What’s holding back the development of Christian community?
It’s an interesting question to me because it requires us to define the basic idea of what a “Christian community” in the first place. It can be hard to pin down. If I asked 10 people to describe their idea of a Christian community, I’d probably get at least six different answers.
So, let’s talk about it. In the comment section below, tell me your idea of what a Christian community looks like? In the meantime, check out this list of seven obstacles that prevent Christian community (whatever it may be) from happening.
1. I Don’t Know These People
We’re funny creatures, humans. We desire to connect so badly, yet feel so awkward when people get close. Basically, this obstacle is about fear. Fear of revealing who we really are. Fear of saving face. Fear of people not liking us. On and on.
I suppose some people need a “warmup” period. But sometimes, that “warmup” period needed to engage in real community never happens. In fact, in the land of busy schedules and go-go-go, if you’re waiting to get to know someone before you engage them, you may well be waiting forever. Besides, it’s kind of the point of community, you know… to engage with people you don’t know. Just saying.
2. “I’m Doing Fine.”
This one is a lot like the first one, except at least those stuck in the world of “I’m fine” are engaging people. Even if it is on a superficial, surface level. Okay, superficial may be too hard a word for some of you. Let me say “safe” instead. Look, I know that we can’t just walk up to people we just met and throw-up (pardon the visual) in their lap with all of our crap… can we? Or maybe… maybe that’s exactly what we should be able to do. What a novel thought. To be able to be completely vulnerable to people you barely know and not feel the need to protect yourself. Maybe that’s what the woman at the well felt like when she met Jesus. Maybe.
3. Gossip, Gossip
The juice is too sweet to drink alone. We’ve got to share it. We’ve got to get other opinions and get others involved. Frankly, gossip is not an issue if numbers 1 and 2 were not an issue. Think about it. But we aren’t at the magical utopian place where we’ve fully traded our self security for sacrificial community (at least I’m not) so the gossip can certainly take a community down in a heartbeat! Trust is super important to any relationship, and if confidences are being broken, then you might as well line “trust” up on the firing line and let ‘er rip. (I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s up with the images tonight)
4. Debbie Downer
While community can certainly be about sharing the burdens of your life with others, without recognizing the many blessings in one’s life to help counter it, the doom’s day meeting becomes hard to engage in… even for the most eager of Christians. Let’s not forget that we should be “count[ing] it all joy” when we face diverse temptations. We can have our moments of despair, but many small groups lack the fostering of joy in the darkest moments. Look, even Jesus had a hard time at some points, but he quickly remembered his life was not about his comfort. Neither is ours. The quicker we release our lives to the will of God, the more joy we can enjoy together in moments of despair.
This one is for the pastors. The verse here implies leaders of the church should have a good reputation. (I agree with this! I just disagree about what “good” means.) This perception fuels the fire that burns in “staff” who are in groups. Essentially, pastoral staff are hinged into the hell that is the above mentioned #1 and #2 because any real divulging of serious issues for them may cost them their livelihood and credibility. That’s a shame. There are several reasons for this (I’ve written an entire series about Pastors that goes more deeply into this), but those reasons are in the way. Releasing the Pastor to reveal his struggle with sin could propel a larger community forward to being more real and authentic with their struggles… in a truly Christian community. Imagine if you were in group with your Pastor and he said he struggled with pornography. Would you continue following his lead, or would there be a different response? Now consider a pastor who struggles with pornography and never tells anyone about it. Which is worse?
We all know this one. It’s the locker room talk of Christianity. We all know the phrases and words. They’re only used in church settings. They transport us from reality to the fictional “spiritual” environment we like to think of as “church.” Look, I know jargon is a part of any group, nut in the name of authenticity and sincerity, let’s please cut the Christianese to a minimum. After a while, it sounds sales-pitchy and disingenuous. And neither sales pitches nor disingenuity (is that a word) will draw people closer together.
7. I Don’t Know Enough (don’t have anything of value to add)
This could have been discussed in #5 but I’m trying to keep these short. Small group is not a classroom. It’s not a contest to see who can come up with the wittiest, most correct answers. Community is a workout room, where we all spot each other as we strengthen our walk with God. Sure, some of us have unique ways to contribute, but we are all capable of helping someone. God has been at work in each person’s life. We all have a story to tell. You do have something crucial to contribute. You are not an accident or an afterthought. Tell your story. Provide your perspective. Ask your questions. Someone in the group needs you. That’s why God has you there!
How would you define Christian Community? What’s one thing you think is in the way of true Christian community?
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