It is quite clear that God created us to live in community (I Cor. 12:27). After all, we were created in His image – and community is in His image. In fact, Community is a Person. God is Community.
Unfortunately for most Americans, this necessity for life is all but missing; leaving us to be like polar bears that live at the equator. We’re still alive, but many of our natural processes are thwarted by the lack of our natural habitat being present. Loneliness and isolation rule the day. Boo!
The best we can do is maintain
Last time we talked, I mentioned that the American lifestyle is the culprit that creates obstacles to community in our society. At the root, the way we live burdens us with too much to manage. We are spread so thin that the best we can do is maintain all of the fragmented compartments of our lives (work, church, small groups, friends, family, children, online relationships, extra-curricular activities, leisure time, etc.). There’s more than enough movement, but not enough meaning.
More church programs equals more compartments
It’s common for well-meaning people to try and develop solutions to the lack of community experience in our culture, especially leaders in church institutions. I mean, it’s their job, right?!? But, they typically fail to bring results because the remedy involves adding another church program to participants’ calendars as they try and preserve all of the commitment compartments of their lives, which likely directly correlates to why they’re dropping like flies out of the ministry.
It’s very hard to admit, and even harder to do; but a workable solution can only be found accompanied by a radical restructuring of our lifestyles. And the Lord knows ministers don’t get paid enough to try and convince people to do that! 🙂
We need to consolidate our compartments
Beyond all the theory and theology about the who, what, where, when, why and how of building community lies a primary requirement of commitment from the members that would dare to venture into a community experience (I say dare because it’s not going to be kum-bay-ya my Lord most of the time). That requirement is the major consolidation of lifestyle compartments into a simplified number that allows room for the characteristics of community (which we’ll dive into soon) to be present in a group of people.
It will involve saying no to good things (ouch!), while re-evaluating and re-prioritizing how and where time is spent. As part of this consolidation, moving the community to the top of the priority list is also required. It will not work if this is not the case. I’ve tried it many times, haven’t you?
For Christians, a decision to follow Christ should carry with it an understanding that whatever lifestyle changes are needed to make biblical church life Kingdom community work will need to happen, or the Christian life just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. To be baptized into Jesus Christ means that you enter into a new Kingdom with a new way of doing things that takes precedence over all prior ways of living, no matter what lifestyle decisions the society around you makes.
Now it’s your turn. Does this ring true for you? Do you feel you have too many compartments in your life to maintain? Have you found church programs aren’t sufficient for experiencing true community? Why do you think it’s so hard for us to say no to good things so that we have time for relationships?