These are thoughts written some time ago in the context of my blog and brought back here for current reflection. The question is important, and is the beginning of some posts on justice issues. In a sense, community does not exclude biblical justice!
I was once asked to help a congregation develop a small group ministry. This was a very good congregation with a long and admired history. They have recently relocated to a different community. The issue at hand is that they are getting many visitors to the Sunday worship service but these are not being assimilated into the Sunday School or other areas in the life of the church.
Some wanted to drive small group with curriculum. Huge mistake. No doubt we should teach within the boundary of the Apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42), but small group is a method of developing Community, and Community is about relationships.
Which brings me to the point. Why the Church? Why the “called out ones”? Often in discussions some want to push every word to extremes. For example, if I asked “Do you go to “church” or are you the church? Some would take one extreme or another and shape the conversation around whether or not one should attend public worship. That is missing the point.
The point is about identity as a follower of Jesus and how we live that out with others. We are called, transformed, and sent with the gospel message. The new community of which we are a part is a relational community.
Within the biblical parameter, there is mutual accountability. Accountability can only be positive in an environment of loving relationships. In the context of evangelism, no one is won to Christ by someone they do not like. In the context of the church, no one will submit to accountability or discipline unless they believe the church or the other person genuinely loves them.
Love does not gloss over sin or bad behavior. Confrontation is sometimes necessary and almost always painful. The Bible uses a phrase that we sometimes over-use and by doing so we can negate its impact: “But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head – Christ” (Eph. 4:15).
I confess my guilt in using this verse as an excuse for sometimes blurting out words that are truth, but not said in a loving way or with the intent of helping the hearer ‘grow in every way into Him’.
Many churches have what I call an “inside culture”. These are wonderful people who are very out of touch with the desires of the culture around them. In order to be part of that church, one must first learn the “inside culture” and adapt their life to it. That will happen less and less. And it is death to a convention of churches.
Does not love teach us to take proactive steps to develop biblical community in such a way as to break down the walls in order for us to develop healthy relationships and become catalysts for the transformation of soul that only Christ can bring?
Do you see an “inside culture” that is prohibitive in reaching people? How do you deal with it in your context?