The Dimming Church - Why Community is a Three-Way Street

I am blessed to serve in a local church where community is an established anchor among each ministry function. However, as the case with most churches, our community isn’t perfect. And though I can accept the fact and move along, it’s hard to leave the issue hanging without vulnerable musing.

The truth is we were made to hunger for unity within community. But the reality check is we tend to only enjoy it in comfortable doses. Could it be we need to sacrifice a measure of personal comfort to fully understand the type of community God created? Besides, how are we supposed to know if we’re at such a breaking point in the first place?

In Acts 2, koinonia is introduced into the post-resurrection picture as joint participation in communion, sovereignly designed to preserve the authenticity of relationship:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” ~ Acts 2:42-43 (ESV)

Note the catch in verse 43: “And all who believed were together

Talk about a simple yet profound point! At the day of Pentecost, we, as believers, were given a Spirit-led template to cultivate and foster exemplary fellowship in a transparent way. Yet, flash forward two millenniums into a time when distractions are at an all-time high, and can we honestly assign words like "exemplary" and "transparent" to the eminence of modern church community? Regardless of stance, it's important to understand how community alone can’t maintain its authenticity if the church is divided among believers who neglect accountability for the sake of personal agenda.

Before I continue, let the record show I’m an advocate of the church being externally active in extending the Gospel outside the sanctuary; however, it’s important for believers to be mindful how the internal structure of koinonia can be hindered. For when community loses its God-centered authenticity, it's only a matter of time before the church turns into a gas station, where truth is fuel, and the social landscape becomes a non-romantic verison of "Christian Mingle". And in today’s individualized society where everything is compartmentalized and young people possess a sixth sense in detecting counterfeit community, “koinonia” can easily disengage from worship, especially when priorities are misaligned and our needs are equalized to God’s want.

Perhaps the crux of the issue lies in how "personal agenda" collides with "church agenda". Granted, I’ve only been alive for a quarter-century and my observations only carry so much weight; however, I’m fairly confident the church has grown significantly among certain demographics: soccer moms, workaholic dads, homebodies, social media addicts, church hoppers, the easily offended and parents who place a premium on their kids’ success and emotional state over everything else.

Don’t get me wrong; I fully believe in expanding the qualities of Christian community into extra-curricular activities and positioning yourself to be daily led by the Spirit. But sometimes, I can’t help but feel Christians are just as bad when it comes to rushing through life, failing to look both ways before proceeding through the intersections of life.

In order to be effective witnesses, we need to be able to discern the difference between pouring out and soaking in, while realizing being like Christ requires a balanced application of both. And since achieving this balance isn’t always easy, it should be no surprise how the lines between temporary experience and ones with eternal value can become blurred.

Contrarily, if we treat community like a lock-in, then we’re essentially stiff-arming the Great Commission for the sake of personal intimacy, which like the overly busy believer, can result in spiritual stagnation if pursuit becomes idol (Note: the heart of this dilemma is brilliantly captured by the latest Willow Creek findings - see prior blog @ http://deepfryedmind.blogspot.com/2013/07/cliii-fat-christianity.html).

For the church to grow, it has to get real. So why not ask ourselves: Is the church becoming the poster entity of hallow community? After all, we know we need it. We love to have it. But ultimately, the quality of koinonia can only be as deep as the point where everyone starts raising their walls (i.e. agenda, busyness, insecurities, misaligned priorities, etc.).

If we were created to stand out, then why is it we’re so content to be hidden, whether inside the church, outside the church or both? What ideas contribute to us thinking the church is a waste of time? Is it wise to think we can manufacture discipleship and evangelism in a way that completely circumvents the house of God? Are we so easily satisfied by shining light one way, when we’re called to radiate it in multiple directions?

The time is now to evaluate our habits and barricades by refreshing our paradigm of Christian community. For we’re all destined to be faithfully engaged in both – to be active in epitomizing Hebrews 13:2 alongside Romans 12:9-10, Philippians 2:4 and Psalm 55:14.
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"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." ~ Hebrews 13:2 (ESV)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” ~ Romans 12:9-10 (ESV)

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~ Philippians 2:4 (ESV)

We used to take sweet counsel together; within God's house we walked in the throng.” ~ Psalm 55:14 (ESV)
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Yes, we may be shining our light out in the world, but we can’t forget to leave the light on in the lighthouse as well.

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