Well, I’m not going to answer that question in this blog, but rather steer you towards some resources. As a lot of you know I have been struggling with what community is: What it looks like? How it works? Etc., Etc.
Most of these questions are coming out of my desire to better understand the role of the church in this postmodern age, and especially as I struggle to understand God’s desire for The Quest at Bel Air. As the church grows, it has been continually difficult for people to plug into community, or to feel any sense of belonging. Some of that responsibility falls on those sitting in the pews on Sunday, and their responsibility to get involved and take opportunities that are offered. And some of that responsibility falls on the church as it tries to figure out “who it is”, “what it looks like”, etc. Both parties, extending hands out to each other, and taking hold of one another. That seems like the proper analogy for me.
Well, I haven’t figured out these answers yet, but am searching. But today I was in Dallas, TX visiting my fiance’s parents. And we went to church at The Village Church where I heard a great sermon from the lead pastor Matt Chandler (check out the sermon for 1/9/05 when it posts). He’s in the midst of a series on love, and today he discussed the role of community in our love relationship with God. He began with a quote from John Calvin in Volume 4, Section 2, Chapter 1, where Calvin stated that God is Father, and the church is mother. (After further information, I have tracked that quote has been attributed to Cyprian, not John Calvin.
This quote got me thinking a lot about the importance of church, and the community found in church. Sometimes we can get so down on the church, and community, because we feel like our needs aren’t being met, so the first thing we often want to do is complain, or be bitter, or usually, go find another church.
But the quote from Calvin expresses the important unit of father and mother, and our relationship to God and how it is tied to the community of church. In Donald Miller’s latest book, Searching for God Knows What, he quotes Augustine as saying, “The church is my mother and a whore.” I can’t find that quote anywhere…so if it’s true, obviously I haven’t read Augustine well enough, or done my Google search that well. But I would say that that quote that Miller attributes to Augustine summarizes our feelings about church at times. We both adore her, and at times, can’t stand her. (If you know where this quote is located, you will have some type of prize).
These are just some thoughts to ponder as we all continue to ask questions about church and community and as Bel Air heads into a six week home group Lenten series. Hopefully this will be a time where people who feel outside of community can get plugged into it, and those who are in it can continue to grow and encourage the church.
If you are looking for some resources or a good book on the role of community in church, start by reading a book by the pastor of San Clemente Presbyterian Church, Tod Bolsinger. His book is titled It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian: How The Community of God Transforms Lives.