Community has been on my mind lately and has been a buzz word for quite some time. Living in it, being in it and existing in it are all things to strive for. I took this to heart. My entire being has been saturated in community for the past 4 years. I have amazing friends and we do some awesome things. I love simply living with these people. However, now that I’m planting a church, a lot of questions and problems have arose. So many so I’m wondering if planting a church is actually the same thing as planting a community. Because I’m starting to think it might be two different things, and both are needed.
For starters, communities need to be small. You can’t have a community of 1000 people; it just doesn’t work that way. The largest a community could be and still actually consist of the characteristics of a community would be around 100 people I’d guess, anything larger and people become anonymous. A community also is full of people that have the same interests and do them together. A community to me is a group of people that love to have fun together and spend lots of time together. They let each other into each other’s lives and connect on all sorts of levels.
Now this is hard when it comes to theStory (our church plant) for a number of reasons. There are always new people coming in and out of churches (I’m not just talking Sundays). Checking things out, seeing if it is right for them or for no other reason than they have been asked to come from a friend. This means that at any given time there are people among the church that don’t line up with the values, and aren’t intentionally pursuing the vision of the church (Christian or not). A lot of people are simply around the church to see if the vision really lines up with where they are heading or just watching for months at a time. I would think to actually be part of a church, it is a lot more mental at times. You need to be intentional and you are more connected for how you think and what you believe than where you are and who you are with.
Inside theStory is a couple different communities already. I can’t be expected as a church planter to be ‘in community’ with every single person that walks through the door. I think that was my mistake all along. I thought that to start a church I needed to start a community. By doing that I burned myself out with trying to be in community with tons of different people and spreading myself out too thin. Instead, I’m starting to realize that my community exists within my friendships, inside and outside of theStory and I don’t need to get a new community to plant a church.
A church though I’m finding expresses itself in the midst of all these communities. We are all part of different ones and they extend to other ones. A church gathers up all these different people from different communities and worships together (through social justice, music, teaching, gatherings, and events). I think I’m still far from understanding this. I am a bit relieved though because I was getting frustrated because I wasn’t finding time to hang out with all these different people and then feeling bad because I didn’t want to hang out with certain ones. I can’t do it though, I can’t be expected to be in community with every person that is part of theStory, that just isn’t going to work.
I’m still at lost a little bit through all of this. I’m at lost because where I thought I was planting a church I’m actually helping a community grow and where I thought I was building community I’m actually planting a church. The lines are extremely blurry, and sometimes they are the same thing. I start to wonder if there was ever supposed to be churches though, because a lot of times communities just make a lot more sense and I feel at times churches are just institutionalized communities. Then at other times I feel like the power of communities can’t do enough because there is no organization and no one really cares about structure to get anything done. So I have a hard time with it.
However, I’m thinking that theStory is heading to be a church that is going to accomplish some pretty amazing things in Sarnia, things that I don’t think a small community could do. We have some pretty big dreams that I think will take numbers and finances; things that communities don’t usually have quick access to. So I’m excited for theStory, but at the same time I’m excited for the relationships and the communities I’m part of because without them I don’t think churches and other things would exist. Churches are extremely intentional and I think that is what differentiates them in many ways from communities. I guess that’s where I’m at with it right now. Communities are groups of people who love to hang out, are usually built around common interests and where relationships are deep and meaningful. Churches are like intentional communities but they exist of combining people from all these different communities, is that right? I’m not sure. Anyone else got any insight?