Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Real Community

Some musings on "community"...

It is popular now-a-days to talk about how much we need and want "community." Churches are supposed to be a real community. But I still don't think we mean it. If we do mean it, we don't know how to practice it very well. Our actions say differently.

What makes a real community? Here are a few observations.

We do not have a real community by virtue of the fact that we really like being together.

We do not have a real community by virtue of the fact that we support each other through tough times.

This is good, of course, and it will be found to some degree in real communities, but it still isn't enough.

A good sign of a real community is that we stick together even when we don't like our community or other people in our community because we are bound together by something much more important and much more powerful than what we want or choose. It is not that we don't work toward liking each other, but simply leaving is not a viable option if there is a real community. In a real community, everyone senses that simply leaving is a nuclear option, and there will be real fallout.

The church is to be a community characterized by love - the love of the Father for the Son. This love is poured out on the people given by the Father to the Son by the Spirit. This love calls forth from his people a love for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which love creates a common bond and purpose for the glory of God and the cause of Christ. This is our vision for our church.

Note that this is a conservative vision, very much in contrast to the prevailing liberal consensus in our society. As David T. Koyzis recently wrote,

Historic liberalism is predicated on the assumption that all communities can be reduced to mere voluntary associations of sovereign individuals uniting with each other for specific self-chosen purposes amendable at their own discretion. This is behind the contractarian vision of the state, and it also obviously has relevance for the institutional (or not so institutional) church. Is it mere coincidence that North America, whose culture has been deeply influenced by Locke, is disproportionately populated by churches with voluntaristic polities and a commitment to what has been called “decisional regeneration”?

 We need to drop a good deal of what we have been discipled to believe and begin seeking for a Spiritual community. A real community will be a scandal in our day, but it will also be a light to the world.


Don Johnson said...

I'm not sure that community is a biblical metaphor for the church. Where would you see this? Body, building, flock, household all come to mind, but where is community?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jason Parker said...

Thanks for your question. In reply, I would simply say that I'm not talking about biblical metaphors for the church. I'm just using words according to their commonly accepted definitions. A community is "a unified body of individuals." So, if it helps, just substitute "body" for community.

Don Johnson said...

Fair enough. One of the things that prompted my reaction was your statement: "A good sign of a real community is that we stick together even when we don't like our community"... I can see that in the real community where I live, actually. There are a lot of people here that I don't particularly like, but I'm not moving because of them. In a natural disaster, I'd do what I could to help any of them, even the ones I don't like.

But somehow I don't see the same sort of 'community' at church. I mean, I'd do all those things for people at church, but I like all of them.

I could be just picking nits here! I think the term 'community' has a lot of baggage from the secular world that really doesn't reflect what the Bible means by 'church', so I would prefer to use a different term.

Hope that makes a little sense!

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3