questions for you to answer

B and I were having one of our typical discussions of community, church, and what-does-it-all-mean. In this midst of the talking, these questions arose: What is the purpose of community for the Christian? What does it look like to "have community"? What does it look like to not "have community"? How does one go from having it to not having it, and vice versa? Answers anyone?


Blogger John McCollum said...

No answers, but I'd love to discuss this in a more personal setting sometime.

I think we'd discover that there's a lot to be learned from Paul's description of the church (or community?) as a body. If we don't need others to function, and no one else needs us, can we ever claim to really be a part of the church in any meaningful way?

I know I'm in community when I know that if I don't give, love, show up or weigh in, other people will miss my contributions and miss out on a full sense of their place in the community.

11/28/2005 4:28 PM  
Blogger zena said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/02/2005 10:41 AM  
Blogger e said...

soooo... one and a half comments.
z! what happened? i thought what you had to say was good. i wanted you to expand on it, of course, which is what i was about to ask you to do....

i'm surprised seth, scott, matt, ray haven't weighed in. maureen? andy? come on. you people must have something to contribute here. joshua? people! WTF!

12/03/2005 1:40 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

WTF indeed. :)

Just kidding. Personally, I've come to the conclusion that I think about the issue way too much.

In college I think I obsessed over whether or not I was having 'Christian Community' or not. It was if the very worthiness of my life hinged on answering this question.

Yes, it was one of those disgusting legalism things.

For me, the question is becoming more difficult to answer, and maybe because it's not worth 'answering.' I know I've fallen victim to talking talking talking and not actually doing doing doing.

'Stop trying to hit me and hit me!'

If you will suffer the pop-culture reference...

12/04/2005 5:18 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

Something else...

The proverbial 'we' needs to not think of community in any sort of performance driven paradigm.

Does community need a purpose in the way a typical American defines purpose? I think if you asked a tribal African the purpose of community the answer would be very foreign.

Crap. I guess we have to define terms now... sorry guys.
I guess what I'm ultimately trying to say is the questions I find myself asking are does community need a purpose? How much should would care about how it looks? Should be worry about whether we have it or not, and of course I think we SHOULD have it, but what I'm questions is what we picture as having and not having it?

Ok, I've been all over the map. One more stop, life as described by the Book of Acts (or any other book of the Bible for that matter) the archtype of Christian community?

I'll refrain from rambling now, I suppose I'll leave it up to Erik to decide what trail, if any, we should go down.

Besides, it's YOUR blog, why should we do all the work!? :)

12/04/2005 5:30 PM  
Blogger e said...

seth--first point: My blog? By definition, blogs are communal processes, or sequences, or some such crap. Sure, only one person actually posts... but they're assuming people read it--unless they've got no idea about it being on the internet, etc.

second--i love that answer(s).
you said: "Does community need a purpose in the way a typical American defines purpose? I think if you asked a tribal African the purpose of community the answer would be very foreign."

Yeah--my question was probably not well posed. I don't think I meant performance as in "what does it do". I guess I meant it more in the theological way that John put it. Can we be a part of the church in any meaningful way unless we're intimately connected to people in that church?

So the question I guess I was getting at is "what does it mean to be intimately connected to people in a church?" Can it mean something like "I go to a service on Sunday and small group on Friday"? Or should we really be moving to that mythical ideal--sharing everything in common, living in close proximity to one another, taking care of each other's children (and pets), helping each other out financially, etc....?

I agree we talk about these things a lot. But usually we talk about superficial things like what night a week is the best night. Or what book of the Bible we should study together at our meetings. Or should we have dinner together, just snacks, or none of the above. Or how we should handle worship, prayer, teaching, etc. What we seem to miss is the (if you will) meta-conversation about what the structure of "life in the body" actually impacts--about how far you can go with Christ and yet live like you're trying to achieve the American Dream. These seem like some of the most important conversations we can have as Christians. Certainly worth whatever time we spend addressing--and then doing something about--them.

12/05/2005 12:03 AM  
Blogger John McCollum said...


Quoth Seth:

In college I think I obsessed over whether or not I was having 'Christian Community' or not. It was if the very worthiness of my life hinged on answering this question.

Yes, it was one of those disgusting legalism things.



I can see how one's answers to Erik's specific questions can become 'disgusting legalism.' That's a bad thing.

On the other hand, I don't see how it's possible to consider oneself a member of the Kingdom of God in any meaningful sense if one doesn't function in pervasive, intentional, accountable, and interdependent relationships with other believers.

I grew up with a 'Jesus and me is all I need' sort of attitude, from which I have repented, and from which I am still recovering.

12/05/2005 1:29 PM  
Blogger Andy Whitman said...

All right, Erik. I'm probably still recovering from the last round of this, but here you go.

Community means relating with people in in an intentional fashion. It's more than random encounters at church (or anywhere else, for that matter). It doesn't happen accidentally. You have to work at it. For this to work, you have to create a forum in which people can share the deepest issues of their lives. That doesn't come naturally or quickly. But it's worth pursuing.

At its best, it involves knowing and loving others in all their complexity, and being fully known by them in return. It means vulnerability and accountability. It means encouragement, admonishment, support, laughter, tears. It means fully entering in to the lives of other people.

That's the ideal definition. The reality is that we all find ourselves short of this goal, sometimes woefully short of this goal. I've known community, and known it in the full sense of the term, at times in my life. Other times I've gone years without even catching a whiff, and skimming along the surface of life, relating superficially with virtually everyone I know.

And so community also means being disappointed, living with the fact that people will let you down. Just as I live out the ideals of community imperfectly, other people do too. And real community recognizes the fact that even the best of our endeavors are fumbling and insufficient, fraught with our own selfishness and insecurity and need. Real community extends a lot of grace and forgiveness. And Christian community, which is what I assume we're talking about, reserves room for Jesus, and for living with the God-shaped hole that even the best of human relationships cannot fill.

Community is also, I hope it goes without saying, a great joy. I am experiencing it anew, and it's very, very good. And frustrating. And disappointing. But mostly very, very good.

12/06/2005 9:25 AM  
Blogger e said...

Andy, John, others--
beautiful stuff.

12/07/2005 11:14 AM  

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