It recently struck me that a misional community of faith, espeically an emerging/embryonic one, does not have the chutzpah to draw people into it becuase of events, size, or money. When relationships are the prioirty, events and their measurement (size, money, fame, flash) lose their dominating influence. The down-side to this, however, is that such a relationally-focues community will be overlooked by many (most?) people who tend to be drawn by size, fame, or scale.
Let me be specific. Tonight, my wife, daughter and son went to a “worshp concert” at one of the larger churches in our town. This church recently built a new worship center (out by the Walmart by the freeway) with all the bells & whistles any good, new church venue should have. Hey, it makes sense to me, or I can understand this dynamic, even if my ecclesiology has changed and will not permit me to pursue this type of “church.” (There’s that word again, “church” – rife with all of it’s cultural baggage. Oh well, one battle at a time.)
Back to my story. I found myself grieving a bit because our misisonal community of faith, Common Ground, can’t “compete” with that type of event with that sort of venue. Our context is smack-dab in the middle of the Lutheran bible-belt in out-state Minnesota, and youth groups and Christian high schools are drawn to these events in these places like bees to honey. I can’t blame them. If it was David Crowder, Jeremy Camp, or Chris Tomlin, I’d be there, too.
But a relationslly-focues missional community of faith cannot be driven by events or facilities. People are the priority and how they relate/belong together in community – not observers or low-level participants at a “worship concert.” We need to let our interactions dominate so that we may love one another with the love God has poured out on us. This can happen at a big event at a new venue, but it occurs more likely between conversations in the bathrooms, hallways, and rides to and from the event; it is not the primary occurance at or purpose of the event itself.
A relational community is much harder to comodisize than an event or a venue; it’s easier to count people or money than to ascertain the depth and redemptive caliber of interpersonal relationships. Relationships are also messier than events; if an event goes wrong, oh well, we’ll get it right next time; if a relationship goes wrong, it spins-off all sorts of subplots that can lead to either a redeptive or a destrcutive force. But that’s our calling: people – loving people as God has loved us; living in sacrificial and redeptive ways with each other, accepting one another as God has accepted us through Jesus Christ; living in authentic Christian community as our hermaneutic and witness for the good of the world.
So, enough self-pity tonight. I’ll just dream of our few dozen folks who are learning to meaningfully relate and care for each other, and let the worshp concerts be enjoyed by others. But can I give myself permission to go to one of them sometime?