Monday, June 18, 2007

community, what a word! I think we all have very different definitions of what we call community.

I see it mentioned a lot and love the fact that throughout the world there are so many different forms of community.

I have thoughts on community, the primary one being that I love it, I don't find it easy. Especially moving from a larger church community to a smaller one here in Ibiza. What I have found is that you can't hide in smaller community, if you have issues, disagreements, people you don't get on with you can't avoid them. Where as in a larger community you can avoid people and hide your issues and basically function as normal, small community can and should cause you to grow.

However it worries me that there could be a growing trend towards small being beautiful, on one hand I agree, but on the other hand we have to believe for and expect growth so if a community grows, what do we do? There is a danger that we enjoy small so much we become introverted.

I also worry about communities being exclusive, not deliberately, but by there very make up. For instance a group that is very intellectual and does a lot of discussion around books etc.. could without meaning to be exclusive. I am not saying this is right or wrong. Students will reach students, young people young people but is that a correct family mix? Peers reach peers but how about trying with people who are different to us?

What about community houses? I think they are limited, once again restricting growth and primarily being made up of like minded people. Although as training centres, places of prayer and creativity I am all for that. I am more for communities developing and growing in geographical areas, maybe a number of houses and people living near each other. This sounds more realistic.

A.W.Pink said "People don't go where the action is, they go where the love is" If a community is built on love it will survive and grow, so I guess the under lying element to the community I want to experince is love.


Rupert Ward said...

Good post brian.

I think there are real challenges in creating community in larger groups, but something we must keep working at.

I too hear a lot of people talking about small community - but it seems to me that if there is vision for that, it is exclusive by definition. The only way that you keep something small is by excluding people: those who aren't in your group or tribe, those who are more difficult to get along with or just when you get to the optimum size no-one else is allowed to join!

I am reading something about benedictine monasteries at the moment, and when "interviewing" for new monks they don't ask if this person would fit in (in fact there are always people who don't fit in, or are socially difficult etc - they are expected to work it out any differences and to learn to love each other), but rather their sole criteria is "have they been called to be part of this monastry?". i wonder how many groups would use that criteria to assess if someone should be part of their community? Yours maybe (?) but not many i would guess.

Brian Heasley said...

nice one rupert, thats what I have been feeling for a while, the word small is a natural limiter to growth, unless we have a multiplication of small communities, possible if the existing is generous enough to give away and has that in mind from the beginning. There are a lot of guys out there who appear to have been hurt by big churches and therefore are a bit anti anything to large. Personally I don't think GodTV helps! but I can cope with large and small.

Mark (from Guernsey) said...

Shane Claiborne quotes Bonhoeffer: "The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community [even if their intentions are ever so earnest], but the person who loves those around them will create community". That really challenged me as I am working with a group that has a vision to create a prayerful community where young offenders are welcomed to "break the cycle". But I fear that the others have a too idealistic view of community that would not create space for the messy-ness and noisy-ness of me....let alone any of the young people we claim to want to help.

And when we went to the prison I met people who needed love and support on the "outside" now.... not in "x" years when the community "project" has had time to develop. Lord, give me time a way from my office desk to do some loving.

Anonymous said...

Sorry this is a rambling comment but that is such an astute post! Community and social coherence was the strength for the early Church.

"People don't go where the action is, they go where the love is"

Christian opponents remarked; "See how they love one another"
Which was a new concept for the pagans in a morally oblique Roman Empire. Hence community has always been at the heart of Christianity.The love Christians expressed to one another was notabl e and enticed many to the Churches,

However unlike many communities, Christianity is not exclusive and this is demonstrated through Galatians 3 v 28; There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

My point is (well with a lot of incoherence along the way,) that we should seek to have a large community with equality rather than exclusiveness, and offer opportunities for those who want to partake in fellowship to do so. I guess the function of a Christian Community is to commune and have fellowship so we should aim to do this also. We should seek to be a community with God at the centre and regardless of size focus solely on him rather than secular concepts of community.

Sorry this a rambling post which is just a weird observation on your post! xox

Brian Francis Hume said...

Brian-great post!

Mark-I love the quote from Bonhoeffer...I'm going to use that one! Thanks!

"Rambling Anonymous" - I appreciate your thoughts...I thought you brought some good points to the dialogue. I understood what you were trying to communicate. What struck me was your last statement: "focus solely on him rather than secular concepts of community." Honestly I haven't pondered over the "secular" concepts of community before. That is something that I am going to chew on. Thanks for pointing that out.