So we talked church this past month. And you shared with me your stories, and I shared mine. And I loved every single email and comment even if we disagree on some things. But I am sharing where I feel God is leading me in regards to church, and while you may totally disagree (I would have last year) I’m sharing my story. I am still deeply in process and in no way have arrived but these thoughts have resonated with me so I hope you’ll read along either way.
Is there a difference between community and church?
Fellowship and church? We all want church to be a community and to have good fellowship. One of the very reasons we so quickly fall out of going is that disconnectedness that comes from lack of those essential things. And I think that is the primary reason we search for something different.
We wanted something open, organic, a chance to meet in living rooms with coffee and crack open His word and dig in together. And so we did. We wanted to do life together.
But there was something essential missing.
Because when we gather with those who are known, who already connect and fit, we lack the diversity that the church should be known for.
We lack the open door policy because although we longed for growth, you can only fit so many people in a living room.
And what happens when someone invites a new convert who happens to be a former sex offender? You make policies to protect. And when that happens the former organic free-flowing organism turns institutional by necessity. It’s very nature meant not to control but to protect everyone, including the former offender.
What happens when someone comes to church with so much marital baggage or emotional turmoil that they need to be ministered to by wiser, stronger Christians? It’s great if there are wiser, stronger Christians but not so great when the entire community is made up of twenty-somethings with no life experience in those areas.
Diversity is crucial to a healthy church. Lateral growth in the diversity of people and horizontal growth in maturity.
Learning from the grandmother who weathered loss and raised 5 children and is still married to her college sweetheart. Discipling the nineteen year old college girl who is living on her own for the first time and is finding her way in purity, and direction, and identity. Helping in Sunday School while cutting out construction paper fish and writing memory verses that you pray will be written on their precious 8-year-old hearts.
We are so segmented by age, race, status, financial means, and background that we often end up in a monocultural church with the widest range being one type of person. The type that looks, believes, and acts just like you.
Now I’m not against home churches at all. In fact, I still love the heart and idea behind it.
I just feel that sometimes when we gather and slap the name church on it, we might be missing something. Because community is vital for growth but community is not necessarily church.
Church should ideally look more like family than an affinity group.
“Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved. Those who think they can love only the people they prefer do not love at all. Love discovers truths about individuals that others cannot see”
― Søren Kierkegaard
There’s your Uncle Lester who always double dips the appetizers at family functions, and Aunt Gladys that still pinches your cheeks like you were five, and Grandma Louise that used to play basketball on her all girls college team way back in the day, and cousin Mary who has the best style and can rock ankle booties and skinny jeans like no one else, and your niece Emma who lost her two front teeth and lisps wide and silly when she talks to her doll.
These are your kin. Your people.
These are the relationships that reflect generations and bonds and vows and have history together. And yes, it’s community and fellowship, but it’s not necessarily the people you’d choose if you were to randomly pick those you’d want to do life with.
You do life with them because they are family. And what is church, if not a family?
Do you feel your church looks more like family than an affinity group or club? In what ways has your church family helped you to grow? Do you have someone you disciple or have you been discipled by someone in your church?