I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people like the idea of community, but people don’t want community. People like thinking of church as a family reunion, then they remember how much their family sometimes annoys them. People like the idea of eating a meal together, but are too busy to sit down with folks. We like the idea of community, we hate the effort it takes to build and maintain it (I want community but I don’t want to have to get out of my comfort zone).

Creating a sense of community is a tough lesson to get across. I tend to like the military model: provide their identity (this is who you are), provide the mission (this is what we do), provide training (this is how we do it), and then send them out to live their mission (now go do it). Think about how boot camp can bring together people from all walks of life and no matter their station in life, create one body from them. (Granted, it’s not the perfect model, though there are plenty of days when I’d love to be able to yell at folks “did you love your neighbor as yourself? Drop and give me 20!”)

[If I fail to make a point with the rest of this blog, it’s because I’m now giggling myself stupid with a lot of other “drill instructor pastor” scenarios]

In church settings, I think part of the reason we aren’t living out community is because there is still this hesitation for folks as they wait for the professionals, to do stuff. They wait for “the leadership” to create scenarios to foster community (be it small groups, or book studies, or whatever dream scenario they think will cause them to jump into instant community).

On the part of leadership, we see things that need to be done and we jump in and do them (and by leadership, I’m not just talking about “the elders” or whoever the “up front” folks are. I’m talking about the 20% of the folks who do 80% of the work).

Someone suggested that if you want the church to learn what it means to be a community, you have to give them opportunities to participate. Let the trash stack up. Let the building get dirty. Quit buying food when the meal contribution falls short. Quit worrying so much about “the building” and it being perfect, especially since “outside” the church, we say that “it ain’t a party til something gets broke” anyway. Let them participate even if all they say “look, I ain’t cutting grass. Here’s $50 to make it happen.”

When community becomes about your needs being met, you’ve missed the point of community. We like the idea of building relationships but we don’t want to have to talk to people. Better still, we always want people to bend over backwards and reach out to us. That’s a wonderful ideal, but that’s rarely going to happen. Community takes work. You have to participate in it for it to actually come about. You have to get out of your comfort zones and our of the Pharasitical seats of criticizing how everyone keeps getting it wrong.

And for the folks who get hung up about whether or not they are getting enough “head knowledge” on a Sunday morning, they forget that sometimes doing is the lesson. And we’re far from getting that lesson down. So I guess I’m wondering, how can we best learn or teach community?

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