Friday, March 6, 2009

Important thoughts about Community

As you can see, I've been blogging a lot about community in the past few blogs.

I am doing it because I am in a period of shift in my thoughts and ministry. It's going to be hard to articulate the deep shift that is taking place within me because I've always said that "community" is important, believed it and made room for it.

But, this is the deal. I was trained, modeled, and taught that community happened within the church. This is true; but the underlying assumption is that the church would organize it, and that it would happen quickly, such as in an 8 week Bible Study held inside the church building.

I knew this wasn't true, but as a leader in spiritual formation working within the structures of an organized church, these were the parameters that I worked within. We were able to have a Bible study in a home occasionally but the underlying assumption would always be that we would return to the church because that is where it really happened.

The term "sold a bill of goods" keeps running through my mind.

As I have been outside the structure of the oranized church for one year I think that I am just now beginning to get a clearer picture of what's really true.

I was in South Carolina almost a month ago and observed what Mike Breen and the 3dministries team did. I heard their stories as most of them came from England 4 years ago, moved to Arizona, and then only weeks before, picked up and moved to South Carolina. Whole families. Going to extremely different cultures because of their "commitment to their community." Their love for one another. It showed. It glowed on their faces. It was apparent in their gathering for prayers together every morning. They were a true team with a commitment to their work, of course, but even greater, to one another

At the same time, I was reading a good book called "Reimagining the Church." I have so many books cross my path these days that I have almost stopped reading them because I am actually living what most of them are writing about, but this one caught my attention because it was the theological reflections from Frank Viola, who took the leap from the organized church to the house church.

This is what he writes "Being in homes made the early Christians feel that the Church' interests were their interests, and this is one of the very reasons that the Way grew so rapidly in the beginning; people felt that it was very relevant and that it helped bring greater value to their lives."

This has hit me at such a deep level because I am not sure most churches actually have families interests at heart. I know when I came to the last church where I was called, they had something on almost every evening of the week for a different age group, so it was like families could be together one or two nights a week if they had kids in different areas.

I think about how a family can walk in the doors of a church and then go four or five different directions; that is if they even drive there together!

I keep thinking about an article I read just as Missio Lux was begining to gather called "Detoxing from Church," I even blogged about it. But, one statement still sticks in my mind. The author states that "if you are coming out of the organized church, don't do anything for a year, just get together." I remember thinking, what a waste of time that would be. We need to get moving.

But, if I was to do it over again today, I would do just that. I would have held dinners and get togethers just so people can learn how to be together without an agenda.

Deep in my heart, I am not sure that we know how to do that anymore. We have becomed so programmed that we can become anxious if we don't have a "reason for gathering" or an agenda to follow.

I am still processing this. I will keep processing this. I will keep pursuing what it truly means to be a community with Jesus and the people he created, because it is at the heart of what Jesus shared as his heart. I know we will find it because he promises as we seek him, we will find him.

Where are you? What are your thoughts? If you have experiences of life in a true community, I'd love to hear them.


Anonymous said...

Found this via Scot's Jesus creed. I've been in a house church for 32 yrs. That alone is astounding, to be with a group of the same people for that long. In established churches there is so much church hopping. Community has developed with all these things working together : when we joined we signed a paper saying we'd take responsibility for each other's spiritual, emotional and physical well being. Secondly, it is assumed we all will come with something God has given us during the week to share. Sometimes it's nothing, but nothing can be something if it has come from God. Thirdly, community has happened just cuz we've rubbed up against each other for years. That can't be programmed or forced, it just happens over time. And you have to make room for time to happen.

Steve F. said...

Thank you, Tamara, I loved your blog and I very much agree. I was privileged to like in a very close community / non-conventional church setting for 3 years.

As for meeting with or without an agenda, here are a couple blog entries you might like:

Adam Krell said...

Nice post. Thank you. People have to come first over purpose. That's not in vogue these days, but I think it is gospel. A society is where people gather around purpose, but a community is where people gather for mutual affection, in other words, they gather for love. In a society people are replaceable if the purpose can be achieved in another way. But in community, no one is replaceable. I've blogged about it here: