A bowl of Stew (art): The Ideal
My wonderful friend Lizbrought up the question of an ideal community on her blog, and it makes my heartsing because community is where my heart is, and was one of the major themes of the A2 conference and so is fresh on my mind.
First, a disclaimer - I am not picking on the Church, I am not complaining about the church. I am seeing a problem within the current functioning of the Body and giving ideas that will (hopefully) bring us back to our intended function.
I think the major problem within the church is the humanistic self-centered attitude that we have allowed, especailly as a north american culture, to slip into the church. Christians are taught that "Jesus died just for you" and while it is true that Jesus died for them, it is not true that it is "just" for anyone. Chist died so that ALL would live. Our salvation is not a personal salvation, it is the salvation of the whole world. When God blessed Abraham it was so that the world could be blessed through him. What God does for each of us is not just for us but for all the lives we may have the power to touch.
This self-centered mentality shows up in a variety of ways, but one of the ways most damaging to community is the "I just need to be fed" idea. Erwin McManus puts it in terms of "spiritual bulemia" - we starve ourselves throughout the week and then become gluttons on Sunday morning. Those of us who are in Christ have the fullness of God, we have access to Him at any point in time, we don't need anyone to feed us, we should have the ability to feed ourselves, or to come along side each other through small groups (or friends getting together, whatever you want to call it).
The function of the chuch should be makig it as easy as possible for people who are far away from God to get close to Him. That means helping people in real ways, that means being their friend, not trating them like a project. That means loving them where they are with a love that lets them know that they can be better people.
Something that I heard recently really stuck out to me. It was the idea that humanity, everyone, already has a desire to be better than they are, already feels a disconnect from God and already feels needs. We don't need to tell people that God can change their lives, we need to show them what God's change in our lives looks like.
That would be my ideal community. People striving to make the lives of those around them better instead of trying to get other people to make their lives easier. We don't need to worry about changing how people behave, God will do that.