Community. This has got to be one of the most currently overused Christian buzz words. It seems like everyone is talking about it. How do we create it? How do we encourage it? How do we grow it? How do we spread it? How do we do it? At a, you guessed it, Home Community leaders' meeting last night, we were asked, "What, in fact, is c o m m u n i t y?
Merriam-Webster defines it the following ways:
1 : a unified body of individuals: as a : STATE, COMMONWEALTH b : the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly : the area itself c : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location d : a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society e : a group linked by a common policy f : a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests g : a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society
2 : society at large
3 a : joint ownership or participation b : common character : LIKENESS
c : social activity : FELLOWSHIP d : a social state or condition
Within a spiritual context, a foundation of shared crucial beliefs along with a geographical closeness are necessary requisites for intentional, effective, community. I believe that without these two elements, a group of believers can have no effective positive impact on the world (read: people, culture, environment, etc) around them.
What does this mean? I think it means a restructuring of the American Protestant church. Akin to the Catholic parish system, there needs to be more of an emphasis on geographical closeness as a key ingredient to a healthy church body. Currently, the decision on where to attend church is often based more upon the pastor's charisma or the worship music style than a desire to serve (and worship with some of) your physical neighbors - those people we see more often and are called to love. The current mentality is a result of our consumer culture and focus on our own needs and personal asthetic rather than obedience to God's call and grander plan for our lives.
I'm not saying that I'm much different - we drive 15 minutes to our church (Imago Dei). However, we made an earnest effort to attend the churches within walking distance from our home but kept feeling called to attend Imago. End conclusion: these decisions are not black and white but do require ears to hear and eyes to see.
What I do know, is that life-changing community is built by people who tend to live close together, share common values, love each other, and are honest and open with each other about their ups, downs, sins, blessings, etc. This happened to us in Kansas City when we were a part of an amazing small group that arose from Jacobs Well Church. All the above ingredients were present, and many of these people remain some of our closest friends - an eternal family. And, we were only with them for one short year.
So, with a hopeful heart and love, we embark on this strange love-journey with our west-side PDX home "community."