In 22 years as a Christian – the last 8 in ministry – I’ve experienced all kinds of “community.” From the church I grew up in to the community (small) groups we’ve started in various student ministries, community is a vital component in the life of a Christ-follower.
But the question must be posed, how many churches today struggle to gain a sense of community? Unfortunately, more than we’d like to admit. At least in the sense of attractive community. I’ve seen more than my share of churches that had a great sense of community in regards to how they treat one another – but it wasn’t attractive or inviting to those “outside” the community. Some have – certainly – but less than one would expect.
I had this thought this morning as I walked into my neighborhood Gold’s Gym: Is creating community that difficult? That seems like an absurd question, but as I walked in I was greeted by someone at the front desk who knows my name, my children were checked into the kid’s club while I worked out, and walking towards the treadmill I ran into 4 people who know me and challenge me to workout harder – one of which introduced me to 2 more people as an “example” of someone using interval training on the treadmill.
After shaking hands, answering a couple of questions, and inviting one friend to dinner soon, I walked to the treadmill wondering why so many churches don’t feel like this. Gold’s Gym has a great tagline: “Change your body. Change your life.” The Church is present on earth simply to “change your life.” We share so much more in the context of the Church than sweat and shared equipment – we share our lives.
Why is it that when most people are asked about where they find a sense of community they respond with the gym, Starbucks, the Y, the bar? Because that’s where it is. That’s where community is existing in it’s purest form. Those places are where everyone is accepted and known. Those places are where everyone is welcome – not to be present, but to be involved.
The challenge of the Church isn’t to look more like these places, but to remember the purity of acceptance – to remember the purity of community. Not to become like to world. Not just to gain a conversion and prostletize. The Church should be the primary example of community because we have been accepted by a perfect God, and should be living out of response to that grace.
Then maybe, just maybe, the next time you walk into church, you’d be greeted by someone who knows your name and challenged to grow by people who do more than know you – they care about you.
As the anthem of community rings, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.