Life, the Universe, and Everything, from the Outside In

Church or Community?

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These two words seem to have more meanings attached to them than about any others in this crazy language we call, “English.” Not to mention that most people speaking English today are probably African, but not to get too far off the subject too soon.

Our word, church comes from an earlier word, kirk or kirche which means about the same thing as the Greek, ekklesia: The called-out, or called-together, assembly. What’s the point? We have churches that are planted to serve a certain community: It may be for this or that ethnic group in a certain city, or the immigrants, factory workers, engineers, musicians, etc. in an area. In any case, the church is integrating itself as a service-provider in the community.

So what’s community? Webster (1913), says,
1. Common possession or enjoyment; participation; as, a community of goods, but by itself that’s a rare cat these days;

2. A body of people having common rights, privileges, or interests, or living in the same place under the same laws and regulations; as, a community of monks. Hence a number of animals living in a common home or with some apparent association of interests. This is something we might relate to- at least there’s a little more form that just concept;

3.Society at large; a commonwealth or state; a body politic; the public, or people in general.

4. Common character; likeness

It’s interesting that the dictionary lists the meanings in that order. We’ll get back to that.

What we call community today is pretty generic. The media talk about the black, hispanic, or whatever Community as if there were a common bond when in most cases what they have in common is exactly what is tearing them apart: Street crime, family abuse, abortion, and political parasites of a particular flavor to fit the surroundings, but none of this can draw people together, but the count on the damage just keeps climbing. To bring a church into this environment as a service provider is to make the people its clients. People in this kind of situation are already clientised quite enough.

In a more affluent community, where many churches today have gravitated, the people tend toward being more the patron than the client. While the honest people of the one may be accustomed to timidly hoping for a raise in pay, but too insecure in their positions to even ask, those in the second tend to be much more in control of their part of the world, and see no reason their church should be different.

These may be extreme, but not all that uncommon. Neither way is a church ever the Church. Never was the Church meant to be an extension of the community, or a service provider, but a whole new, genuine, community. If we look at the “blueprints” found in the Bible we see that Christians are called out from the world around them to be a separate, holy, people of God. It is only when we are separated to God that we will be of any use to the world around us, but by being tied to our surrounding influences we are useless to God and Man. Each of us has a choice, and each church has a choice: Do we want to just be a temporary shelter for the poorer, or a religious watering hole for the richer; or are we willing to be the Body of the living Christ here on Earth?

If our answer is the right one, then what we need to do as a body, is to,

1.Repent of pursuing the old, worldly, “business as usual” model of Church

2. Pray for forgiveness for the sins of clannishness and indifference that follow that model

3. Ask God how He wants to build the Church, His way.

The plan is likely to depend on your own surroundings and resources, but I think a check list might actually be found with Mr. Webster; only in the order of 2, 4, 1, and 3:

2: Jesus has called every Christian to be part of His Body, His Bride, and His Temple, each of us as living stones built together as one holy Building, dedicated to God. This means being together more than a few minutes in passing after Sunday service, and it means a whole new look at what it means to be Jesus’ family.

4: As we allow God to draw us together, He is drawing us to Himself, with the outcome that we will all be taking on more of His likeness from within, and so His image, and His love, growing within us will make us both more loveable to our fellow Christians, and more loving toward others.

1: As He teaches us to love one another more, we will find ourselves loving the things of this world less, to the point that what was once dear to us is now simply something that God may be pleased to use for the sake of others.

3: The “community” at large will see the difference that the Holy Ghost is making in our lives and in His Church, and many will be drawn in to be saved and transformed as well.

Church, and Community: can we have one without the other?


Written by Robert Easter

Thursday, 16 August, 2007 at 15:28

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