I’ve been exploring questions of community and church. Over the last week I’ve tried to adress two important questions connected to community. Today, I’ll adress the third.
That question is “What is the role of strategy in building community in the church?”
I think this question further breaks down into 2 questions, which I’ll adress seperately in this post:
A) Isn’t being strategic really being manipulative?
B) How important is the specific strategy that Fellowship Church has chosen?
First question first:
I’m open to the possibility that being strategic could mean being manipulative. It seems like there must be something about the point at which you’re decieving people is the point at which it becomes manipulative.
The thing I don’t quite get, though, is that somehow, the only people who have to justify themselves in this area are the people who talk and think about what they are going to do. The bottom line is that everybody has a way of doing things.
I hope you’ll forgive the fact that I’m doing the annoying church-y thing of starting each of these with the same letters. But what it comes down to is this:
We can be stupid, we can be stubborn, or we can be strategic. Perhaps I’m slanting each of these by my word choice. Maybe it would be nicer if I said we can be random, we can be traditional, or we can have logical reasons for doing what we’re doing.
Ultimately, though, we choose whether we’re going to be traditional, random, or have logical reasons.
And I would say if your randomness or if your tradition are getting you what you want, you ought to keep going in that direction. My point is that this is still a decision.
People often say “I listen to the Holy Spirit. That’s what guides me. It’s not tradition. It’s not randomness. It’s not strategic thinking.”
I think this is true. I think sometimes the church ought to make decisions that appear foolish. I think that we ought to be open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
Here’s a problem, though, and I hope you’ll forgive me if this sounds accusatory:
As a general rule, most people are very excited to ask others to submit to what they believe the Holy Spirit is prompting them to do. Often times, the very people who believe most in this idea are the least likely to submit when the Holy Spirit is telling some one us to do something.
In short, it seems to me that people who believe that the Holy Spirit frequently guides us in directions that aren’t strategic, often times these people believe the we ought to listen to these people, and not other people, about just what we ought to do.
I’m so thankful that God is a God of order, logic, and rationality. I am so very thankful that many times the Holy Spirit’s promptings are justifiable in terms of logic and rationality.
I would submit that The Holy Spirit’s promptings are cultivatived in a culture which is carefully exploring the rationale and reasons for what it does.
The other subquestion is: How important is Fellowship Church’s specific strategy?
Leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus is the point. Community is the best way to get there. We’re building community in the best way that we know how for the time and place we exist in.
A really great guy who attended our church was not attending a small group. He said to somebody “Look, I’m not going to do something just because everybody else is. My small group is this weekly gathering of men at Finders. My small group is my friendship with Pastor Marty. I don’t need to show up at the time I’m told and the place I’m told.”
He’s not wrong. If he’s careful.
His argument isn’t altogether different from somebody who says “Look, I don’t need to go to church. I can worship God in the forest, I should be worshipping him all the time, right? Why limit myself to just once a week?”
My answer is that church doesn’t set an upper limit on worship– it sets a lower limit. Similarly, small group doesn’t limit people into being in only one community. But it does guarentee that the person is in atleast one community.
A person who thinks the forest is a better place to worship than church, he is likely to start with the best of intentions. But I think it’s pretty easy for him to get off-track, and not worship at all.
And a person who isn’t intentional about community, I think it’s easy for him to drift from belonging to showing up to a group, to not showing up at all.
Our implementation of community is not perfect. It’s somewhat relative to our culture. But it is one valid way to reach the goal of community. And the scary-dangerous things is that there are lots of imposters to community, lots of ways we can delude ourselves…
And while the specific form of community is a bit up-for-grabs, for my money, the goal of community in general is not up-for-grabs. It is an essential.