church is a called-out assembly of baptized believers, covenanted together to
carry out the Great Commission. In times
past, people would settle in a new area and before building anything else, a
place of worship was built. The
settlement grew with the church at its center, and the building was also the
center of the settlement. The people
came together to worship, but their relationship with each other didn’t end
2:46 tells us that the first church continued “daily with one accord in the
temple, and breaking bread from house to house.” The early churches in the United States were
much like this. They came together to
help with common chores such as barn-raisings, harvests, and caring for one
another when someone was sick. The
church was the center for friendships and socialization. The togetherness didn’t end at noon on
along the way, it was decided that “church isn’t a place for socialization” and
we should come to church to “listen and learn, not to have fun and
socialize.” Churches stopped having
regular activities for the children and teens.
Family events, except the occasional potluck, became a thing of the
past. Members still occasionally reached
out to one another as needed, but no longer were our social lives intertwined
and revolving around the church. Church
became a place you went on Sunday morning, and for the most faithful, a place
you also went on Sunday night and Wednesday evening.
have realized the devastating effects of this, they’ve tried to make changes,
but are often met with comments such as, “Young people don’t need programs,
they just need Jesus,” or, “We’ve always done it this way, so we should
continue that.” When the need for change
is presented, we tend to be like the people of Judah in Haggai chapter 2 and
look back on the glory days, instead of trusting God with our future, and
stepping out in faith to try something new or different. We want to regurgitate the things that used
to work. We want to hang on to the
things we know, even as we see them failing.
We tell ourselves we’re doing a good thing by hanging on through the
struggles. We let manipulated attendance
records from things such as bus ministries or potluck dinners following service,
trick us into thinking that the church is doing good. There is nothing wrong with bus ministries or
potlucks, but if you want to see a true measure of the strength of a church,
look at the number of faithful and involved young families you have.
Involved? Young families? What does that even mean these days? The sanctuary is full of young families, so
we must be okay, right? Well, are those
young families participating in Sunday School?
Are the parents volunteering to teach, or are your elderly members still
filling those roles? Are these young
families planning events and investing in each other’s lives? Are their children friends with each other
outside of church? Are they doing life
together? So often these things are
overlooked or just not even considered because that’s not what church was like
in our own young adult days. This has
drastically contributed to the decline of churches.
are no longer attending church just because it’s what they were taught growing
up. They’re no longer flocking to church
just because there is a building there with a sign telling service times. People want to feel like they belong to
something great. They want a sense of
investment in the organizations that they are a part of. They don’t want to be told that their
opinions don’t matter, and they don’t want to attend a boring service week
after week, where all they do is warm a spot on a pew. They want community!!!
Oxford Dictionary defines the community as “a feeling of fellowship with
others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” So how do we get back to this feeling of
community within the church? For starters,
we can actually spend time together! We
need to talk after church, meet for coffee every now and then, share a
meal. We have to find common interests
and shared hobbies. We have to find ways
to relate to one another. The church can
help by hosting activities and socials for people to get to know each other
better. Do we have an organized children’s
department? How about the youth
department? Are we showing the younger
ones how to be a church community by reaching out to those in our own town, and
showing them love and hospitality? Are
we showing love and hospitality to one another?
Is church a part of our daily life, or only a Sunday and Wednesday
event? If we are to become a church
community, we are going to have to stop thinking about church as a place to go,
and instead think of it as a way of life.
to provide reasons to come together other than just for worship. We have to share love and hospitality in
order to truly share life with one another!
We have to once again make church the center of our social life, and a
major part of the neighborhood and town in which we serve. We must stop hiding out in our own homes, and
actually get involved in growing a church community. It is only through community that our church
will grow and thrive, and will continue to exist for generations to come.
I found these two articles to be helpful with simple,
practical ways to create and grow a church community.
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