June 4, 2020

First Thoughts on “Community”

By Chaplain Mike

Today, I heard an interesting interview on the NPR program, Fresh Air with Todd S. Purdum, national editor of Vanity Fair, who has written a piece in the latest edition called, “Washington: We Have a Problem”

For this article, Purdum spent a day at the White House with the president and his top aides, learning about the incredible challenges of governing in an age when “the modern-day presidency would be unrecognizable to previous chief executives — “thanks to the enormous bureaucracy, congressional paralysis, systematic corruption and disintegrating media.”

This post is not about that. Save your political points for another time, OK?

Today, I’m writing about something Purdum said in his interview about Congress, and how things have changed historically with regard to relationships between the members. Congress functions differently today, partly because the nature of the human connections between the members has changed.

Here’s part of what Todd Purdum said:

Several things are strikingly different. Fifty years ago or so, Congress met for six to nine months a year, and when it was in session, it met mostly five days a week. Most members brought their families to live in the Washington area, and their kids went to school here and they knew each other and socialized with each other on the weekends. Quite frequently members drove home to their districts together at the end of the session to save money in a carpool. There was also no air conditioning, so people weren’t holed up in their individual offices the way they are now.

That really began to change in the 1970s and then accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s. And when Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House in 1995, he urged members to keep their families back so they would have to go home every weekend if possible. That’s a necessity for campaigning and fundraising. But it has the effect of meaning members don’t really know each other. They haven’t spoken to each other in human ways. So it’s a lot easier to be nasty and say nasty things about someone you don’t know than to say nasty things about someone who you go to church with or see in the supermarket. or whose wife is friends with your wife or husband, and that’s something that’s, culturally, quite different.

A lot of younger members now live in their offices and take showers in the House gym. They don’t rent, even apartments, here. I talked to a friend of mine who works for a senior member from a Sunbelt state. He’s been in Congress for eight years. And my friend said that this member doesn’t really know anybody except the fellow Republicans in his home state delegation, and his neighbors on either side of his office building, but that, in terms of broad acquaintanceship with members of the House, he doesn’t really have any, and he’s been there for eight years.

Community in a Technological Age
The subject of community is huge in conversations about the church today. Perhaps these remarks about Congressional relationships can help us see why it is such a challenge in today’s environment.

What struck me in Purdum’s observations is the relationship between technology and the loss of human contact. It seems the more we choose the efficiencies that new technologies afford us, the more separated we become from one another.

For example, because members of Congress can so easily communicate and travel in efficient and cost effective ways over long distances these days, they don’t have to bring their families to Washington, settle down, or spend time with their fellow members as they were forced to do before. They are able to live in an insulated world of work, pursuing their own agendas and “taking care of business” while in the capitol, and then easily, almost magically be translated into a different world where they can see their families and go out on the stump in their home districts. They can keep these worlds separate and work efficiently and productively across both worlds because of the technology available to them. Collegiality, on the other hand, is not immediately productive, and so it has become optional to the task at hand. Members of Congress need not speak to or relate to their colleagues in “human ways;” it’s all about getting results.

Life in today’s world, more than ever before, is about this—getting things done, controlling our environment so that we can create the results we want. As Os Guinness has written,

What counts in the rationalized world is efficiency, predictability, quantifiability, productivity, the substitution of technology for the human, and-from first to last-control over uncertainty.

The first thing that must be said about true community in the world we live in today—the kind of fellowship that the NT describes—the kind of relational unity and partnership in Christ that fulfills the “one another” instructions of the epistles—is this:  it requires that we take some steps away from and out of the secularized patterns of modern life that technologies have produced.

The Problem: Secularism or Secularization?
Overall, I don’t think Christians have thought seriously enough about this. Our preachers have pronounced fervent warnings against secularism—”a philosophical worldview that leaves God out of the equation. But haven’t we failed to see the impact of secularization—”the process that “flattens” the world and causes us to look more and more at life from a human point of view due to our increasing knowledge and skill?

The latter happens automatically, imperceptibly, and inevitably as we humans develop better and more efficient ways of doing our work and controlling the world through science and technology. We are grateful for the benefits advancements bring; we don’t always recognize the other side of the coin.

The secularization of modern civilization is partly due to our inability to adjust the ethical and spiritual interests of mankind to the rapid advance of the physical sciences. (Reinhold Niebuhr)

The evangelical church has tended to see methods as neutral. We’ll use whatever works to bring folks in and build the organization. After all, we have a mission to reach people and get them involved in the church, so why not use every means at our disposal? But talking like this betrays our preoccupation with technology. The technological mind thinks about means and ends. On the other hand, life is simply life, with all its twists and turns, with all its meanderings and messes, its enigmas and loose ends. Relationships (messy too!) are formed through organic connections between people, and this happens in the context of real life situations.

I know a woman who decided, early in her life as a mother, that the family would never own an automatic dishwasher. She and her daughter would do the dishes together every night after the family ate supper. That would be their time together. They worked together. They served the family together. Together, they turned a bit of chaos into order. They talked sometimes, and sometimes they just cleaned dishes. Year after year after year. She decided against technology that would have made her life easier in order to build a relationship that made her family’s life richer.

Community is not created or manufactured but planted, cultivated, and grown. We choose to give time to simply live with others, interacting with them in the daily activities and experiences of life.

They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. (Acts 2:42, The Message)

It is not just a matter of belonging to the same organization, participating in the same program, playing on the same team, sitting in the same class, or attending the same event. It involves participating in “the life together,” the common life that is not divorced from but intimately engaged in the daily stuff of sitting down to eat a meal, taking a walk, mowing the lawn, cleaning house, picking up after the kids, changing diapers, borrowing and lending tools, visiting in the hospital, helping with school projects, baking cookies, pulling weeds in the garden, washing the dishes. It is unhurried conversations over coffee. It is having fun and laughing together. It’s being there when bad news comes. It is learning to speak words of affirmation and rebuke, confession and forgiveness. It is sitting silently together on the porch. It is friendship in Jesus.

We simply cannot experience community today unless we take some different approaches to life. To have these kinds of relationships, we must disengage from things, even good things, that work against our own human formation and the formation of human bonds with others. If we want community, we must change our very style of living.

Of this, we will speak more…

Comments

  1. Amen. Just because we can, doesn’t always mean we should . . .

  2. Good read, Mike. We have the map but we’ve lost our ability to read it in the way it was intended to be lived. Ironically, the keepers of the Way have lost their way. How can we really authentically invite others into a Life that has become foreign to us? How soul sick and disillusioned will we have to become before we forsake our “mudpies for a day at the beach”? I wonder if we have of all men become most miserable?
    Sorry if so dark but l long to be a real person living in a real community that is receiving the grace to live out “they committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers”, however, clumsily our attempts. That’s not brain surgery but it takes more than a brain.

  3. I do think that technology is amoral. It can be used for great good or great destruction. Regarding community, it can be used as an enhancer of true community or another layer of facade behind which our great alienation one from another is allowed to progress.

    Here is one true example, in my humble opinion, where technology is destructive to Christian community, the virtual pastor ( http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08188/895082-96.stm ). Here is my fictionalized perspective of the same idea ( http://evangelicalinthewilderness.blogspot.com/2009/05/twitter-tralfamadoria-and-church-2060.html )

    On the positive side, technology, such as the Internet allows me to rekindle old Christian friendships across the country and the world as well as meet many new believers (such as here) who are greatly encouraging because we are on the same page. I can clearly say, sadly in some regards, that my greatest Christian community right now takes place with these cyber friends. While in the past, I have attended churches where we had a great sense of community, our present one does not and that is why the cyber community is so important. I’m sure there are many others in my same position.

    But community in the cyber world must be honest to be real community. You can pretend to be anything in cyber space . . . just like you can in a real world, brick and mortar, Sunday morning service.

  4. I did some church hopping this past Sunday. First, I attended a morning service at a medium-sized SBC church to witness the baptism of a young lady I have had the privilige to see grow up over the past few years. And I enjoyed the service, and was blessed by it. They had a really excellent choir for a rural church that size. I did have a few doctrinal issues with the sermon, but I expected that, and mostly it was solid, gospel fare. They did the baptism at the end, and I was particularly moved to witness this young woman profess her faith in Christ — especially considering the turmoil her family is going through right now. The people were very friendly, and I shook a lot of hands before I made it out the door.
    From there, I zipped across town to a home church gathering with whom my own home church has close ties. We call them the “Old Folks Church” because, honestly, that seems to be their primary demographic. A lot of the same things happened at both church gatherings. Spiritual songs were sung, prayers were prayed, and scripture was read and discussed. But the real difference that struck me was that at the more informal home church gathering, I actually got to know some people I didn’t know before — and I mean really know them — and I learned quite a bit more about some people I already knew. I learned about their desires and failures and frustrations and hopes and the things they feel God is trying to teach them or change in their lives. And I was able to share my own truck-load of stuff with them without fear or embarrassment. At the more formal service, a dozen or more people told me how glad they were to see me and invited me to come back, but I didn’t really get to know anyone. And, mainly, that was because there really wasn’t any time or space allotted for that. It just wasn’t on the program.
    Don’t worry, this is not a rant about the superiority of home church or any other form of church. But, just like Mike points out that secularization is isolating people and destroying relational bonds in our society, I think too much formality, programming, and tight-fisted orchestration is hindering the formation of vital relational bonds within the church. Sure, most churches do provide fellowship opportunities in addition to formal services, but, strangely, there seems to be this strict seperation or dichotomy between worship and fellowship. In my own experience, however, I have found that the two can blend in wonderful and amazing ways. The informality of fellowship can lend a measure of honesty, freedom, and a greater sense of interconnectedness to worship. And an attitude of worship and prayer can lend an air of holiness and Godly reverence to something as seemingly unchurchlike as a backyard barbecue.
    After attending both church gatherings, it occurred to me how wonderful it would be if we could have the best of both worlds — the numbers, resources, programs, and time-honored traditions of one, as well as the relational intimacy and connectedness of the other. Could we realistically make space and time for both — or better yet, find ways to do both at the same time? Is that even possible? And if not, why? Or if so, how? I really can’t answer those questions, though I’m certainly open to suggestions.

  5. Mike, I think you are right about having to change the way we live. The way in which so many of us choose to attend a church that we prefer rather than sticking with the local one means that we are not only at a distance from the community that we live in but we are also at a distance from the community we worship with. Often we choose to send our children to schools out of our immediate vicinity and our friends live in the next town. It means we don’t do normal life with everyone – so we can choose when, and who, we let into our daily living. What you describe as ‘the life together’ doesn’t come naturally to us anymore so it doesn’t even happen in church yet we are made to be in community in the way you describe. What you are asking for is a huge shift in our attitudes – not to be consumers any more but servants of each other, to lay down what we might prefer in favour of what helps our neighbour etc and to be vulnerable in ways we aren’t used to and will find uncomfortable.

    • Andrew Zook says

      Oh but that would be so un-american…so Amish… legalistic and not ‘relevant’ Sarcasm aside; excellent points Mike (and Mr Purdom)
      I live in amish country and I grew up evangelical and I grew up with the notion that the amish were hopelessly legalistic and irrelevant to true christianity. (the amish and other plain groups are favorite fodder for jokes, prejudice and disparagment for most ‘liberated’ evangelicals here)
      I’ve changed my views in recent years and now believe that groups like the amish are called by God to live a visibly counter-cultrural lifestyle as a testimony against the creeping ‘secularization’ of american society and it’s ‘christianity’ Am I saying we should all become Amish and that they are perfect? No…but people in this country, me included, who claim to follow Christ, are cheating ourselves and God – if the only things we do to combat secularism are voting against it, opposing abortion and going to ‘relevant’ churches. There is so much more and I think that was the vision of Michael and this blog….and it looks like Mr Durham is discovering something that some ‘out-of-touch’ Christians have been practicing for centuries.

      • Andrew Zook says

        I also wanted to say that people like the amish do ‘community’ really well…and that’s where they could teach us some things. I think some of the emergent, new monastics have shown that you can do it with having to dress like amish or speak a german dialect.

      • Andrew Zook says:

        I’ve changed my views in recent years and now believe that groups like the amish are called by God to live a visibly counter-cultrural lifestyle as a testimony against the creeping ‘secularization’ of american society

        How can we say the Amish are “called to live . . . against . . . American society” when their order was formed more than 300 years ago — long before there was an America.The Amish order exists because the followers of Jakob Amman couldn’t get along with the followers of Menno Simons.

        The Amish teach the lesson that it is easier to get along with people who are exactly like yourself. That isn’t the lesson we need to learn.

        (from one AZ to another!)

      • The Amish and old Mennonites don’t eschew technology outright. However, by the late 1800’s early 20th century the recognized that developments in farming technology were at the cusp of making it possible for one man to farm in such a way that he could do so individually and indepentant of his neighbors. In an agrarian society that is a killer of “community” and since the 1970’s we’ve witnessed the fruition of that trend and since the “farm crisis” of the 80’s rural communities have become a thing of the past.

        The A & M’s made a defined choice to freeze their technological tools at ~1900 levels so as to maintain dependance upon one-another.

        Tom

  6. I have realized that I can put up with most all my differences with the evangelical world… the pastor as CEO, the show on Sunday mornings, the theological differences, the young earthers, the Fox news addicts….but I realized my core problem was lack of community. At my core, I am just a depraved, lonely person seeking community.

  7. I’m doubtful that we know what kind of community will work in 2010 and what it will take to create or restore it.

    Community can succeed in either of two ways. It can succeed if all members are very similar in values and circumstances. This is the basis of Amish community success, but also exists in suburban-affluent evangelical church congregations. So this kind of community can ensure amity within the group, but not much else.

    The other path to community is great tolerance of others and repression of self. Personal freedom has to go if you’re going to live in harmony with diverse others. And, yes, that means not singing the national anthem on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

    • I’m not sure I agree that “repression of self” or stifling of expression is a builder of community. That sounds more like political correctness which, even if well intentioned, builds facades. This may temporarily reduce conflict, but it ultimately fosters distrust and chokes true community.

  8. Phenomenal article, Mike. Right on point. Best blog post I’ve read in months, no kidding. Thanks!

  9. +1

  10. I grew up in a small town with a strong sense of community. The problem was that they did not like outsiders. If you were not born there or related to someone, it would be years before you were accepted, if ever.

    It’s the flip side of tight communities. A church I attend has a very strong sense of community. People were born into it, as were their parents. But for a visitor, it’s like attending a party where everyone is great friends but you don’t know anyone. They immediately don’t fit in, because they don’t have the lifelong social connections that everyone else does.

    I’ve moved around a lot, and it seems like the most welcoming places were those where everyone was from somewhere else.

    • It does take a person with strong initiative to break into some groups. Biblical community, however, includes hospitality.

      • sarahmorgan says

        unfortunately, there are some places (the isolated town I live in is one such place) where “Biblical hospitality” automatically requires a substantial conformity with the current local and “Christian” culture….if you aren’t like them (same dress, same non-Scriptural standards, same jargon, same educational level, same taste in music/movies/media, same hobbies/activities, same way of thinking, same regard towards unbelievers, supporting the same causes, etc), they won’t be hospitable to you…instead they’ll be afraid of you, perceiving you (at best) as too worldly or (at worst) as a false Christian and a threat (to their faith, to their order, to their comfort, to their level of control, etc)…not a good environment for non-local Christians to have some real talk with fellow Christians about God & worship & life.

      • The church considers themselves very hospitable and welcoming. Don’t get me wrong – they’re not overtly unfriendly. They’re just in their clusters, talking and visiting with friends, doing the community thing.

        One thing that might or might not have been mentioned in the context of community is the strong drive for humans to be with people who look and act like they do. Both of the communities I mentioned are very homogeneous.

        That’s the real problem when it comes to the church I mentioned. Someone who is not white, upper middle class, older, dressed well, and conservative in their politics is not going to fit in. When I suggested once that we invite the mostly African-American kids from a nearby apartment complex to our fall festival, the pastors and staff were very gung-ho but some of the congregation suggested we’d need to hire security guards. It was easier to drop the idea than to fight that viewpoint.

        And vice-versa. Another church I attend is really out there when it comes to welcoming people. A lot of gays attend, and homeless people, and I’ve even seen (real) bikers sometimes in the back. But suburban families will visit once and never come back. When I contacted them to get their honest anonymous feedback on their visit, they would tell me that they just weren’t comfortable with all that diversity.

    • Jacob,

      That has been my observation as well, Southern California and a military town in Southern Illinois.

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    If you were not born there or related to someone, it would be years before you were accepted, if ever.

    It’s the flip side of tight communities.

    “BEWARE THOU OF THE MUTANT.”
    — some post-Holocaust novel quoted by Stephen King in Danse Macabre

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    It involves participating in “the life together,” the common life that is not divorced from but intimately engaged in the daily stuff of sitting down to eat a meal, taking a walk, mowing the lawn, cleaning house, picking up after the kids, changing diapers, borrowing and lending tools, visiting in the hospital, helping with school projects, baking cookies, pulling weeds in the garden, washing the dishes. It is unhurried conversations over coffee. It is having fun and laughing together. It’s being there when bad news comes.

    What I have come to call “Sharing a Life”.

    And what I have longed for but could never have.

  13. I read an interesting artcile recently about this exact subject: that technology actually seperates us from others. I was inspired by reading this, and some other things, to spend less time on the computer and more time with people in my life – church, family, friends etc. It’s harder, to be sure. It requires more from us. But my life is richer for it.

    PS: Here is the article. http://www.cracked.com/article_15231_7-reasons-21st-century-making-you-miserable.html – beware, there is some cussing etc.

  14. Wow, way to hit me over the head this morning, Mike!

    I say that because I am currently suffering something of a “crisis of calling.” I have been attending seminary through an on-line program for the past 12 months. However, my denomination is re-emphasizing the need for “community” during seminary education. It looks like there is a strong possibility that I will already have completed half of the allowable hours on-line. That would mean in another 12 months I would have to start taking classes on-campus, which was not what I had planned. Further, I am not sure that my financial condition would allow that to happen.

    So, what do you do, but come out stressing the importance of community!

    Actually, I agree with what you write. Just a bit of a bitter pill to swallow today!

    Thanks!

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      If you denomination is hurting for clergy, and you’ve done so many hours already, they may have some sort of scholarship or grant program that you could get in on. That’s often the case.

  15. It surprises me that no one has cited the growing “house church” phenomena… especially given the publication of “Mere Churchianity”. Certainly, the rural church of yesteryear has a place in our cultural memory but what are we being called to now. I seems like Mike went one direction and the comments that followed began touting the strengths of the church of a (near) bygone era.

    The problem with the church is the building- not the technology. We clock in and out, go to soccer practice, our job, and then our golf/knitting group and do so with entirely different people who only know one facet of us. There is little accountability, reality, or depth to most of our relationships because we have boxed ourselves into little compartments and expected our spiritual growth to come from our one hour a week in a faith gathering.

    Lately, I have seen many friends trim facebook friend lists, have personalized Twitters, and “friend only” blogs to share with their true community the real them. I just wonder how community can or should be redefined in a healthy way…

    • Despite the problems inherent in this model, this is my current mode of fellowship. It requires more preparation from the members, since we don’t rely on a pastor to give the sermon/teaching each week, though a couple main people (who tend to function as pastors) tend to do that if the meeting isn’t a free-for-all sharing session (which it sometimes is) or if someone hasn’t already said they have a planned message. Sunday morning meeting at one house and then a Tues night and a Wed night meeting in two other houses. The Tues and Wed meetings are usually preceded by a meal and include the Lord’s Table/communion. Otherwise, the format is basically the same at all three – spontaneous singing/praying and Scripture sharing/reading, perhaps a teaching, prayer needs and accompanying prayer for that need, etc. Basically a regular get-together with the focus on the Lord and worshiping Him. EVERYONE has the freedom to share or speak or whatever.

    • But what if you’re interested in knitting, community theatre and your son plays baseball? It seems to me there’s nothing wrong with sharing the knitting with people interested in knitting, acting in a community theatre and going to watch your son play ball even though these will likely be done with different sets of people not all of whom are Christians.

  16. Jonathanblake says

    Look forward to more of these posts 🙂

  17. I note the irony of having this discussion about technology and community on a website called the Internet Monk.

  18. “The evangelical church has tended to see methods as neutral. We’ll use whatever works to bring folks in and build the organization. After all, we have a mission to reach people and get them involved in the church, so why not use every means at our disposal?”

    After college a few years ago, I joined up as part of a team establishing a new church. They very definitely held this philosophy. The idea was, do whatever it takes to get them to church on Sunday, have them hear the gospel, and then they receive the Word, become baptized, and get plugged into the church to get other people who will go through the same experience.

    I truly believe that the pastor thought this was the best way to foster authentic relationships in the 21st century – reel them in like everyone else, and then once they get to church, create authentic relationships. I never really felt it worked as planned, and I’ve since left because I became very disillusioned, but I have to admit I have a hard time sometimes understanding where that church’s thinking is wrong exactly. There’s just a part of me that refused to accept that that’s how church should be.

    I think this post addressed some of that, but I’m still left with the question – can church programs create community? If not, why?

    • “The idea was, do whatever it takes to get them to church on Sunday…”

      Them means the unchurched – sorry for the confusing pronoun usage.

    • GringoChilango says

      Perhaps the struggle that you had with the church plant is that people who got invited to church were perceived more like widgets than people. I noticed your comment at the end of the second paragraph, “…and get plugged into the church to get other people who will go through the same experience.” Maybe without the leadership even realizing it, people were seen as both a product and then later they became part of the supply chain. I know this sounds harsh. I’ve been an evangelical for over twenty years and even five years ago I still fervently believed everything you wrote about, “do whatever it takes to get them to church on Sunday, have them hear the gospel, and then they receive the Word, …” But you know what? … my heart became polluted in the process. I emphasize this was my experience and I hope it’s not normative. I became competitive and less loving. I was living more out of works and less out of grace.
      I don’t know what the solution is. I suspect that if we have “community” as a goal we’ll strive to quantify it somehow. Or at least until the next buzzword comes along that replaces it. Authentic community is probably akin to a happily married couple having children. They don’t have to strive to reproduce because offspring will be the natural result of their relationship.

      • Thanks for the gracious and thoughtful response – it helps me to hear other people’s perspectives who have experienced the same things I have. I relate to that feeling of heart pollution. And I love that comparison of church to marriage. I’ve heard Tim Keller use that before with regards to our relationship with God, where close attention to the beloved will produce offspring, and without it there will be no offspring. Maybe I felt that principle without knowing how to explain it. How can ministry happen outside of the close attention of relationships? Maybe it is the only way to properly bear fruit, and all our great, impersonal churchy machinery will never be able to crank out even one acceptable fruit?

  19. Here is an example of the “other side” of community: I work at a church and this week alone I have had three programs come across my desk that are for members only.

    Sure, this builds community, but one of my big discomforts with working on a church staff is that the staff exists to provide “member services” as I term them. Outreach gets a lot of lip service but when it comes down to it, the people in the pews who are paying the salaries expect products and services to meet their needs, not the needs of someone outside who may never visit.

    For example, we have very sweet ladies who knit prayer shawls for people who are suffering, but when I put the word out and and told the public they could have a shawl, I thought the end times were near. Those shawls are for the family, the church community.

    I am going to go against the grain here and suggest that your average church is a bit too focused on their tight-knit Christian community and not focused enough on strangers.

  20. Great article! Like a few previous posters I agree that community has its pluses and minuses!

    Here’s an example: I’m the wife of a merchant marine. He’s gone at least 6 months out of the year (anywhere from 5 weeks to 3 months at a time) and my “church community” doesn’t know what to do with me when he’s not home. I’m “in” when we’re the cute newly married couple but I’m “out” when he’s not home and I’m the married single. Its not military so I don’t have the built in support that the military offers and I didn’t realize that being a sailor’s wife would equate to feeling so isolated in a Christian community.

    Like previously stated, community works great if all in it have the same mindset, and all are accepted by all! But that community becomes a clique when the community is closed off to people with differences regardless of what those differences are. My experience is with the latter. Usually people are segregated by age, by race, income, type of job, etc. I think people who have left the church or wish to leave have this same experience. It is only through Jesus-shaped Christianity that flawed humans can put aside their differences and try to accept all!

    • Biblical community is gracious and hospitable. What you describe is as “wordly” as rank individualism.

    • Nina,

      I understand your point. To put it simply, my family situation is ‘complicated’ and may never be resolved. I have found that churches that claim to proclaim grace often promote an idealized view of the nuclear family, with certain stereotypical roles for men and women. If you don’t fit into the 2.4 kids, 4 bedroom house in the burbs, 8-5 type of job, the sermons and programs of the church don’t apply to you.

      With all my differences with the evangelical church, the one that really matters to me is loss of community.

  21. The idea of true community in a disconnected world will attract the 20 through 80-somethings to church. We thirst. Let’s keep them there by being true conduits of the Holy Spirit – and not live up to our reputation as condemning rule givers.

  22. So many have given the “answer” to the question, “How do we do Biblical community?” here in these comments. Among others:

    AZ2: “…great tolerance of others and repression of self. Personal freedom has to go if you’re going to live in harmony with diverse others.”

    CM: be “gracious and hospitable.”

    and Libby: “by being true conduits of the Holy Spirit…”

    The hard part isn’t knowing how to do it (though some still miss that by a mile). The hard part is doing it.

  23. I long for community as well, and have a very hard time finding it.

    I’m sure that part of it is that my very speech declares that I’m not from around here. (I still have a slight Southern accent even though I’ve been away from the South for over 20 years)

    I’ve had to move around a lot, because I like staying employed, and being single makes it easier to pack up and go, and yet harder to break into a new community.

    I agree with some of the previous posters talking about homogeneous groups tend to form tighter communities. I’ve seen that at times, and I suspect that age has something to do with it. They already have enough community for themselves and don’t have the time for the stranger.

    But, where I am, I’ve gotten connected with some groups and while they rarely overlap, it is working.

  24. Great piece. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Christians would stop and reflect for a week, really reflect for a week or a month before latching onto any new piece of technology and think: “What are some of the ways that this might harm real human connection?”

    Maybe, if we did more significant Christian, Bible-saturated reflection on some of these things we would have problems when and if we use them.

    Love the story of the mother and daughter at the sink. More of these kind of choices would make a real difference in all of our lives.

  25. Another thought to ponder:

    When I lived in another city my best friends where all part of the lesbian community in that place. They didn’t really think about community they just were. They looked out for one another, physically (a couch to sleep on, a meal, a loan) and emotionally. Many of them had some kind of Christian background or upbringing, yet the only place they found love and care was in the lesbian community. Some would even tell you that was “why” they were gay. Sure they fought with each other some times (they were nearly all very intense people) but at the end of the day they loved and needed each other and they knew it and live accordingly. That has been a challenge to me ever since.