When I was working on my Master’s degree, I took a theology course. Our main text was written by Stanley Grenz who sees all of theology through the “lens” of community. One of my fellow students, Kim, was so sick of hearing about community by the end of that course that she could barely stomach it. Needless to say she wasn’t a big fan of Grenz. I rather liked his take on theology and although it is not the primary factor that shapes my theology, it is probably in my top five. Kim and I are still good friends even though we don’t agree about Grenz, but that’s probably because I believe in community so much.
I’ve been thinking about community a lot lately. I think it was a key ingredient in the early church. I think for the most part it’s a missing ingredient in the 21st Century church…but I don’t think it should be. The problem is that it takes time and effort to build community and I have a sneakin’ suspicion it also takes some work by the Holy Spirit. There’s a difference between a community and a village. A few years ago former First Lady, Hillary Clinton wrote a book entitled, “It Takes A Village.” It was a nice thought but the truth is it takes more than a village. You see, a village is a group of people who live in the same geographic location but they can still be disjointed, disconnected and dysfunctional and still be a village. A community is a group of people linked together not so much by geography as by heart, soul, vision and purpose. What I think it “takes” is a community.
Here’s the problem: I think the church lives a lot more like a village than a community. We are bound by geography (same church building) but many times are still disjointed, disconnected and dysfunctional. We ought to live in community, united by heart, soul, vision and purpose. That doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, discovery, assessment and intentionality to become a community. Sometimes people come to the realization during that process that although they are linked by geography they are not part of the heart and soul of the community. They may choose to move on to a place where they can be part of the community. We grieve over the loss but I think we probably should celebrate. I don’t intend for that to sound mean but I know some will take it that way. Shouldn’t we all want each other to be where we can be a part of community? That’s a good thing, right?
I get so excited when I see community begin to happen. As I write this blog, we have three people in our church building right now who are cleaning restrooms, vacuuming and mopping floors. They volunteered to do that this week because it was needed for the greater good of our faith community. A few minutes ago I got a call from a woman who lives in our neighborhood. She needed a ride to a woman’s shelter tonight for a meeting for abused women. I texted someone in our community and they agreed to give her a ride…no questions asked. Last week Jane and I visited a couple in our church family where the husband is recovering from major surgery. Some limbs needed to be trimmed because they were damaging their roof. I passed the information along to a man in our faith community who said he’d take care of it…no cost. Over and over, every week, I see community beginning to happen more and more in our church family. Although some will never understand this statement I have to say it anyway: We are never more spiritual than when we are living out a loving community as a testimony of what Christ has done in us.
How about you? Are you living in a village or a community?