Real community is the answer

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Doug, is an x-church member, professing agnostic, who when I met him, hated anyone, and anything that had to do with organized religion. Beaten and confused, Doug wore his contempt for the church on His sleeve, never passing at the chance to make his feelings of disgust known to anyone willing to listen.

In one of my many conversations with Doug regarding his feelings toward the church he said to me,

“The church was started by Jesus, but no one who goes ever acts like Him.”

Though most of Doug’s wounds were inflicted by another church, the scars left by those bad experiences have colored his understanding of all things related to organized faith. He didn’t need it, didn’t want it, and because of what he had seen within it, found himself throwing it out altogether saying…

“I believe in God, and try to do the best I can to love others, so why do I need a bunch of people telling me how to live, judging me every time I screw up?”

What cultivated such disdain in Doug’s heart for the church? Why does Doug lump Christianity in with his other church experience? Why does Doug look at Jesus and say,

“Ok, I can get on board with Him,”

but then look at the church and say,

“No thanks, I’ll pass.”

The answer? We, the “Bride of Christ,” simply aren’t different enough to stand out among the impostors, and as a result are in danger of becoming impostors ourselves. In the eyes of the world looking on, we, the true church, have become no more the Bride of Christ than, Princess Buttercup was the Bride of Prince Humperdink, causing the masses, like Adam, to say,

“No thanks, I’ll pass.”

As church leaders we must address the growing tension between who we are, and the worlds response to how we are collectively living. If we don’t, this generation will be responsible for allowing God’s chosen vehicle for the gospel, His Church, to be written off as irrelevant. Individuality will replace community, rendering the church impotent in its calling to live out the mission of Jesus until His return.

In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul is addressing the new followers of Jesus, both Jew and Gentile, in Ephesus, pleading with them to understand the implications of choosing to unify around the person of Christ, and take hold of the calling to be the Church, built on genuine love and intentional community. In verse 11, Paul begins to paint a beautiful picture of how the people of God are meant to live, move and breathe in perfect harmony with each other, for the sake of the building up of the church for the ministry of the gospel. Verse 13 says,

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Together, and only together, can we “Measure up to the complete standard of Christ.” In other words, it takes all of us, to be Him. The church is not one person, it is a group of individuals loving and serving one another in response to the love of Jesus. Real, genuine, life-giving community is something that all human beings crave. The church is where that community was designed to be fleshed out, but our selfish pursuits and individualism threaten to destroy our ability to reflect the heart of God to the world.

I recently listened to a message on community given by a friend of mine in which he said,

“In order to get the ME right when it comes to faith, I have to get the WE right. Our faith is deeply personal, but it was never meant to be private.” -Aaron Loy, Mosaic Lincoln

The answer to bringing back a culture trending away from the church lies in our choice to cultivate community in a context that simply doesn’t value it. It begins with us living it, and leading our people to do the same. 

Doug wasn’t mad at Jesus, he wasn’t really even mad at the church. Doug was wounded by the reality that when he went to the God-ordained source of community he found judgment instead of love, he found individualism instead of unity, and as a result found lifeless ritual instead of transformational community. 

Better programs, emotion-provoking worship sets and more theologically sophisticated sermons won’t bring people back to the Church. Only real, life-giving community, rooted in love, and fueled by the mission of Jesus will re-center the movement of the gospel where Christ intended it to be. The Church