Home > Uncategorized > Examining overused church phrases: “building community”

Examining overused church phrases: “building community”

I have recently been re-influenced by three guys who rank among the greatest thinkers in the 20th & now 21st centuries: Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, and Tim Keller. What all three have reminded me lately (when I read their stuff) is that one of the most important things a Christian must do is to speak the Christian message in a way non-Christians will understand it. I got to thinking about how even in Christian circles we throw around certain phrases so much we no longer really know what they mean. One phrase that gets tossed around every Jesus corner is “building community.” By the way, I am the first to admit I probably say, type, or pray this phrase 30 times a day as a small groups pastor. So if nothing else this post will help me out a bit!

At our church, and thus in our small groups, we say our purpose is to Love God, Love Each Other, Love the World. While I could go into more detail, the basic job of our group leaders is to establish an environment where all three can happen and to be the primary place where Love Each Other happens. So a big big thing our church is asking them to do is “build community.”

Im not about to give you a formula for building community. That process looks different in every setting. What I want to get at is what the essence of Christian community is. We’ve got to stop assuming we know what community is and re-orient our “building” steps based on what community actually is. God created community, and thus your small group, to be:

About God: Did you read that bold print and think “duh, that’s what bible study and prayer time is for?” STOP ASSUMING!! First of all your community better exist outside the walls of your group. But more importantly, when we think that way we compartmentalize God. Community is people, not meetings. So your main purpose is to be about God. Here is how this is challenging to me: is my main purpose as a group leader and group member to create an environment for people to be comfortable & make some friends, or is it to help people worship God with their whole lives? While I normally answer the latter, I often find myself settling for the former. Community is not ultimately about friendships, it is about God. Question for you: what one new step could you take to be about God in your group?

Transparent: Honestly, I almost didn’t write this because of my own shortcomings here. Thank God for the encouragement of scripture that I am not condemned for those shortcomings (Rom 8:1) & can live in freedom. Community is not surface level. Sorry, that’s just for acquaintances. Since the gospel of Jesus reaches in and challenges the deepest most private parts of a person’s life, community must go there too. This is the hardest thing in the world for us I think. And it is where Satan wins most of his battles against the church. Personal example: God tells me in the scriptures I gotta confess my sins to my Christian family (James 5:16). I commit the sin of not honoring my wife in an argument we have about that blankety-blank dog of ours. I have a small group & among the people in it are a couple of guys ive designated to be the guys I confess my sins to (who then will do their job by telling me to go confess to the one I sinned against). I deliberately choose not to tell them about my argument with my wife. Why? Because that shows weakness. Why does that matter to me? Because it is more important to me to appear like a great husband than it is to participate in the church family God has given me for just this purpose. Underlying assumption: I am more confident in me than I am in God. It happens this way everyday with so many people. Pride trumps gospel. Transparency is hard. But the consequences of not practicing it are infinitely worse. I really don’t want to think how many marriages in our church could have been saved if we practiced this a little more.

Missional: I will be brief here. See John 17 for Jesus’ words on this. The unity we experience under the gospel must be visible to the rest of the world. We should put ourselves in settings where we can be “watched.” Basically, God’s community is one that doesn’t exist for itself, it exists to bring the world into a reconciled relationship with its creator. How is your small group missional?

Ok, so the caveat here is many books have been written on this subject, but I didn’t want to write a book today. I challenge you to start thinking both on your “community” and on how clearly you are speaking about Jesus to people who don’t worship him.

  1. June 4, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I think you hit this button well my friend. Community starts with God. It’s a sense of belonging, oneness if you will. We see that reflection even in the Trinity. When going through this community calling that the Scriptures ascribe to us, I think it’s important to know where some of those key passages are found as well.

    Acts 4:32-35
    2 Cor. 6:14-7:1
    Titus 2:11-14
    Hebrews 10:24-25
    1 Peter 2:4-10
    1 John 1:3-7
    Ephesians 2:19-22

    Community is about authenticity (transparency, confession, etc…) about knowing each other, and more importantly about the fame of God. It takes time to build, and must be prayed specifically for. Great post man.

  2. June 4, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    I don’t know why my previous post decided to add it’s own little flare with a “Smiley face.”

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