Have you ever left church after worshiping with hundreds of other people and felt completely alone? Perhaps you’ve experienced being involved in lots of church activities (such as Sunday school, serving in youth group, attending a weekly small group, etc.) and yet feeling totally disconnected from the people you are doing all of these activities with?
If so, you’re going to really appreciate the following article from James Clark that explores the difference between the “community” many of us have experienced in our churches and the authentic, fulfilling, and life-changing fellowship God intended His people to enjoy.
Be sure to read the full article, and if you want to explore this topic further check out the recommended book by Dustin Willis – Life In Community: Joining Together To Display The Gospel.
– Kent Eimers
In the 1979 film Being There, Peter Sellers’ character, Chance—a man who is not too bright—rises to power and prominence in Washington, D.C. by repeatedly being in the right place at the right time.
Despite his lack of conscious effort, everything goes brilliantly for him.
I suspect that many Christians (whether they are aware of it or not) think about community in the same way.
We assume that if we go to the right places at the right times—church and its attendant functions—then we will automatically be “in community.”
One could argue that membership in a church does indeed make you part of a community, no further discussion necessary.
But rather than accept this statement as a given, I would like to take a closer look at what the call to community actually means in practice with a few passages from scripture and Dustin Willis’ new book, Life in Community: Joining Together to Display the Gospel.
There are many key verses about community in the New Testament that are probably familiar to you.
- “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
- “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16a).
- “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).
These and other verses show us the ideal Christian community, and we’ve heard them so many times we don’t think twice about them. However, a question remains.
Do our lives actually look like this?
Responses will vary, but one thing is certain: real community cannot arise from just going to church once a week. Willis writes:
Church attendance alone will never be enough. Another class on biblical theology will not solve the problem. Sharing a building for one hour each Sunday cannot forge community… It takes more.
While church functions – worship services, small groups, volunteer and service projects – are good in themselves, a group of Christians whose interactions are limited to such gatherings would be better characterized as an “association” than a “community” because there is not as much scope for deep personal connection, as Willis recognizes…