Over at the thinkerup blog, a quote from Francis Schaeffer was posted that caused provocative ponderings that I’d propose you peruse as well…
“The liberal theologians in their stress on community speak and act as though we become Christians when we enter the horizontal relationship of community. But this is totally the wrong starting-point. If this were so, Christianity would have no more final value than the humanistic community.”
–Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the 20th Century, 1970
Perhaps one reason my cerebellum was significantly stunned by this sentence is simply because of my own spiritual surroundings.
You see, Journey Church is all about community. We sincerely seek to include rather than exclude. We want to allow people to belong before they believe. Many other churches are the exact opposite in their approach, demanding adherence or profession of a “faith” that many times is verbal only.
That doesn’t mean that we allow folks without a loyalty and belief in Jesus Christ as Lord to serve in positions of spiritual leadership. It does mean that we welcome the sincere contributions of anyone, regardless of where they are in their own spiritual journey. If someone wants to help with a service project, go on a mission trip, organize an event, etc., and they’re not members, then that’s fine and dandy. We sincerely feel that the glorious nature and Christ-DNA of a committed disciple (especially a community of committed disciples) will be a witness and aroma of life to a person who is earnestly seeking God. In reality, there is no such thing as a human seeker of God.
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Romans 3.10-12
Yet in a seeming paradox, scripture also affirms that when God begins to call a person, they begin to seek Him. Consider these two verses;
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6.44
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11.10
Only community that is founded upon the life-altering search of a Creator for humanity is true community. All the church’s best attempts at gathering a crowd or creating a movement will fall flat if based upon warm fuzzies, blurry theology, and worship “preferences.”
I affirm with Schaeffer that there is danger of emphasizing community. There are too many new churches, parachurch agencies, and loosely-organized “Christian” movements in our midst today that are creating belonging and never encouraging believing. However, I also affirm that it’s essential that we allow people to belong to and experience the joy of authentic Christian community prior to their heart and mental allegiance to Christ. It is in the midst of love that Christ walks again.
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4.12
The gathering of believers that is Christ-centered and saturated will intentionally and then unconsciously love each other and its neighbors. It will not only witness but experience the transforming power of Christ drawing “seekers” from the periphery to the center.
How is your community doing? Is it more horizontal or more vertical?