is it about individuals, or about community?

I have a theory which may at best end up something toward a maxim, meaning something that is true at times. But the theory simply stated is something like this: When a local church sees itself as the group of everyone present, in other words, when the church sees itself as the people of God in Jesus committed to their gathering and work (of course this involves worship, edification, etc.), then community comes to the fore. But when a church is focused on a leader, or a few leaders, the dynamic of community can dissipate, and perhaps all but disappear. It becomes the good work of a few which others benefit from.

That was probably rather crudely put. I think the most healthy churches are those that are quite interactive with bustling activity which is rooted in relationships, first to the Lord, and then to each other, and out of that to their neighborhood and world. Too many churches I suppose particularly in America, seem dependent on a superstar who if not present, makes the gathering seem not as good, or even second rate. Of course even in those cases the Spirit can work so that perhaps even more is accomplished when they are away. But generally speaking, I think this could be a problem.

Does it have to be that way? I don’t at all think so. But I also think that the best leaders will model leadership in a way which promotes the working of the Spirit through the body of Christ. There may be common steps as to how that may be done, but I think those gifted as overseers or set apart in positions such as elder or deacon especially need to pray and lead in such a way that somehow all are involved, or feel a part of God’s work, what God is doing.

It is hard to describe what I’m trying to get at, and exactly how it works out will differ since every community is composed of different people and therefore, different giftings. What might be easier to describe is what we want to avoid. A place which is dependent on only a few. In which many attend, Sunday after Sunday, but don’t contribute anything in the way of their gifting either that day or during the week. I am afraid that such fellowships will dry up and wither and die over time.

Now any church may have strong leaders, and in fact most churches do. A healthy church will likely have a pastor, or pastors along with leaders (perhaps teachers, etc.) who are gifted and do their work well, and are appreciated, even looked up to. But in those healthy churches, those same pastors and leaders will much appreciate others in the body, and God’s presence and work through them.

Perhaps this is a post which unlike the posts I like to write is more theoretical and not so much built on revealed truth. But I do believe there is a dynamic, which I’m afraid is largely, or perhaps often missing from churches. The dynamic of a thriving, growing community, in which if someone wasn’t present, would not miss a beat, since the dynamic is a Spirit-driven body.

Do I mean that a church won’t miss a leader or leaders? No, of course not. And a healthy church will be glad when they return. But a healthy church I take it, is one that is at heart a community, and not about one or more leaders everyone depends on.

2 comments on “is it about individuals, or about community?

  1. nmpreach says:

    Good morning Ted. As always, I enjoy your posts. However, I have a few thoughts. You said, “But when a church is focused on a leader, or a few leaders, the dynamic of community can dissipate, and perhaps all but disappear. It becomes the good work of a few which others benefit from.” I agree! We’re all to make disciples. And to evaluate the “organism” or community or whatever one calls it, means that when I do go away, is it functional? Do others fill the gap?

    Secondly, you said, “I think the most healthy churches are those that are quite interactive with bustling activity which is rooted in relationships, first to the Lord, and then to each other, and out of that to their neighborhood and world.” I think I understand the premise here. It’s the “bustling activity” that gives me pause. In other words, I’ve read of strong communities of hermits. But I wouldn’t (nor would they) think of what they do as bustling activity. However, one has to observe a strong community motif. Community, in my mind, means investment. I care enough to invest in you. You care enough to invest in me. In celebrations, in pain, etc.

    There’s much to agree on in your post. I believe interaction is vital to any healthy community. However, in recent years/decades, communities have become larger, uninvolved, and individuals like resources without responsibility. To use a sports analogy: many claim to be team players and are willing to receive the championship ring, but they’re not willing to get on the field and do the work to provide the victory. Much to think about today. Blessings Brother!

    • Thanks, nmpreach for your kind words, and for the good input. In fact I looked at the sentence with the intention of changing it (and may still do so), because I think you make a good point. A healthy, interactive church may be one often characterized with quietness in waiting on the Lord together. I will say that hermit or monastic communities are usually engaged in a significant amount of activity in good works. Or at the very least they are engaged in something beyond just looking after their own souls (which in itself can be more than looking after their eternal interest, but being concerned to walk close to God now). Thanks for the good input, brother. I always hesitate to break the flow of what I was saying, particularly as time moves on. And what I write is far from infallible, for sure. So much appreciate someone constructively seeking to be an iron to sharpen iron. 🙂

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