Community and Mission: Catch 22

I hear and use the word ‘community’ a lot. I hear it everywhere I go and I use it probably almost every day. “We want to start a community not a Sunday service” I hear announced quite often. “We want to spend the first little while building community” we have said at theStory. We all want to belong to a community who takes care of each other. All these things are important and essential, especially to a new church plant. I think though there becomes a problem when we make it our ultimate goal. If community is our endpoint, our destination then we are missing out on all sorts of other things.

I don’t think our mission should be to build the community; instead the community should arise out of people with the same mission. It’s that common factor that makes a community and makes it grow. Some things happen naturally (or organically; to use another buzz word) and the only way they actually work is for them to not be done by intention. The very act of adding intention destroys what you were going for. Have you ever seen someone try to intentionally be relevant or authentic? If you have, you know exactly what I mean. I think community is one of those things. If we try to build a community for the sake of community the only thing that it will be dependent on is its own existence and eventually that will dry up. Instead the community needs to be founded upon something outside of itself; namely Jesus and his Kingdom. Slowly, people with that foundation or seeking that foundation start to work together and a community is formed.

Sometimes I feel like community is almost a Catch 22. To have community you need to have a common mission with all these people. To have that mission you need the people around you to build it. At least the Bible is there, being there before we were to lay it out for us. I think though this is where we may be with theStory. We have all these people, and we are trying to build a community but sometimes I wonder why? If we get this community, what then? But if we had the mission and everything all laid out before everyone got there, who would want to join something that already looked complete? We are trying to learn the balance between community and mission and not getting ahead of ourselves with either one. Too clear of a mission and you discredit the very community that you are attempting to build, while too much focus on community and you forget why your there in the first place and you end up entertaining each other. The key is building a community around a broad mission laid out in the bible and slowly as your community builds, build your mission to reflect how the community has been growing as you find your place in the Kingdom.

3 Comments

  • i can’t help but think that if I was a Christ-centric individual, I would probably be doing Christ-like things, and couldn’t help but have community with other Christ-centric people doing other Christ-like things.

    that’s a wordy way of saying: i think community is a byproduct of mission (and generally, the clearer the mission, the more cohesive the community)

  • … yup, Shelley is saying something here. I also noticed in the on-line chapter that is available from Alan Hirsch’s new book “The Forgotten Ways” that he talks about ‘communitas’ instead of ‘community’ &/or ‘communities’ … you can find it on pg 25, the last paragraph in his introduction:

    “the most vigorous forms of community are those that come together in the context of a shared ordeal or those that define themselves with a mission that lies beyond themselves — thus initiating a risky journey … this chapter aims at putting the adventure back ito the venture”

    ( FYI … Coop has a link to the chapter in his January 26, 2007 post about TFW ).

  • I get what you’re saying. Good point.

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