Providence Church Blog A gospel-centered church in Austin, Tx

Community: Just a Matter of Personal Choice?

Community. As Christians, we all want it. Unfortunately, we often want it primarily for what we will get out of it, not for what we might have to put into it. Because of this, it is easy to have a consumeristic approach to community. We want to tailor-make our community in much the same way we would custom order an automobile (“I want the pearl white exterior, tan leather interior, and navigation system, but no sunroof.”) This approach makes sense to us, because we get to choose everything else in our lives (from the songs we download to the type of milk in our latte). So why shouldn’t we be able to choose our community in such a way that it maximizes our own growth and best fits our own preferences, schedule, and comfort? Well, for one, biblical community is not just about me, my needs, and my desires. Biblical community is about what God is doing … in the world, in me, and through me. And God doesn’t evaluate the success of community simply based on how it makes me feel and how it helps me grow. God is forming a community that defies worldly wisdom and human choice. God is forming a miraculous community that is made up of people who would never otherwise be friends, who benefit from one another’s gifts, who celebrate diversity and differences, who serve one another and put the needs of others first, who lay down their lives to help others thrive. In short, God is forming a community that looks like Jesus. God is forming the church … this odd, broken, quirky group of people helping each other toward the ever-increasing glory of Christ-likeness. Being a part of that type of community is not always comfortable or convenient or cool. But it is what we are made for. The more we enter into the lives of people in such a community, the more we actually grow and the more we find our souls soaring far above the shallow heights of our own desires.

Along these lines, take a moment to consider these 2 things that challenge me:

First, a quote from Lesslie Newbigin in his book, The Household of God.

God is really working. Therefore there is a real congregation. It is these people here whom He has gathered, and this is the Church of God. In contradiction to this, the idea of the invisible Church, in its popular use, derives its main attraction…from the fact that each of us can determine its membership as he will. It is our ideal Church, containing the people whom we—in our present stage of spiritual development—would regard as fit members. And obviously the Church—so regarded—is a mere appendage to our own spirituality. It is not the Church of the Bible, but a mere idea which may take as many different and incongruous visible embodiments as there are varieties of human spirituality. The congregation of God is something quite different. It is the company of people whom it has pleased God to call into the fellowship of His Son. Its members are chosen by Him, not by us, and we have to accept them whether we like them or not. It is not a segregation but a congregation, and the power by which it is constituted is the divine love which loves even the unlovely and reaches out to save all men. There is, of course, a very important truth in the idea of the invisible Church: that which constitutes the Church is invisible, for it is nothing less than the work of God’s Holy Spirit. But the Church itself is the visible company of those who have been called by Him into the fellowship of His Son.

Second, Bob Thune’s blog post “On the Beauty of Forced Community” found here