Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Church and community

I've got a lot of thoughts on church and community but I'm having a hard time putting them into words--my own words. I'll just say it's a journey of love and forgiveness that I'm on, and while it has been painful, it has also been enlightening. (How's that for cryptic? *smile*) So here are a hodge-podge of thoughts pertaining to what's going on in my mind....maybe one day soon I'll be able to put them all into words.....

Ideal Community
The beauty of community
We are God's hands and feet
What hinders community?

and this, shared via Kari Jo:

‘community means caring:
caring for people.
dietrich bonhoeffer says,
‘he who loves community destroys community;
he who loves the brethren builds community.’
a community is not an abstract ideal.
we are not striving for perfect community.
community is not an ideal;
it is people.
it is you and i.
in community we are called to love people
just as they are with their wounds and their gifts,
not as we would want them to be.
community means giving them space,
helping them to grow.
it means also receiving from them so that we too can grow.’
-jean vanier

heady stuff, i tell you.


Sandi said...

Thanks for sharing this. I have been thinking along similar lines. More about story and how each person has one. No two are alike yet, God is the designer of each one. I'm struggling to put it into words. Relationships are hard and rewarding and we build for eternity one person at a time. Judgement kills that growth together.

I look forward to reading all the links later today.

MrsAlbrecht said...

I learned so much about the idea of church community, hospitality, and the role it plays in our Christian walk from the book "Face to Face" by Steve Wilkins. Highly recommend reading it to help solidify thoughts as well as offer encouragement (especially since it's tough sometimes to be a mom of young ones and participate in the community as much as you'd like!).


Much love,
SJA :)

Aimee said...

as usual, your links are amazing. I am loving each one of them sooooo much. thanks so much!!! and i am so glad to be in community with YOU!

Christine said...

I went through my own painful journey with my church community a couple of years ago. Betrayal, lies, gossip...it wasn't pretty. But turning our back on the opportunity for healing and growth in the midst of sinful human beings just like us, I found, is not the way to go. I'll be praying for you!

Andrea said...

Christine, i am so sorry--how terrible!! fortunately i have not experienced that type of pain in my journey, in fact, i am not sure even how to put my journey into words yet!! or even if i should!! but i really enjoyed all the links about community and wanted to share them....
i totally agree, turning our backs to sinners who happen to be Christians is not the answer. i prefer to get messy--though is is well.......messy. i hope your situation came out good in the end! =)

TAMI said...

Bonhoeffer's book "Life Together" is shocking, convicting, reorienting and beautiful ... and doesn't that just sound like life itself?!!

I've returned to blogging - though narrowing my focus and limiting the number of blogs I visit. Glad to find you're still sharing your heart!

tonia said...

i totally agree that turning our backs on people who have hurt us is not the way to go. but there is a danger in our western christianity, i think, in that we assume that community is defined by a sunday morning service. in many ways i think that the organized church is actually keeping some of us from the harder work of discipleship. as long as i show up regularly to the service it is assumed that i am growing in my walk with the Lord. double points if my kids are in sunday school and i attend a bible study. and conversely, when i say that i am no longer attending the services, it is assumed by many that i am not growing in Christ, not interested in community and reconciliation, not doing the hard work of the gospel. we've reduced the radical calling to take up our cross and follow Christ to showing up in a building for two hours on sunday morning.

(this isn't a specific rebuttal to you, christine, i was just using your comments to expand a thought. i totally get what you are saying about needing to stick things out with people and the blessings that come from that.)

Andrea said...

tonia, well said!
in my own mind, community is not "church" as in a church building or the community that is a part of your own church body, but rather a community of believers...
tonia, i think you are a perfect example of someone who has and is doing the hard work of the gospel within yourself and your family and yet is choosing not to be in a church fellowship.
I agree sometimes organized church gets in the way of community--
but community is people and relationships--and that is so very complicated.

Andrea said...

tami- that book is on my "Must Read" list...i can't wait to read it!

Andrea said...

ps. i said "organized church" can get in the way of community, but so can "unorganized church" ha.
it's so confusing to me because i like things in tidy boxes sometimes.....
and when they aren't working like i think they should, i am frustrated....
and i am not really talking to any specific person right now, just spewing out thoughts!! =)

Christine said...

Andrea, it did end up well, mostly because I let God heal me first and made reconciliation a priority. There is something so freeing about meeting with someone face to face and saying "I forgive you". There are things I could have handled better as well and I was able to help make amends from my end. The point is, flawed people can help lead each other to Christ-likeness if we give each other the chance!

Christine said...

Tonia, I totally agree with you. And I have loosened my definition of "community" quite a bit after I resigned from church work. I don't always attend on Sundays, but my growth is consistent (at least I hope so!) in the ways I connect with the body of Christ in different venues. I guess I see too many people church-hopping because someone offended them and I don't think that's healthy either. Thanks for expanding my thoughts and making them yours!

laurel said...

Loved these links, Andrea, thanks for sharing them. And lots of good food for thought in the comments too. While I do agree that community is more about the group of believers than the building, I do think the organized church is important too as a vital means to participating in the means of grace, namely, the sacraments of baptism and communion (the others of fellowship, prayer, the word, and worship would still possible outside the church). While I understand the occasional withdrawal from the church body for various reasons, I do wrestle with Christians giving it up altogether. I am curious to hear others thoughts as this is something I have been thinking about lately.

tonia said...


this is one of my big questions too. i have no background in sacramental or liturgical churches (though i am drawn to them) but your comment pretty much sums up my argument against evangelicalism. because we have done away with the sacraments, there is no real reason to attend the services - everything an evangelical church offers can be had in another venue.

at least in non-denominational churches (which are a large and growing part of western christianity) baptism can be done by any believer, any time, any where and communion is nothing more than a memorial, so these too can be done outside of the organized congregation.

i think you are right, though, that from a sacramental point of view there are compelling reasons to stay within a congregation.


Aimee said...

wow...these are great comments! I also think that there is something powerful about worship in a greater community...(and by worship right now I am talking about singing praise, exalting the Lord, etc)that doesn't necessarily happen when we are alone or even with just a few.

Mike and I have been severely burned by organized and unorganized church and now have committed to a local Body warts and all. I understand seasons of pulling away and seasons of moving towards. I healed alone but also much of my healing came from sitting in the Sunday morning service *by faith* and listening to the Body worship. I would just sit with tears streaming down my face and realize how much we all need grace, are all in process, and all have such differing journeys. Being back in the Body formally (as in Sunday morning) has also stretched me and humbled me by rubbing against those I disagree with and learning to love anyway, serve anyway, and realizing that I have much to learn from them in other areas. Everyone is different though and has different seasons where they need to heal alone and then they may heal within something more formal. Listening to Jesus and humility are key and staying connected to other believers.

tonia said...

you have a beautiful story Aimee. i've experienced that same thing in churches...there is something incredible about worshiping together.

the question i ask myself: is the church service - say, an hour and a half on a Sunday morning - the only place to be in community (i.e. stretching me to be with those i disagree with, learning to love anyway, serve anyway, etc.)?

it seems to me that we have those things organically just by living and connecting with others. sure, the Sunday service is one way to facilitate those connections...but is that service the sum of what Jesus meant when He told us to be in community? the flip side is that we all know we can show up for that hour and a half service, mumble hi and goodbye and go home again without ever doing any of the things we are talking about that make us grow.

that's what's rolling around in my head these days. i sure enjoy conversing with you lovely ladies!

hope you have a rich and beautiful easter!

Anonymous said...

This is on the subject of corporate worship, not anyone's specific situation...looking to the Word...we are taught in Hebrews to not neglect coming together...the testimony of the Christian Church and of God's people before that was to gather in corporate worship. In this way, I think the wise and godly believers before us are a testimony for us to follow. Jesus himself read the Holy scriptures publicly in corporate worship, therefore honoring that event. I believe people were sinful then as well. In His life, he met with those wise in the Word that time when his parents left him behind...also the "body of Christ" is manifested, I believe, in the corporate coming together. As relates to the "West", I think we are a very selfish culture at this time and that the gathering of the saints in a church body is a testimony of Jesus' commandment to "love one another". Then there is the whole issue of the indwelling Holy Spirit....I mean I try to respect that all believers have the Spirit so I can learn from them. I am also an idealist, so this is something I need to learn.

We are evangelical and are in a particular denomination..the sacraments are *powerful*, sacred parts of our worship together and are administered by ordained ministers or men that are elected elders. Finally, when I consider the teaching of "not neglecting to come together" I remember that my presence *encourages* others, it is not just for my own encouragement. Personally, my husband and I believe that we should be in a church that holds to believing in the bible as inerrant....our church has all ages...many older members and has been a dear example to me of the "body". Again, just thoughts on the issue.

I have loved the emphasis our ministers tell us...that we are all "broken" and that we are all on the same level at the foot of the cross...I'm learning that *just* being together is a gift...I used to think that we need deep spiritual conversations, but now appreciate the gift, love and encouragement of *just* being together.

I have loved all of your blogs...I am at home with many littles...
Mary Brooke in Atlanta

Tonia said...

Beautiful thoughts, marybrook. I love how you talk about showing up to encourage others.

Love to you all and blessed easter!

Andrea said...

I have loved ALL the comments! such great dialogue. thank you all for contributing. it has helped me so much.

I just wanted to clarify that my conglomerate of links is not solely about "leaving church". I know one of my links deals with that, but the others are about living in community with others and what that looks like. I know it's such a messy issue, as we are all "messy" people!! =) I just wanted to make this post about "community and church" and all that deals with that.

Again, thank you all for your gracious input. It has given me much food for thought on an issue that I feel I haven't been able to grasp or understand yet!