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


Community Idolatry

Bob Thune and I are working on a follow-up study to The Gospel Centered Life. One of the lessons has this chart, which I am unable to sit on until it is published. So here’s a sneak peek:

Community is about God. Community exists to declare his praises and to exalt his goodness and to display his excellencies. True community – the community we were made for – is God-centered and God-focused and God-exalting.

The reason our attempts at community are often shallow, stale, and unfulfilling is that we have made community about ourselves. Perhaps we could call this “community idolatry.” Instead of worshiping God, we worship idols. We jump into the vehicle of community and use it to chase our own false gods. The chart below outlines some of the ways our idolatry plays out in community.

Heart Idol Underlying Desire

What it often sounds like in a “Christianized” or church setting…

approval

I want a community that always approves of me and never challenges my opinions or preferences “Can’t we all just get along? Why do we have to talk about issues that bring disagreement or conflict?”

control

I want a community that meets on my schedule, fits my priorities, and doesn’t make demands “I’d love to be in community, but I’m really busy, and nothing really works with my schedule…”

reputation

I want a community that thinks highly of me “I DO repent of sin, in my own personal life; I just don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about it in a group setting.”

success

I want a community that’s successful – where we’re making progress and ‘getting stuff done’ (according to my criteria) “This community feels like a waste of time. We’re not accomplishing anything!”

security

I want a community where I am safe, secure, and never threatened

“We need to spend more time together, so we can really grow deep and feel safe with each other…”

pleasure

I want a community that’s always fun and enjoyable and doesn’t take any work “Meeting every Tuesday night seems really forced. Why can’t we just hang out spontaneously?”

knowledge

I want a community that gives me a platform to share everything I know “We don’t study the Bible enough in this group; we should talk less about people’s lives and more about Scripture.”

recognition

I want a community where I can ‘stand out from the crowd’ and be recognized for the awesome person that I am “I’ve led groups like this before… would you like me to lead this one?”

comfort

I want a community made up of my already-existing friends, where I don’t have to work to get to know anyone “I tried to join a community group, but the relationships just weren’t natural; we didn’t have much in common…”

Underneath all these idols is the basic idol of SELF. Our various heart idols are tightly nuanced forms of self-worship. What kills community is the fact that we love ourselves more than we love God and others. Only the Bible recognizes that what really hinders community is self-worship. Every neighborhood, every city, every society is an attempt at creating community. But the standard human approach to community is external – find better friends, be nicer to people, build a more stable and just society. Only the Bible says: repent and worship God. The path to true, healthy community is the path of repentance and faith. And this path is made possible through the gospel.


8 Comments Post a comment

  1. December 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    I think this is great help. I will use it in my counseling and work with church leaders.

    · Reply
  2. December 15, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I am continually blown away by what WHM folks come up with.. you write about life, which, surprisingly, sounds a lot like my life. i have yet to read anything more practical and more grace saturated than anything that comes out of WHM. This includes this new work. Go for it!

    · Reply
  3. Pingback: Bob Thune and Will Walker on “Community Idolatry” « Brick by Brick

  4. December 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    You could substitute “team” for “community” and use this with all of us missionaries. Very thought provoking and convicting. Look forward to the final product.

    · Reply
  5. December 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks for this, so great! I clearly see myself it. My idol = reputation, which God is currently smashing.

    His tender mercies are over all His works (Psalm 145:9).

    · Reply
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