24 May 2010

Community in the Church

I ran across this quote in Mark Driscoll’s blog today-

“If you’re cause-oriented, you get affinity. All the people who agree with you come together. If you’re Christ-oriented, people who disagree on a whole lot of things, they come together. That’s actual community. What passes for community in our day is pretty much affinity. Everybody like me hangs out and does what I like. Community is people totally unlike me, who don’t have much in common with me, come together with me, because we’re Christ-centered.” (M Driscoll, http://theresurgence.com/weird_teams_are_the_best_teams )

I’ve noted that oftentimes, people who go to church together don’t really like each other, at least socially, if not literally.  They don’t hang out together, don’t run in the same social circles, and generally have very little in common.  Not being ‘like’ other church members is to be expected in a biblical church…after all, we don’t get to choose our fellow believers in the body of Christ (Acts 2:42; 13:48).  God appoints the members of the body, and funny thing, he doesn’t always choose the way we would!

Now, I understand completely how a church of hundreds or thousands of members cannot all do the same stuff together very often.  Even Sunday School classes are sometimes too big to be socially active on a regular basis.  But does anyone besides me see a problem with ‘never’?  In other words, shouldn’t members of the body of Christ do some social things together on occasion?  (I’m not talking about church functions, or even socials put together around a SS class or group…these things are good, and we should do them…but I’m talking about strictly personal, social functions.)  If we don’t, how are we ever going to get involved in each others’ lives?

That's one of the problems with Arminian theology...we tend to convince those who are like us (look like us, act like us, hang out with us, etc.).  We don't seem to be very convincing to those who don't look like us or think like us.  That's one reason why the evangelical church in America is so demographically homogeneous.  If we approached evangelism in a scriptural way, knowing that God was going to do all the 'convincing' (that is, regeneration and saving faith), I think the church would look more like the culture in terms of ethnicity.  I know I'm imposing a bit of statistical constraint on God's work, and I don't mean to do that...what I'm trying to get at is the fact that scripture talks about people of every tongue and every nation being part of the elect, and most every tongue and every nation is represented right here in the good ole USA.

This brings me back again to a fellow churchmember's comment a few weeks ago about us as individuals and families living out our Christian calling…in my mind, we should live it out together, in community.  In the 8th grade bible study group that my wife and I host at our house on Sunday nights, we’ve leaned heavily on the kids to meld together as a peer group to support each other when temptation comes during their upcoming high school years.  I strongly believe in positive peer pressure (because I’ve seen it work so positively in my life).  It is interesting that we tell this to our youth, but don’t seem to model it for them as well as we could.

This isn’t meant as a criticism…I know some folks run the race well, with fellow believers around them at critical times.  Women seem better at this than men.  Men have a hard time making the kind of friendships that women make (who knows?).  Throw in the apparent tension of the call to live outside our church network (get into the lost community, right?), and the balance is difficult to strike.  But it needs to be struck.

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