I’m at that stage in life where it’s all about the next generation. Whether in my ministry @Church of the Open Door, my conference speaking, or writing, I’m preoccupied with building into the next generation. God has used that passion to introduce me to a few young men and women who encourage me because they get “it.” By “it,” I mean authentic Christianity.
One of those young men is Tyler Braun. Tyler is a pastor and a writer from Salem, Oregon. You can read all about him here. I “met” Tyler online through his awesome blog, Man of Depravity. Don’t you love that title? Anyway, I was reading his posts and thinking, “This guy is someone I have to meet.” A few months ago we got together over coffee in Oregon. As he shared his heart for mentoring and community I was thoroughly encouraged.
Here is one of my favorite pieces he’s written on community:
I was talking with a group on the worship team and I asked: “Why did you choose this church or why are you staying at this church?” The question is essentially asking, “What about church is most important to you?” For the non-church person, the question becomes, “why go to church?” or “what about church makes it important to go to?”
The answers were about what I predicted. Some said the consistent meeting of their small group, others said the teaching, and many said the worship/music was key to them. I suspect that the answers would be similar if any of us talked to the people we’re closest with at our own churches.
It’s always interesting to talk to some of my closest friends about their church. Almost every one of them either says they are at their church because of either the teaching or the music. And if I’m honest, both of those are way too high on my list of most important things about a church.
What is most important then? Community.
Yes, community. Even though it is a buzzword these days, I think it is the life blood of any great church.
When we say the music/teaching component in church is the most vital, we’re valuing 2 things far too highly:
- The Church Gathering. The weekend gathering of the church is important to church. For most non-Christians, the gathering is their first opportunity to hear about Jesus. But making it the most important part of church means we’re nothing more than consumers of church.
- Ourselves. By saying we’re at a church for music/teaching, we’re really only at a church for what it does for us, not what we can do for it. It’s a selfish mentality. Think about it…if the greatness of the church’s music or teaching disappeared overnight, would you be out the door to find another church that had it? The answer given is indicative of how most people look at church as something that exists for them.
Community gives value to the church gathering and to ourselves, but it was never meant to be the vital component of church. Why is community the most (or should be) important part of church?
- It gives us an opportunity to serve and be served. Community isn’t a one way relationship. Everyone has gifts and great churches help you find them and serve with them. But church should never be just about what you can do for it, because if everyone is serving it also means you will be served with others.
- Only community can truly encourage, exhort, admonish, mentor, and disciple. I believe the teaching and music parts of church play a role in these aspects of church, but only one piece. I know that in my life, true life change never came after hearing my pastor telling me to stop sinning, it came after an intimate conversation with a mentor or friend about my life. As someone who preaches and leads worship, I simply cannot speak into the life situation of person who comes, but community allows that to take place.
Community isn’t easy. In fact, community is downright messy because it exposes us for who we really are. And let’s be honest, none of us are all that pretty when we dig down deep. This is why I hate that “community” has become the buzzword, the silver bullet, the fix-all for churches. Just about every church has something written on their website about the importance of community. But we all know that most churches don’t allow for a strong community environment to take place. I don’t blame the pastors for this though, I blame us.
Why? Community means being vulnerable with ourselves and stepping into difficult situations. And this is why so many people won’t say community or relationships are the reason they stay at their church. Most of us have a lot of baggage from community we’ve been a part of at other churches. It’s likely the reason we don’t go to those churches anymore. I have my own baggage from community that burned my family many years ago. It still stings, even 8 years later.
There’s a common saying often used when people are talking about dating. It goes like this:
Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.
Better said for us: Better to have loved and lost a community through heartbreaking circumstances, then to have never found the beauty of community at all.
How do we make community more than a buzzword?
Community is created by us taking the first step.
Make it happen.
The question is, why are you at your church?