, I think that The Holy Spirit works through community and lives in the space between them. Secondly, I think that one of the most important doctrines a church can have is an emphasis on community. Therefore, either a community-focused church will be spirit filled and a doctrinally based church must emphasize community.
I am not saying that every church should be like my church in most ways. There are countless negotiable aspects of a church. I would go so far as to suggest that there is more solid scriptural support for the importance of community than there is for having music at all in a worship service. I would go so far as to say that there is more solid scriptural support for the importance of community than there is for the idea that a church ought to have a building, than there is for the idea that a service ought to fit the music-sermon-music/offering format. I bet I’m going to make some people mad on this one, but I’ve even say you have to work harder to find the notion of the trinity in the bible than you do to find the importance of community.
I am not saying that scripture does not support any of the above ideas, particularly the trinity. I am saying that the evidence seems more clear and plain for the importance of community.
I am also not saying that community is all a church needs. But it’s almost all. I haven’t studied this question, but tenatively, I would venture the position that worship of God, recognition that Christ rose from the grave, and community are the only true essentials for a group to be called a church.
I would submit that you can’t have love without community, and that you can’t have community with out love. If I’m right on this, then some of the support I’d offer for the importance of community follow:
* Jesus saying that the most important thing is love of God and love of neighbor.
* Jesus saying that by our love they show know us.
* Paul saying that speaking in every language, prophesying, understanding everything, these are essentially meaningless without love.
I think it’d be easy to find verses that discuss the importance of other things. I think it’d be quite difficult to point to verses that establish other things as more important than love.