2008-02-11

Community

The church today is obsessed with small groups.
Here are statements that I have heard in some fashion:
- "for the church to grow larger it must grow smaller"
- "at this church we do community in small groups"
- "if you are not in a small group you are missing out on community"
- "true community occurs in homes"
I could go on and on I think, but you get the point. These are things I have said, and have preached, and have believed.

But what I'm curious about is this: Why can community not be experienced in the mass?
- Have we declared ourselves so bad at loving one another that we have to regulate our intimacy in order to possibly experience community?
- Are we limiting God by declaring the mass community a nonviable means of intimacy?
- Can I experience true community in a large gather on a daily basis.

I think for that last question there might be those who say, "No". That in our world today logistically it's impossible. Again I think that's limiting God, the God of Scripture. My scriptures tell me that "nothing is impossible with God."

I want to be careful here. I don't want people to hear me saying that I think smaller community groups are bad, or wrong, or unbiblical. I'm in a small group. I meet with a limited gathering every Thursday evening. I just don't want to say that through my Thursday evenings, because I eat dinner with others, pray and gloss over some Bible questions, that I've experienced community.

I believe that community occurs, despite the numbering of people, when we are aware of the movement of God in our lives and the connectivity of Christ as displayed through our authenticity and interdependency.

I've stood in the old Mile High Stadium with approximate 50,000 other men and felt the same communal relationship as I have with a group of 5 men in a dorm room. Community is not limited in size.

The moment we begin to put the understanding of community into a box, we've in essence limiting the church, thereby creating a framework in which to place God. I was singing yesterday that my God is limitless. And I believe the church needs to have visions of limitless possibilities.

Certainly I don't declare myself an expert. These thoughts are somewhat ramblings that I prefer hope create dialogue. I'm honestly just asking questions and considering possibilities. So please tell me:
- What do you think?
- Am I completely off base?
- Would you alter my definition of community in anyway?

2 comments:

Rootd And Groundd said...

let me pose this statement and question to further the discussion: Of what i have experienced It does not seem to be real community without true intimacy, which i believe comes with a cost. the question i would pose is this: What are the difference in costs, if any, between "the masses" and smaller meetings, that lead to rue community not just space sharing?

TS Harrison said...

Good question.

Are intimacy and authenticy jointly tied? Can you have one without the other?
I would say that you need authenticy to have intimacy, but no necessarily in reverse order.

Instead of focusing on the differences (because I can't think of any off the top of my head) I want to focus on the "cost" similarities. True community, despite size, requires honesty and trust, humility and love.
Honesty and trust I believe are by products of the authentic relationship. When you lay yourself bare and allow yourself to be vulnerable you expose who you are to such degree that another could potentially damage you.
Humility and love recognizes that others are significant, and you care for them more than yourself. Sacrificially. My needs and desires are no longer my chief aim in life, but rather the needs of the fellowship have more weight than my own.
I suppose in reverse thinking the differece I see would be in the quanitity not the quality of authenticity and love.

Which leads me to these questions:
- Can I be as completely honest with 100 as I try to be with 1. Can I be the same authenitic person in front of a 1000 people, as I try to be in front of 10.
- Does my willingness to love my neighbor extend beyond any social constraint (i.e. small group, work team, family, neighborhood, church, city, etc.)