Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Created For Community?


Community exists everywhere in our culture, from the traditional sports and clubs to the new wave of web groups. It has been said that in the "post-modern", culture, community is paramount. If the church is to reach this generation for Christ, then she must become the community par excellence of our time.

Only through community, the argument runs, can the gospel be effectively shared. Only through community can discipleship advance. Is this true? Is this Biblical?

Certainly there is a great deal of truth in the claims of today's post-modern pundits. Christian post-moderns still believe in some absolutes, so we can say that. Facebook is the most talked about thing in the college generation. Belonging to the "cool" e-groups is all the rage. People do tend to be more effectively ministered to by those they trust and are in relationship with. Whether it is in trusting the messenger enough to listen intently to the gospel, or to let someone know our struggles and allow ourselves to be discipled.

Yes

Biblically, we see that the Church is a Community. We are the e!kklhsia, that is "the gathered. The Church is a "body" that functions together (I co. 12:12). It is a place that cares for the poor and orphan (Jms 1:27). So the church should excel in community.

Evangelistically, we know the culture is desperate for community, and they should see this in us, as Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Mt. 5:16).

No

Equal to this opportunity, is the great danger presented. An experienced and effective evangelist warned me, "What you draw people with, is what you draw them to". It is very possible to veil the gospel and create "community-Christians", as happened in the earliest church in Acts (More will be explained on this later).

Theologically, the danger of relational redemption is most concerning. The community theologians tend to emphasis the loss of relationship in the fall, and the fundamental need to be restored to "relationship" with God. But there is little to no mention of sin and atonement. Is a person saved, by joining the community, or by repentance and faith? That is not to say that all "community" efforts drop the gospel, but there is a tendency to minimize it.

Further, communities tend to gather around all sorts of things, imitating the world, instead of creating true biblical community. This leaves us with the fundamental challenge, "what does God teach about biblical community?"

1 comment:

The Armchair Theologian said...

It's irionic that I read this while I'm on the USC Bible study retreat this weekend; this weekend is given to the purpose of being taught and reflecting upon the priority of the local church...which is community.

Of the top of my head, I'd take a stab and say that people crave community because that's one of the things mankind was created for, BUT in sin, mankind hunts for everything EXCEPT a biblical community.

Take MySpace for example. There is unity in MySpace over anything and everything except righteousness and love of Christ. The guy who went on the shooting spree at Dawson College belonged to a web-community call VampireFreaks. That's NOT a place where a person gets their TRUE needs met.

People need acceptance, yes. People need relationship where they can 'fit in', yes. People need to be supported by one another, yes.

People DO NOT seek acceptance in a community of uprightness though. People DO NOT seek relationships that encourage them towards Christlikeness. People DO NOT seek to support one another in disciplining one another against sin and supporting one another in righteous pursuits. There is psuedo-bodies and various organizations everywhere but there is no alternative to the body of Christ.

Everyone wants the blessings of the body without the pain, hence they seek alternate communities. Ironic thing is that those psuedo communities cannot fulfill, for they don't have the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit working to bind and build them.

Just a thought:

The emergent people get the 'felt need' right...they just don't have a clue what the REAL need is that leads to the feeling of need.