What does it mean to be in community? How does the church display the idea of community to those outside the church? Do our words equal our actions? I am not sure many of those questions, if not all of those questions, can be answered in a positive way. You see, I have found that for many industrial churches “community” is false, with little meaning behind it. They dance around the flash of what it means to be a community, and they strive to develop programs to create a “community.” While many churches seek to develop a church based on “the coffee shop” and how people interact in that setting – I am going to go to the edge and suggest a totally different model – I am going to say that the church needs to become the “neighborhood bar.”
Last night I had an opportunity to see first had an amazing community, and guess what – it was not a church, go figure. You see, in the industrial church the idea of “building” community (building is a very industrial reality) seems to center on what program the industrial church can develop and how flashy it can make that program. The industrial church seems to center on the idea that “groups” (whatever they decide to call them) are important for community. On one hand they are right, but on another hand they are very wrong. You see, the industrial church believes, “groups make a healthy community.” But in reality, “a healthy community makes groups.” In the industrial church “building community” becomes an organized, structured, focused event that removes the organic nature of what it means to be in community. This brings me back to the event I had the pleasure to partake in on Wednesday night.
Steve, a friend who is a pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Rancho Cordova CA, is part of a group called The West Coast Songwriters and they hold regular competitions. This week’s competition was at a place called Armando’s, a great little bar in Martinez CA. There were 15 different songwriters performing this night, and the music styles varied for each person. Armando’s was small, eclectic and very conducive to community. I witnessed people from various backgrounds coming together in a place where they could be themselves and share with others their gifts. When I think about it, I saw what the church could be, and should be, in the conceptual age. Organic friendships forming out of a common reality and enjoying each others company.