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.